Editorial comments: (1) The headline, “Domestic violence blamed in homicide,” depersonalizes the event so the murderer does not seem responsible for the crime. This is a common error in news reporting. (2) The police captain said, “she’s got to seek assistance to get assistance,” which blames the victim for her death. Also, see the previous article about the woman who was murdered after she sought – and was denied – a protective order.
Domestic violence blamed in homicide
Huntington, W. Virgina, Aug 27, 2008
By CURTIS JOHNSON
HUNTINGTON — A domestic argument led to Huntington’s 11th homicide in the past 10 months Monday night, according to city police and court documents filed in Cabell County Magistrate Court.
Robert Scott Frazier, 41, was charged with felony first-degree murder in the death of 58-year-old Kathryn Gale Smith. Frazier was detained without bond at the Western Regional Jail.
A criminal complaint charges that Frazier used a shotgun to shoot Smith. Officers found her body Monday night inside a bedroom at 530 Richmond St. in the city’s Guyandotte neighborhood.
Both parties lived at the house, police said. Smith was the tenant, who leased the property from a man in Putnam County.
Dora Wallace, who cosigned the lease for her friend, described Smith as being in a physically and mentally abusive relationship.
“This is a tragedy,” she said. “Kathryn Smith was a wonderful person. She had a heart of gold. Inside and out she was a beautiful lady.”
A search warrant states a witness told police Frazier and Smith were involved in an argument at the house.
Huntington Police Capt. Steve Hall did not know the subject of the argument, but he said the witness described it as a “loud, boisterous argument” that lasted 10 to 20 minutes.
The warrant states the witness saw Frazier enter the bedroom with a shotgun in his hands. One gunshot followed. The witness saw Frazier climb out the bedroom window, as both men left the residence. The witness said Frazier had blood on his arms and clothes.
“(Frazier) yelled at the witness and told him not to tell anyone that he had been at the residence,” the search warrant states.
Hall said investigators recovered Smith’s body and a shotgun from the same bedroom. Hall said the witness gave three statements. He described each as solid.
Police searched for blood-stained clothes with a search warrant for 222 Buffington St. The warrant states Frazier supplied police with a key to that house. Frazier told investigators he went to that residence and changed clothes after leaving the Richmond Street address. Police believed his clothes and sandals were concealed in a plastic bag.
Hall said Frazier’s deceased uncle had lived at the Buffington Street home.
There was no record of Smith seeking a domestic violence petition in court. There also was no record of her seeking assistance from police, according to Hall’s review of the local computer-aided dispatch system.
Social service and law enforcement officials constantly encourage victims of domestic violence to seek help, but many victims are afraid to speak out.
Hall said seeking domestic violence assistance could have provided safe, clean refuge.
“She’s got to seek assistance to get assistance,” he said.
Huntington police responded to the shots-fired call about 6 p.m. Monday, but they had difficulty finding the person who alerted emergency dispatchers. Within two hours officers canvassed the neighborhood, located their complainant and found another person who led them to the suspect.
Officers found Frazier with a small amount of marijuana. They detained him on a misdemeanor drug charge, and that provided safety for the officers to forcibly enter the Richmond Street home.
Beforehand, officers were not sure a homicide had occurred and they worried the gunman had barricaded himself in the residence. The department considered calling in a S.W.A.T. team to assist.
Hall does not believe the two-hour stint affected Smith’s time of death. He believes she died instantly from a single gunshot wound to the head.
“We’re obviously not going to knock on the door with a report book in our hands and get shot,” he said. “If you err, you err on the side of caution and that’s what took place. It wasn’t that we were sitting around having a cup of coffee. We were diligently trying to locate the suspect.”
Smith’s death is the 17th homicide in Cabell County since October 2007, 11 of which occurred in Huntington.
By comparison, there were no homicides in the city of Huntington between October 2005 and October 2007.
Source: Huntington Herald-Dispatch