20 years later, 14-year-old’s brutal killing remains unsolved

For 20 years, Nacole Smith’s killer has been a free man. He has gotten away with the 14-year-old’s brutal death.

The man responsible for sexually assaulting the 8th grader before shooting her twice in the head on June 7, 1995, was later linked to a 2004 rape through DNA. But even though the DNA samples match, investigators have not been able to identify the person responsible.

On Sunday afternoon, Nacole’s family will be holding a vigil on the 20th anniversary of her death not far from where she lived and died off Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta. The lead cold case detective will also attend, one of many officers eager to bring closure to a family.

Nacole would be 34 years old if still alive. But in 1995, she was days away from graduating from Ralph Bunche Middle School. She was excited to shop for a pretty white dress to wear to the ceremony.

On a Wednesday morning, Nacole left her home in the Deerfield Apartments to walk to school with her older sister and a friend, her mother told police. When Nacole, an A student, realized she’d left a school project at home, she turned back to get it. She headed down a shortcut through the woods that kids often used, but she never made it home.

Investigators believe Nacole struggled with a man with a gun who assaulted her. He shot her, and the bullets hit her in the face.

Two security guards at a nearby apartment complex heard the shots and ran into the woods, where they found Nacole and her book bag, which contained her identification and address.

Acqunellia Smith also heard the gunshots followed by the sound of a police helicopter. There was a knock on the door, and when she opened it, two Atlanta police officers told the mother her daughter was dead, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution years later.

“Please Lord, I don’t wish this on anybody else, but please let this not be my child,” Smith remembered saying as she dropped to her knees.

At the funeral home, Smith identified the girl as her Nacole, her wounds still fresh.

“I saw that she had cried and tears had dried up on her face, ” Smith said.

In June 2004, there was a second victim of the same man three miles away. A 13-year-old East Point girl was pulled into the woods on Connally Drive and raped. But this time, the young teen was able to run away and report the incident to police.

The second victim provided investigators with a description of the man. The black man appeared to be in his late 20s to early 30s, was 5-feet-10 inches tall and weighed approximately 190 pounds. He had a medium complexion, a gap in his front teeth, and was wearing round, gold-framed glasses, according to police.

The GBI crime lab later linked the two cases through a DNA analysis. But there’s still no identification of the DNA, police said this week.

Anyone with information on the case can submit it anonymously to the Crime Stoppers Atlanta tip line at 404-577-TIPS (8477), online www.crimestoppersatlanta.org or by texting CSA and the tip to CRIMES (274637).