'Devastated' family of slain Wake County pregnant woman says 'senseless' violence must stop

Elaina Athans Image
Friday, February 12, 2021
Family of slain pregnant woman issues emotional statement
EMBED <>More Videos

A couple was arrested Wednesday evening and charged in the murder of a missing 28-year-old pregnant woman.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Saying "senseless acts of violence against women have to stop," the family of a missing pregnant woman found dead near the Neuse River Trail released an emotionally charged statement Thursday calling for change and demanding justice for their loved one.

Family spokesperson Tyaisha Williams-Troy said, in part, "Someone discarded Brittany Samone Smith and her baby like they did not matter, and we want justice for all of the persons involved with the crime."

In the statement, the family said it was "devastated" after learning that Smith's body was found in a suitcase Feb. 8. The 28-year-old was six months pregnant and expecting a baby boy, according to warrants.

"Our beautiful daughter, mother, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend was snatched away from our lives and the lives of her innocent children," the Smith family wrote Thursday. "She is no longer with us to laugh, cry, dance, change, and become a woman of her full potential. Her baby did not get the opportunity to grow, love, play, and get to know his brothers."

The Smith family also had harsh words for some media coverage of the case and was critical of the investigation conducted by the Wake County Sheriff's Office.

Smith's family had told authorities they last saw her alive on Feb. 4 in Wendell. The family said Thursday that it had to begin its own investigation because it felt its "concerns were not being heard" by authorities.

Two people were arrested Wednesday evening and charged with Smith's murder and that of her unborn child.

The family did express gratitude for the sheriff office's work after the body was discovered that led to the arrests.

"We want all parties involved in this crime to be found and prosecuted," the family wrote. "From accomplice to conspirator to murder, we want complete justice.

The two suspects, Thomas Johnson and Emmalei Trevathan, were formally charged in court Thursday. Authorities accused them of strangling Smith before stuffing her body in a purple suitcase and tossing it in the Neuse River.

A judge ordered they be held in jail without bond.

"We don't want her case to be rushed to take the limelight off of Wake County," the statement continued. "We ask for patience, and for people to understand our frustration and our pain ... we want you to know that Brittany was loved dearly. Yes, she had struggles in her life but she was a fighter, and she did not deserve this."

Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker said investigators had been tracking Johnson's and Trevathan's movements across the city.

"We don't know if they were trying to get out of town," Baker said.

Beyond Brittany Smith's case, the family said it is fighting to end the cycle of violence against women, particularly Black mothers, and vowed to keep Brittany Smith's name alive.

This situation has become too common with Black women," the family wrote. "We are tired of being sick and tired. We are tired of crying and wailing. We are tired of the constant tears of mothers weeping for their daughters. We are tired of burying our youth and trying to explain to their children. We are tired! We are asking for everyone to stand up and join us in this fight for justice for Brittany Samone Smith, and stand up for all these missing Black girls who have now become invisible. We will not let her become invisible. We will not let the light stop shining on her. We will continue to say her name over and over again ... and we won't care if you are tired of hearing it. We will let Brittany's cry flow through us until we get justice because we stand for truth. And the truth is that she was massacred, and no one deserves that! We stand for justice. And we will not stop until we get complete justice. We will keep Brittany Samone Smith's name alive and continue to spread awareness. Something has got to change now!"

Investigators are still working to determine the motive behind the homicide. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Wake County Sheriff's Department at (919) 856-6911.

"No one deserves to have their life taken," Baker said. "There will be further interviews and perhaps these people will provide us with that information."

Meanwhile, the Smith family is making funeral arrangements and plans to memorialize her on Wednesday.