Front Royal Police Seek Closure

By: Damon Dillman
By: Damon Dillman

Ronald Williamson was one of the original investigators in the 1983 murder of Front Royal Police Sgt. Dennis Smedley.

"We knew him even before, in his younger days, even before he joined the police department," Williamson, now a captain with the Front Royal Police, said Friday. "So he was not only a fellow police officer, but he was a good friend."

Twenty years ago in September, Smedley was shot three times in the back by an unknown assailant while leaving his 6th Street apartment to report for his shift.

"A drug angle has been alleged," explained Front Royal Police Chief Ronald Ricucci. "That he had some information that he was getting ready to act on, and that certain people had become aware that he had knowledge of their activities, and it was a hit to take him out for that."

Two men have already been acquitted of Smedley's murder, the first in 1983, and a second in 1991.

But recent allegations by unsuccessful Warren County Sheriff candidate J.D. Striker, a 22-year member of the Front Royal Police himself, has brought the 20-year-old murder back into the news.

Late in his campaign, Striker said he had heard an audiotape, on which a eyewitness claims to have seen two former Front Royal police officers kill Smedley.

"When this occurred, basically all we had was in the paper," said Ricucci. "The officer was on extended leave at the time, in a political campaign. I made a decision right away that I was going to the state police."

Earlier this week, Ricucci met with members of the Warren County Sheriff's Office and the Virginia State Police. After the meeting, he announced that the state police were taking over the investigation, in light of Striker's claims.

Ricucci joined the Front Royal Police about three and a half years ago. He says it's his policy to hand over any case involving a police shooting to an outside agency like the state police.

Williiamson hopes the state police investigation will lead to some closure "for the community, for the department, and mostly for the family."

Ricucci agrees.

"It's re-opening some old wounds that, I don't know if they'll ever close, but it obviously has hit close to home again for them," he said.


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