Murder in the Mountains: Investigation Ongoing

On July 6, the 112 emergency call center received a call out on the loss of two adults with dual citizenship of the US and Georgia, and their 4-year-old son. It was said the missing persons were in Khada Gorge in Dusheti region and had fallen out of contact, - the Ministry of Internal Affairs statement of July 7 read.

“Upon receipt of the notice, the employees of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and 15 emergency crews departed for the mentioned location. Policemen and rescuers immediately started searching and checked the places mentioned in the call. Law enforcers found a car and the personal belongings of the missing persons in Tsikere village. The rescuers of the Emergency Situations Service then found the body of one of the missing persons about 3 km into the gorge.”

The search for the remaining two missing persons was suspended due to poor visibility and darkness and was resumed the next morning. At some point on Sunday, the body of the 4-year-old boy was found. It had been purposefully buried.

The MIA on Monday made a second statement amid a media rush of rumors and accusations, confirming that American Ryan Smith, Founder and Director of ReWoven, and his wife, Lora, as well as their 4-year-old child Caleb, had been murdered in Khada Gorge, Dusheti.

Mamuka Chelidze, Head of the Main Division of Combating Organized Crime of the Criminal Police stated that the police had arrested a man born in 1998 for the murder charges, who had confessed that on July 4, after a confrontation, he shot Ryan Smith and his son. The man, thought to be a shepherd, also stated that while the wife, Lora, was trying to escape, she fell into the gorge and died.

Chelidze added the suspect then buried the body of the child to hide the crime, the location of which he then described to police officers.

“The investigation was initially launched under Article 116, section 2 of the Criminal Code, which implies negligent manslaughter. After receiving the primary data of the medical examination, the case was requalified as premeditated murder.”

The charges imply life imprisonment. According to Chelidze, a psychiatric examination of the suspect will be carried out to assess his mental condition, and the investigation is ongoing.

The husband and wife were citizens of the US but had Georgian citizenship, received in 2012. They had lived in the town of Marneuli for seven years and were well respected members of the local and expat community.

In an exclusive interview with GEORGIA TODAY in 2015, Ryan Smith told us about his reWoven project. “I learned about rug-weaving when I lived in Azerbaijan 10 years ago. While I don’t weave our rugs, I’m involved in every other step of the process. I procure the yarn, select and draw the designs from historic sources, interact with the weavers, and oversee the finishing process of the rugs, never mind all of the marketing and sales. Because of my extensive experience in rug culture, I have a unique skill set to offer this project that is not immediately transferable…The weavers are making more money for their weaving than they ever did before, meaning they are able to provide more for their families through this craft. Additionally, there are more women weaving than when we started the project. Several of our weavers had not woven for 10 or 15 years before they wove a rug for reWoven. So, the weaving culture has taken small steps toward revitalization. These steps also have an impact on the broader community. When they first see our rugs, they assume they are antiques. They immediately recognize that the designs and colors are not the synthetic examples of decades past but represent the natural dyes and intricate designs of centuries past. They take pride in seeing this art revived and promoted to the world. Additionally, we have just committed funds from the proceeds of the project to remodel a school in one of the villages where our rugs are woven. Kids will return to school on September 15th to a building with fresh paint and new windows and doors. It’s our absolute pleasure to give back to the community beyond the preservation of rug weaving.”

The GT team’s sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of the Smiths.

By the GT Team

09 July 2018 18:03