Interior Ministry holds a man, born 1998, on suspicion of murdering an American couple and their four-year-old son in Georgia’s north-eastern Dusheti Municipality.
The family of Ryan, Lora and Caleb Smith went missing on Friday, July 6, shortly after retreating to a waterfall near Tskere, a remote village in Khada gorge in the Caucasus Mountains, where the three had gone for camping.
The police rescue team found the body of Lora Smith on July 6 at the foot of a waterfall. The body of Ryan Smith was found a day later at a nearby location. According to the Ministry of Interior’s statement on the same day “preliminary examination found no signs of violence” on the two bodies, leading the police to press “involuntary manslaughter” charges.
In an official statement delivered today at 14:00 Tbilisi time, the Interior Ministry said Ryan Smith was killed with a hunting rifle, following a “verbal altercation.” Lora Smith, according to the same statement, “died after falling into a ravine as she tried to escape the crime scene.” The Interior Ministry said the body of a minor who apparently also died with gunshot wounds, was found buried in a nearby area.
As the first forensic results were received, the Ministry explained, the crime was re-qualified as “premeditated murder.”
The Interior Ministry added that the suspect, who is said to be a shepherd, was detained and had admitted to the murder. The Ministry provided no further details on the incident.
Speculation has been rife in the Georgian media concerning the motives as well as the sequence of the events. Some local residents were quoted, but the details of the incident remain unclear. The Interior Ministry said the suspect’s state of mental health would have to be determined by psychiatric examination.
The Smith family had a dual citizenship from Georgia and the United States and had lived in the country since 2012. Ryan Smith was a director of reWoven, a Marneuli-based social enterprise, which works for reviving the tradition of local carpet-making.