Emeri Connery (26) was a beautiful, successful fitness model with thousands of followers across her many social media accounts. She was close to her family and made up a set of triplets along with her brothers Klint and Kyle. She was seemingly living a dream life.
Her cousin Bailey Smith was younger, at 21. He was police officer with the Big Stone Gap Police Department in Virginia. He loved cars and motorcycles and seemed to be popular amongst his peers and he had many friends.
The two attended a family wedding on the evening of March 9, 2019. The details of what happened they left the wedding are unclear and haven’t been made public. But at 4am on March 10, 2019 residents who live near US 23 near Big Stone Gap reported hearing gunshots and the sound of a car crash. A 2015 GMC pickup truck had been traveling north on Route 23 when it ran off the left side of the highway into a median. Police responded to the scene and found both Bailey and Emeri dead in the vehicle.
Following an investigation by the Medical Examiner, it was determined that both Bailey and Emeri died from a gunshot to the head and that both gunshots came from inside the vehicle. Emeri’s death was ruled a homicide and Bailey was determined to have died from suicide. So, we now have a murder-suicide. The gun that was used was NOT Bailey’s police service weapon.
Funeral services for the two were planned. Emeri’s Celebration of Life was held on March 23, 2019. And interestingly (and perhaps unusually for someone who took another’s life), Bailey was given a full police procession through Big Stone Gap.
This was the start of a series of strange events in regards to Bailey’s death. We usually see murder-suicide perpetrators ‘swept under the rug’, with very little fanfare or even acknowledgement of their death made. But Bailey’s death was different. A Fundraising page raised almost $15,000 for Bailey’s family and nothing public was organized for Emeri’s family.
Emeri’s mother made Facebook posts, in support of Bailey. This is unusual behavior for a mother towards her daughter’s killer. She was able to forgive very quickly. This lead to questions about the motivation for the killing. Do the family know more about why this happened than they have let on?
Other people made tributes to both Bailey and Emeri. Again, this is the opposite to what we usually see in a murder-suicide case.
Not everyone was as quick to forgive and forget though.
The lack of answers led to online speculation.
Witness accounts of what happened that night are different to the official versions. The police and medical examiner have both said that Bailey and Emeri each died from a gunshot to the head. Clarence “Toots” Taylor, who lives yards from the crash location near U.S. 23’s mile marker 28, said that he heard five shots moments after the auto accident.
“I woke up at three and looked at the clock and I said I’ve got about four more hours before I have to go to church,” Taylor said. “And it wasn’t long after that I heard that thump. I thought it was a rifle that went off at first but it didn’t crack like a rifle.
Asked if he saw or heard a vehicle or vehicles, Taylor said, “No, I didn’t get up and look. Most of the time when I hear a shot around here, I always turn the light on and look at the clock. But I was so tired I was wore out that day and I just rolled back over. “I wished the lord I’d looked out that window,” Taylor said. “Bang, bang, bang, and there was a hesitation and another bang, a hesitation and another bang.”
Taylor said he stayed in his house until State Police investigators arrived later.
“They came over and talked to me, but I told them I didn’t hear that truck,” said Taylor. “But after I got to thinking, that thump I heard I thought was a rifle was that truck hit that culvert. After that thump, it wasn’t just a minute or two till the pistol went off.”
Speculation as to WHY Bailey killed Emeri is still occurring online to this day. A murder-suicide is usually a crime of passion. A crime of passion, in popular usage, refers to a violent crime, especially homicide, in which the perpetrator commits the act against someone because of sudden strong impulse such as sudden rage rather than as a premeditated crime. What made Bailey so angry that he killed Emeri and then killed himself? We often see murder-suicide between husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends or estranged partners.
What could have made one cousin so mad that it was enough to take the life of another? Was it an accident and he took his life when he realized what had happened? Was it a crime of passion for whatever reason? A suicide-pact? Based on the silence from both sides of the families and from the Big Stone Gap Police Department, it is highly unlikely that we will ever know.