One Sunday in August, Willie Smith Jr. and his younger brother went fishing in Spanaway Lake Park but left empty-handed. They stopped at a market on the way home and bought a yellow croaker that Smith hung on his line for a photo before frying it.
“It was the best fish I have ever had in my life. We had a great time, ”said Jeremy Walker, 37, laughing at the memory of his brother posing proudly with his fake grip.
Eight days later, on August 16, Smith, 45, was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds, lying on the ground near the entrance to Seattle’s Gas Works park. What he was doing there at 4:30 a.m. and why someone would kill the affable, fun-loving former cook are mysteries that plague his siblings.
Walker can’t imagine anyone who sees Smith as a threat. He was only a few inches by 5 feet and walked with a stiff gait, thanks to a crack in his femur he suffered after slipping into a pothole while running with his 21-year-old nephew during the ‘a family barbecue in Georgia.
According to Walker, Smith was wearing a white linen suit, dress shoes and a brown fedora with a red feather in the group when he was shot. He also had in his possession a small suitcase with wheels.
Detective Patrick Michaud, spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department, said by email that homicide detectives were unable to confirm these details and that there was no update to the investigation. . Anyone with information is urged to call the Seattle Police Department hotline at 206-233-5000.
The second of seven children, Smith moved to the Seattle-Tacoma area from Savannah, Georgia, three months before he was killed. He was surfing on his couch with loved ones as he settled into his new life, said Walker, who lives in Spanaway and works in landscape construction.
Smith wanted help with a drinking problem and find accommodation before his 20-year-old partner, Phillipa Jackson, left Savannah, where the couple ran a restaurant business, Walker said. Smith raised his daughter-in-law, now a student, from an early age. He was affectionately known in the family as “Bugga”, a nickname derived from his older sister’s childhood attempt to pronounce the word “brother”.
Jackson, who planned to visit Seattle in early October for a few weeks to celebrate Smith’s birthday, said in a phone interview from Savannah that Smith is actively seeking locations for their business, Lioness Catering. The last time they spoke, on August 15, Smith, using a pet name, told her, “My Ruby, I love you.”
Smith’s death changed Jackson’s life completely. She was a teenager when they met.
“Her grandmother lived next to my grandmother and we met at the pool,” said Jackson, 38. “I loved him from the first day I saw him. That love never changed, it just grew.
Explaining that Smith’s astrological sign was Libra, an air sign, and that Jackson is a Leo, a fire sign, she said, “He was (the) air to my fire. My air is gone.
Smith was buried in a Savannah cemetery on September 2, his final resting place near the graves of his mother and grandmother, his brother said.
Walker believes that another brother, who lives in Tacoma and had hosted Smith a few days before his death, was the last member of the family to see Smith alive. Independent by nature, Smith regularly turned down offers of transportation, preferring to take the bus, Walker said. He assumes Smith took a bus to Seattle, but doesn’t know why.
Since returning home after his brother’s funeral, Walker has said he only leaves home to go to work and admits he feels paranoid with Smith’s killer still on the loose. He said his address was on the papers Smith had with him when he was shot.
“I’m a little afraid to even go to the mailbox. I see strange cars that I have never seen before and I notice things that I have never seen before, ”he said. “It’s just scary.”
Trying to piece together his brother’s movements, Walker learned that Smith – a religious man well versed in the Bible – had researched Operation Nightwatch, a Seattle-based faith-based nonprofit that offers meals and a space for children. ‘accommodation limited to homeless people.
Reverend Rick Reynolds, executive director of the organization, said there was no record of Smith ever receiving services from Operation Nightwatch, which does not offer addiction recovery services.
“It’s devastating for his family. You want answers and sometimes the answers aren’t there, ”said Reynolds, who contacted Smith’s siblings on Facebook. “It’s heartbreaking. The uncertainty of not knowing only adds to the pain.