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DNA leads to justice in 1986 cold-case murder
Christopher Leon SmithOn Sept. 19, 2014, Christopher Leon Smith was sentenced to 33 years in prison for the 1986 killing of Tacoma-resident Carol Davidson. DNA samples collected at the time of the murder led to Smith’s arrest in 2012. Smith pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree.

“Justice has been a long time coming for Carol Davidson’s family,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “Our cold-case team, along with Tacoma Police Detective Gene Miller, continues to successfully resolve these cases for the community.”

On Aug. 30, 1986, Tacoma Police found Carol Davidson deceased in her Tacoma apartment. She had sustained blunt force trauma to the head, her hands were bound behind her back, and she was gagged. The medical examiner determined she died from strangulation. Outside, police found some of Davidson’s belongings and a pack of Kool cigarettes.

Police collected biological evidence, but the scope of available scientific techniques was limited at the time. Detectives were unable to identify a suspect, and the investigation was suspended.

In 2012, Detective Gene Miller of the Tacoma Police Department’s Cold Case Unit reopened the case, reviewed the evidence, and submitted biological samples to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab. DNA from the samples matched Smith’s DNA, which had been collected after his 2009 convictions for rape and kidnapping.

In 1983 and 1984, Smith was a suspect in two separate Tacoma area rapes. One victim said the assailant purchased a pack of Kool cigarettes while they were together. Smith was interviewed during those investigations and told a detective that he had consensual sex with both women, and that he smoked Kool cigarettes.