I can only speculate that the reason this has happened after four long agonizing years for Sage's family is that it was because she was a transgender woman, not a U.Va. coed who went missing. Remember all the resources poured into the cased of two U.Va. women who went missing? Perhaps their lives were more valuable because they came from wealthy families that attended a prestigious university, not some poor transgender woman of approximately the same age demographic as the missing U.Va. students. Perhaps I am being unfairly cynical, but I don't think so.
I do find it very disturbing that the Charlottesville Police Department reclassified this case as a homicide in December and is just now making that known to the public, almost four months later. What are we to make of that?
Here is the article from today's Daily Progress.
Search for Sage Smith now a homicide investigation
More than four years ago, Sage Smith took a walk near West Main Street in Charlottesville on her way to meet an acquaintance and was never seen again.
On Wednesday, Charlottesville police said they are now investigating the case as a homicide.
“Sage wouldn’t have just walked off,” Smith’s grandmother Lolita “Cookie” Smith said. “Somebody took Sage from me. Something happened.”
Charlottesville police reclassified the case in December but waited to release the information publicly out of consideration for Smith’s family, Lt. Steve Upman said. After a shuffle in positions and roles at the police department, detectives also wanted time to take a fresh look at the case. There are no new searches planned, he said.
Smith, a transgender woman, was last seen Nov. 20, 2012, when she left an apartment on Harris Street and walked toward West Main Street to meet someone, according to police. The case was first classified as a missing person investigation and has remained active since Smith’s disappearance.
Police said Wednesday that the reclassification means the case is now a criminal investigation, which opens up resources outside the department — such as the United States Marshals Service — and could add weight to investigative tools such as search warrants.
“A missing person is not a criminal case, so we do not have the same investigative leeway,” Upman said. “By moving it to a criminal matter, it affords us not only additional resources outside the agency, but [also] provides more opportunities to search phone records and computers, that kind of thing.”
“That was not the reason to change it, but those are opened up,” he added.
City police said in 2012 that they had limited power to search Smith’s credit card and cellphone records because the case was not a criminal investigation.
Though police said they don’t have evidence of foul play, they reclassified the case because of its suspicious nature and how much time has passed with no sign of Smith. No single element of the investigation led to the decision, Upman said, but all the available evidence made it the most appropriate step.
Calling her granddaughter a “happy, go-lucky person” who loved to dance, Lolita Smith said she is angry that it took Charlottesville police so long to reclassify the case.
“Frankly, I don’t understand why they waited so long,” she said. “It’s been four years. I think the Charlottesville Police Department dropped the ball from day one.”
“I’m angry,” she said. “I don’t understand how some cases can be solved within a matter of days or weeks and my grandchild’s case hasn’t been solved yet.”
Police said they have been in contact with the family since the case began and are actively working to resolve it.
“It remains an active investigation and one we’re committed to hopefully solving,” Upman said.
Police said they designated the case as a homicide, rather than a death investigation, because there is not yet any hard evidence that Smith is dead.
“We haven’t heard from him since he went missing,” Upman said. “We’re hopeful death is not the outcome, but there is no new evidence and nobody has heard from him.”
The last person seen with Smith — who was 19 when she disappeared — was Erik Tyquan McFadden, then 25, who has since disappeared, as well. Police called McFadden a person of interest in the case, describing him as a black male, standing at 5 feet 10 inches, with black hair and brown eyes.
When he learned the case was reclassified, Bemeche Hicks, a friend of the Smith family, said he was glad to hear it brought back into the spotlight.
“I’m curious as to what information they have to make it into a homicide investigation, but I’m glad to know they have reopened it, more or less,” Hicks said. “Maybe they’ll get more information to bring people forward — whether it’s people who have information or maybe are associated criminally.