Sheriff Grady Judd announces today that the PCSO Cold Case Homicide Unit has solved a 1996 cold case homicide.
“Our cold case homicide detectives are dedicated to solving every one of our unsolved homicides, and this recently solved case is a perfect example of how someone who had knowledge of a crime came forward and help us put a murderer behind bars. We know there are other criminals out there who think they’ve gotten away with it – but we also know there are people out there who can help us put them behind bars too. We encourage anyone who has information about any crime, no matter how big or small, to come forward and help put criminals in jail where they belong. It’s the right thing to do.” – Sheriff Grady Judd
According to the affidavit, the body of 37-year-old Tommy Eugene Smith (DOB 8/29/1959) of 1435 East Boulevard Street in Bartow was found around 7:00 p.m. on October 11, 1996, in an orange grove near Edison and Berkley Roads in Auburndale. An autopsy revealed that Tommy had been shot to death, and his manner of death was ruled a homicide.
Smith was last seen on October 10, 1996, leaving his home around 8:00 p.m. in his Jeep. He was reported missing by his family on October 11th. His Jeep was found during the early morning hours of October 11, 1996, by a PCSO Deputy Sheriff, abandoned under the I-4 overpass on Berkley Road in Auburndale, with a flat tire and with a rear passenger door open. His body was found later that day in the aforementioned orange grove. Five days later, a .22 caliber rifle was found near the area where Smith's abandoned Jeep was located. Ballistic tests confirmed the rifle was used in Tommy Smith's homicide.
Sixteen years later, on October 31, 2012, a witness contacted PCSO, who voluntarily provided details about the homicide that only someone who had intimate knowledge of the crime would have known. The witness told detectives that 35-year-old Timothy Elbert Carey (DOB 2/23/1977) of 430 Skyline Drive East in Lakeland, killed Tommy Smith back in 1996 when Carey was 19 years old. The witness told detectives that he and Carey were in Smith's Jeep the night of the homicide, and Carey directed Smith to drive them down a dirt road. When all three got out of the Jeep, Carey robbed and then shot Tommy Smith to death, and then pointed the rifle at the witness, forcing him at gunpoint to drag Smith's body into an orange grove. Carey and the witness then left the scene in Smith's Jeep. When the Jeep got a flat tire, they abandoned it on Berkley Road.
On November 1, 2012, PCSO Crime Scene Investigators and Latent Print Examiners processed fingerprints found in Smith's Jeep, and positively identified the prints as Timothy Carey's.
Detectives placed Carey under arrest and booked him into the Polk County Jail on one count First Degree Murder, and one count Armed Robbery. He is being held on no bond. He will have a video first appearance hearing at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 3, 2012.