Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Man's death investigated

Evanston home was ransacked

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Death canceled Michael Anthony Smith's romantic Valentine's Day plans.

        The 41-year-old Evanston man had planned to take his girlfriend to dinner Monday night. Instead, she found him dead on the third floor of his Bonaparte Avenue home sometime before 10 a.m. Mr. Smith's mother, Delores Creed, told 911 operators that her son's home had been ransacked.

        Cincinnati homicide detectives released little information about Mr. Smith's death, other than the fact that they were investigating. No suspects or leads were identified.

        Neighbors who live near the red brick, two-family house in Evanston said they didn't hear anything unusual overnight Sunday — no gunshots or sounds of violence that left their helpful neigh bor dead. They were shocked that anyone would harm him.

        “This just hurts,” said Claudine Hall, 58, Mr. Smith's next-door neighbor. “I don't know what could have happened to him or why. He never hurt anyone.”

        For nearly 20 years, Mrs. Hall has lived next door to Mr. Smith. Last fall, she fell on her front steps and broke her hip. She crawled to her bed and slept. When she awoke, she was in intense pain and couldn't move. Mrs. Hall found a coat hanger and used it to tap on her bedroom window.

        “He's the one who heard me,” she said, crying. “He's the one who called 911. And, here I was (Monday night), I didn't hear anything.”

        Mrs. Hall stared in disbelief at Mr. Smith's home and rattled off a list of ways her neighbor had helped her. Whether salting her steps in bad weather, routine trips to the grocery or just the comfort of caring company, Mr. Smith was always there for her, she said.

        “He was more attentive to me than my own daughter. He was like my child,” Mrs. Hall said. “It's gonna be hard without him. It's gonna be hard.”

        She had planned to give Mr. Smith and his girlfriend cookies for Valentine's Day before the couple's dinner date on Monday night.

        Other neighbors said Bonaparte is a typically quiet, residential street. No one had trouble before at Mr. Smith's home, which, along with a house across the street, is owned by his mother.

        Serious crime has been declining in Evanston since 1995. The neighborhood of fewer than 4,000 residents reported 2.6 percent of the Cincinnati's total number of serious crimes — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft — for that five-year period.

        Only one homicide was reported in the neighborhood last year and none was reported in 1998, compared to seven homicides reported in 1995.

        If ruled a homicide, Mr. Smith's death would be the 13th in Evanston since 1995 and its first this year. It would be Cincinnati's fifth homicide of 2000.


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