Local News

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

Posted July 21, 2014 5:27 p.m. EDT
Updated July 21, 2014 8:11 p.m. EDT

— 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."