NORTH AUGUSTA, SC (WJBF) – A shooting that left a man dead at a North Augusta apartment complex remains unsolved nearly 10 years later. In this month’s Cold Case Project, loved ones and friends of Travis Smith speak out to get long awaited justice.
“We would literally be outside playing basketball until like 1, 2 o’clock in the morning,” Desmond Wilson, a best friend to Travis Smith, said. “My mom was like, she would come stop us and tell us quit dribbling the basketball because the neighbors would get mad.”
“Definitely he was a Lakers guy. Kobe all the way,” his sister Tyesha Simmons said.
Travis Smith loved basketball. But his pick-up game buddies and loved ones have not seen him dribble and shoot in nearly a decade. Simmons told Cold Case Project she has spent that time working to bring Smith’s killers to justice.
“Right away I was like I need to find out who did this,” Simmons said.
Before learning about the incident that took Smith’s life, we sat down with his family and friends to learn more about him while he was alive. His mother Barbara Smith recalled fond memories of the baby of the group.
“No trouble out of him at all,” she recalled. “Just a good baby at that time, but when I first got him, he was a crier. But then I said thank God for medicine for colic. He became a good baby.”
Simmons added, “Me and Travis got along good because we kind of have the same temperament. We’re laid back, easy going, we laugh a lot, we joke a lot, we’re both sarcastic.”
Smith was quiet, and his mom said he loved singing, an activity that placed him in his church’s youth choir. The Midland Valley student later became a girl dad, one of his mom’s and sister’s proudest moments for him. He even told friends he wanted to spend more time with his daughter. And according to his best buds, he held the friend title well too, often sharing wisdom.
“He was older than me so, at the time I was having trouble with, ‘man is this person my friend, is this person my friend and how do I decide that?’ He showed me that you got to accept people for who they are. If you don’t like the things that they are doing, you just got to remove them out your life,” friend James “Rick” Griffin told us.
The night leading up to Smith’s murder, Wilson said while they were at the former Ridgeview Manor Apartments, off Bradleyville Road in North Augusta, he noticed something odd about his friend’s demeanor.
“He actually even Tweeted and he was like something just don’t feel right,” he said. “And I was like, asked him what’s wrong he was like nothing.”
Wilson recalled his friend pacing back and forth, in and out of the person’s apartment they were visiting there. But he said whatever troubled Smith, his very private friend kept it to himself.
“Whatever it was, I don’t think that he thought it was that serious,” Wilson remembered.
But on Saturday, September 29, 2012, it was very serious. North Augusta Public Safety Lt. Tim Thornton remembers that night and sat down with Cold Case Project to share details.
“A shooting took place,” Lt. Thornton began. “Public Safety was alerted through a 911 emergency call. The complainant called and said she heard shots outside of her apartment.”
Officers responded to the complex around 2:47 in the morning. We know from friends that Smith had been there Friday night into early Saturday just hanging out like he normally does. This particular night, he decided to stay longer and talk with a woman he’d just met who lived in building B. Lt. Thornton said they were standing in the breezeway when trouble came.
“It appears that he was shot outside the apartment and worked his way into the apartment for safety, for refuge, to escape what was going on outside in the breezeway,” Lt. Thornton explained.
He made his way inside of apartment 417.
He added, “We found Travis not making any movements sitting on the couch. The scene was investigated, and it was determined that Travis had been shot and eventually had succumbed to those injuries.”
The incident report states Smith was shot in the upper torso area. He was unarmed. Also, inside of the apartment were two women and a child. One of those women was outside talking with Smith and told police she ran inside the apartment after three people approached them. That‘s when she said she heard a gunshot. Her roommate phoned the police and they found her on the floor crying when they arrived.
“They were bringing the body out and they covered me so I wouldn’t be able to see when they were bringing him out and that’s when I realized that it was real,” Simmons said.
“What we’re still trying to figure out is the pool of witnesses that may have been out at that time of morning that could have provided us with information specific to the identity of the shooters. If it was one shooter or multiple shooters involved,” Lt. Thornton urged.
As the investigation into Travis Smith’s cold case continues, Lt. Thornton said they are also working on what a motive might be and new ways to solve the murder.
“It’s not uncommon with today’s technology that we have opportunities, perhaps, that maybe something will come to light,” he added. “As of right now, we don’t have that technology, or we haven’t had that break in the case.”
But for family and friends, they are hopeful for that break.
“I think this case could be solved, but I think just like everybody else there are too many people that already know who did it and they’ve waited this long,” said family friend Barbara Owens. “It’s been almost a decade.”
“If nobody said nothing this long, I don’t feel like they would come forward now,” Wilson said. “But, I’m very hopeful that they would. I’m hoping after they see this, somebody would have a conscience and say something.”
Simmons and other loved ones take part in stop the violence events locally, even hitting the streets themselves passing out flyers with details of Smith’s murder.
“Stay in contact with the detectives, I try to talk to them. I try to raise awareness to let people know that it is unsolved. I try to keep it in the media so people won’t forget about it,” Simmons told us.
Griffin added, “We could be in reverse roles. This could be you handing me a flyer about someone. Would you want me to throw it away when I close this door or would you actually want me to look into this?”
“If there is a witness out there that is reluctant to come forward or feels like they didn’t have any information that would be helpful, I would ask them to reconsider and to just anonymously share it with us,” said Lt. Thornton.
We asked, “Do you have hope that one day your son’s murder will be solved?”
Smith answered, “Sometimes I wish he would come to me in a dream and tell me who did it, but it hasn’t happened. So, I’m just praying to God that somebody do talk.’
Anyone with any information about the murder of Travis Smith should contact North Augusta Public Safety at 803-279-2121.
Next time on the Cold Case Project we take you to McDuffie County where 17-year-old Daekwon Hines went missing and was later found dead on May 14, 2018 in Thomson. What family and law enforcement need to get justice and close the case.
Photojournalist: Regynal McKie