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Child’s murder still under investigation after 26 years

By Rachel McDaniel Allison Renee Smith, 8, was killed in April 1986. The second grader’s death was determined a homicide by the GBI but no charges were ever filed in the case and it remains an open investigation 26 years later. Former sheriff Billy Riggins was in office when the murder occurred. Pike County sheriff Jimmy Thomas said he met with the family shortly after he was elected as sheriff for the first time many years ago. ’The tragedy of the case affected the county significantly and it has been an important case to me since I’ve been sheriff,’ said sheriff Thomas. ‘We’ve looked at it from many angles over the years. This incident occurred in 1986 and a lot has changed technologically regarding investigations.’ According to John Bankhead of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, although DNA was not processed as evidence in 1986 when the murder occurred, there is still a possibility it could be contained in articles held for evidence in the case, including the young girl’s clothing. ’We didn’t collect DNA for use as evidence until 1991. Typically all evidence is retained in a homicide case until it is solved and closed,’ he said. ‘The GBI periodically reviews all open cases to see if some advancement in technology is available now that wasn’t available to be used when the crime occurred. A lot of factors come into play to determine whether any DNA on articles of evidence can still be processed.’ Pike County sheriff’s deputies have continued to investigate the murder case, despite years without any charges being filed. According to investigator Maj. David Neal, numerous interviews have been conducted and are on file but he believes it would take just one person to share information that has not yet been brought to light. ’Somebody knows something about this case and if they’d come forward and put it on the record, this case could be solved,’ he said. The young girl was murdered April 6, 1986 and she was discovered in a dog pen where pit bulls had mangled her body. Pike County coroner Charles Moody was present as an autopsy was performed at the state crime lab in Atlanta. He said pathologists determined she was beaten before the dogs attacked her and she had been sexually abused before she died. Her mother said Renee left her home around 11 a.m. that Sunday morning and rode her bike to visit a friend. Her body was discovered late that afternoon. ’It’s my personal belief that any time a heinous crime is committed, there is unrest until it is solved. As we review the case, each and every time new facts and evidence are brought to light, we’ve built quite a significant file,’ said sheriff Thomas. ‘We’ve had several interviews that we’ve reviewed in this case, including the GBI interrogations and subsequent interviews that have been made available and leads we’ve followed up. It’ll always be an open case for us until we’re able to solve or conclude it. The case occurred in 1986 and while this staff was not a part of the agency at that time, this case remains important to us. Protecting children is certainly a priority of importance to me personally and to this department.’

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