Local News

Arrest in 43-year-old Raleigh homicide stuns victim's family

Posted July 21

— The family of Ralph Smith said they never thought they would see anyone charged in his 1971 death, but with the passage of time, justice has taken on a new meaning for them.

Police found Smith, 51, shot to death outside his taxi cab in the 100 block of East Bragg Street on Oct. 22, 1971.

"We had been to the (State) Fair, and when we came back from the fair, someone came running out and said, 'Your daddy's dead. Your daddy's dead,'" Carolyn Williams, Smith's daughter, said Monday.

Investigators told Smith's family that the shooting wasn't the result of a robbery.

"(The gunman) was trying to get away from paying the fare, and a fight broke out. That's what they said, and he shot him," Williams said.

Homicide detectives continued to look into the case over the years, and last Friday, police charged Sinatra Dunn, 70, of Carrboro, in Smith's death.

"We didn't ever think they were going to catch the person that did this," Williams said. "All I could say is, 'Wow.'"

Police haven't disclosed what evidence linked Dunn to the crime.

Dunn's wife said that she met him in 1986 while she was doing missionary work. He was distraught, was addicted to drugs and told her he had problems in his past – never mentioning any connection to a homicide.

Later, she said, she was diagnosed with cancer, and Dunn cared for her. They married six years ago.

"For her to make an impact on his life and for him to make an impact on her life (is) outstanding," said Michael Smith, Smith's grandson, who was 3 years old when his grandfather died.

Dunn was ordered held without bond until his next court appearance on Aug. 11.

Both families embraced each other as they left the courtroom, and they both said they would pray for each other.

"I'm not sure what I want to see happen," Michael Smith said. "If he's got his life right with Christ, that's all that matters. That's all that matters to my family."

13 Comments

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  • "Screen Name-8/20" Jul 28, 6:18 p.m.

    "I'm not sure what I want to see happen," Michael Smith said. "If he's got his life right with Christ, that's all that matters. That's all that matters to my family."

    I understand!!!

    He still owes a debt to society though, and since he's found Christ, not all is lost - he can use jail time to minister to others in prison. Maybe that is God's will for him now, should he choose to obey and honor it.

    We never know!!!

  • "Screen Name-8/20" Jul 28, 6:15 p.m.

    Kudos to LEO.
    Prayers for both families.
    I can't imagine...

  • Confucius say Jul 22, 3:41 p.m.

    Good work officers! Now lock him up for the rest of his life. He got to enjoy his last 43 years of life whereas Ralph Smith did not.

  • 678devilish Jul 22, 2:58 p.m.

    After years has pass, this family is going to get their justice. God is good. All the time.

  • djofraleigh Jul 22, 1:45 p.m.

    Nazi SS guards are being 'given justice' after 70 years, even those who led good lives after the war. Some are tried and convicted several years after a murder now. I guess this man is going to get some time. He's apparently been doing OK for 18 years now. That's to his credit.

  • jmcdow2792 Jul 22, 12:53 p.m.

    I remember this case. It was a real shocker back in 1971. Prior to that, Raleigh was almost like an innocent rural area. This was the type of thing that happened in New York back in those days. This case and a few others took Raleigh into the urban crime era. Too bad. For this reason, I am glad there is a suspect and if guilty he deserves punishment. There may be good reasons to pardon some or even all of the punisment, but it needs to be given because of the above.

  • voice your opinion Jul 22, 11:51 a.m.

    MUDLIFE: The killing happened in 1971 (2014 - 43 = 1971). There is no mention of 1981. However, there is a mention of 1986 when Dunn met the woman he calls his wife.

  • My24cents Jul 22, 11:45 a.m.

    If he was really right with Christ, he would have confessed.

    — Posted by fifefan4life

    I agree!

  • whatsupwiththat Jul 22, 11:29 a.m.

    "Right with Christ" or not..this man has gotten away with murder for 43 years!! He needs to die in prison.

  • fifefan4life Jul 22, 10:54 a.m.

    If he was really right with Christ, he would have confessed.

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