TACOMA, Wash. — Nearly 27 years after a brutal rape and murder that shocked the city of Tacoma, a suspect has been charged and will face trial.
It was Aug. 30, 1986 when Carol Davidson, 46, was found strangled with her hands bound behind her back. Police said she had been beaten and raped. Nearly three decades later, the Tacoma Police Department’s cold-case squad sent DNA evidence, carefully preserved for years, to a state crime lab and got a hit that led them to arrest Christopher Leon Smith, 50.
“We were all shocked. It was like 'this can’t really be happening,'" said Angel Dewey, Davidson’s daughter.
Dewey was in court surrounded by family members as Smith entered a plea of not guilty to first-degree murder. Several in court wept as Smith walked in wearing shackles and an orange jail jumpsuit.
Dewey said the crime was devastating for her family. “She was kind of a mother to everyone. She was the fun mom that took everyone in when they didn’t have a place to go,” said Dewey.
Tacoma Police Detective Gene Miller credited detectives who worked the case in 1986 for carefully preserving evidence he was able to use to charge Smith. Miller said without the DNA, there was nothing to link Smith to Davidson’s murder. “No, not at all,” said Miller. “He was not a named person in this investigation, he came up purely because of the work the state crime lab did.”
Smith was already serving a 50-year sentence for a rape conviction when he was arrested and charged with Davidson’s murder. Deputy Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Phil Sorenson said if convicted, Smith could face an additional 60-year sentence.