Finally solved? Woman arrested for 1967 double murder

Carolyn Hevener Perry's daughter Ada (left) and widower Danny (center), look join Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson following the arrest of a 61-year-old woman for murdering Perry (age 20) and sister Constance Hevener (age 19) in 1967.
PHOTO BY LINDSAY BARNES

Staunton police took Sharron Diane Crawford Smith's mugshot just after her arrest at 10:24am December 12.
COURTESY OF STAUNTON POLICE DEPARTMENT

For decades, it was Staunton's unsolved crime of the century. Two sisters-in-law, one just married, had been brutally shot and killed working at High's Ice Cream on Augusta Street. On the morning of Friday, December 12, more than 41 years later, Staunton police arrested and charged Sharron Diane Crawford Smith, age 61, with two counts of first-degree murder. Staunton Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Robertson says the arrest could not have come a minute too soon.

"We had to move on this pretty quickly," he said at a Friday, December 12 press conference. "She is gravely ill and there was some concern that she may not last through the weekend," due to complications from end-stage heart failure and chronic kidney disease.

As of Tuesday morning, Smith is still alive, but Robertson tells the Hook that, "She is nearing the end."

Following her arrest Friday, Staunton police released Smith on a personal recognizance bond.

Smith worked with Constance Hevener, age 19, and her newlywed sister Carolyn Hevener Perry, age 20, at High's Ice Cream at the time of the crime. Just after the murder she moved to North Carolina and stayed there for 19 years until 1986, when she moved back to the Staunton area.

Several Shenandoah Valley newspapers report that the arrest is the result of an alleged deathbed confession from Smith. Robertson would neither confirm nor deny this, declining to discuss specific evidence before trial.

Approximately 50 Stauntonians in addition to about a dozen members of the media turned out to Staunton City Hall to learn the details of the arrest. Staunton police chief James Williams said that while Smith was one of the original suspects in the case, she had slipped through investigators' fingers until "a few months ago" when they began tracking down a lead that he says cannot be discussed until Smith's trial.

The break in the case came when Joyce Bradshaw, 74, came to Staunton police and said Smith had talked about committing the crime and producing a gun with which to do it days before the murders. She had originally come to Staunton police with her account back in the days immediately following the shooting, yet Staunton police allegedly dismissed her account after Smith allegedly passed a polygraph test.

Robertson would not comment on Bradshaw's allegation, but says that he himself has never spoken with Bradshaw.

Originally police had charged a local man named Bill Thomas who had allegedly told several Staunton residents that he was the killer. Thomas was acquitted at trial.

"Bill Thomas called me this morning," said Robertson. "He was very gentlemanly."

Robertson defended his late predecessor's decision to prosecute Thomas.

"If you read the [Staunton] News Leader account of the things, he'd said you can see why the evidence pointed to him to begin with," said Robertson.

Robertson also answered critics that say his office and Staunton police dragged their feet in resolving the case once Thomas won his acquittal.

"I haven't heard anybody say that," said Robertson, "but if they did, I'd tell them they're nuts. They did the best they could with the evidence they had."

For Perry's husband Danny Perry, the event brings closure to what has been decades of uncertainty about how his young bride died.

Neither Perry nor his daughter Ada would take questions from the media, but friends turned out for the press conference and offered tearful embraces what appears to be the end of their nightmare.

"My daughter and I will be able to finally close the book," Perry said in a statement, "on this selfish, horrible tragedy."

Smith is due in Staunton General District Court on Wednesday, January 7. Should she die before that date, Robertson says he will disclose all the evidence he would have introduced at her trial.

–last updated Monday, December 15 at 4:01pm. The original version of this story misstated that Hevener and Perry were sisters, rather than sisters-in-law. The error has been corrected above.

4 comments

sounds like she already got punished for this crime to me! Or better yet, is in the beginning processes of it!

I was 11 yrs old when this crime was commited.It was a small towns loss of innocents. We made sure the doors were locked all the time.
I am fifty one and have moved out of the area. I just mentioned to my neighbor about the High's murders and wondered why nobody put it on AMW. It was apart of anyone who lived in Staunton at that time.
Will Justice be served,only God will know, for the families,closure. I am glad that I am still alive to see that the crime that haunted Staunton all these years is settled.

It is very distressing that this family should have been given inaccurate information about eligibility for 504 Plans.

Anyone in this situation with a medical diagnosis from at least one qualified professional, should insist on a 504 or evaluation for an IEP.Do not take no for an answer. Parents should go to the Piedmont Regional Education Program (PREP) located in the Ivy Creek School behind Jouett Middle School on Lambs Lane, 975-9400 for help and information. Sometimes parents have to educate local administrators/teachers about how things work!!

A good online resource is WrightsLaw.

If you make no progress, the DC Office for Civil Rights has jurisdiction in Virginia. They are the office charged with enforcing the laws regarding 504 Plans and their contact info is: tel.: 202-208-2545; address: Office for Civil Rights, US Dept of Education,PO Box 14620, Washington DC 2004; email-OCR@ed.gov; OCR Hotline is 800-421-3481.

To the parents in this article: Good luck and insist on your child's rights even when you encounter resistance! And remember that you will encounter people in the local schools who are misinformed.

To local media: Special Education issues in ACPS need a lot more coverage like this story!

Dear Michael and Pamela Juers:

My heart goes out to you and your sons. I applaud you for your efforts to improve your situation through changes in diet. I’m living proof that it can be done.

I have ADHD, which I just found out about last summer, at the age of 41. I am smart, but have always had trouble in school and on the job. Up until my diagnosis, I thought I was just broken. So, it's been great learning about ADHD and how to more effectively live with it. At this time, I am not medicated, but I may choose to try it next year (2008).

The reason I'm writing to you is to mention the name of a book that quite literally saved my life. Dr. Nancy Appleton has written several good books, but it was "Lick the Sugar Habit" (Avery Publishing Group, Inc. 1996) that was such a great blessing to me. I am an avid reader, and I can say that this is the best informative book I have ever read, due to her personal experience, reader-friendly authoring, extensive research, and excellent documentation Dr. Appleton so beautifully combines. A broad foundation of hard science, not just the whimsy of opinion, illuminates the importance of daily dietary choices. The Index, footnotes, and Bibliography are top notch, making it easy for the reader to search for any of the actual studies upon which the book is based.
This is my 4th year of positive dietary changes. Thanks to Dr. Appleton and other great authors, my ADHD & other symptoms, including migraines, scary thoughts, panic attacks, anger outbursts, mood swings, depression, anxiety, PMS, cramps, procrastination, rebellion, guilt & worry have all abated and my memory has improved greatly, since I began changing my diet. When I began to reduce sugars (all forms of sugar), caffeine, gluten, milk (from a gallon a day to a gallon a month), preservatives, dyes, carcinogens (MSG), and toxins (artificial sweeteners and anything else I knew was not a vitamin or mineral and I couldn’t pronounce), I experienced withdrawals. Understand that for 2 years, I had been working lots of overtime in a factory (no time to cook), drinking 6 cans of Mountain Dew per day, living on fast food and vending machine sweets, and getting 2 – 4 hours of sleep per night. Oh, yeah, serious withdrawals! The first year was the worst, because I tried to overcome several food addictions at once, without any help.

This year (2007), supplementation of vitamins & minerals with Good Days supplements (Good Living Labs, Oak Harbor, OH 43449), and the program with which they came, the Attacking Anxiety & Depression program (Midwest Center for Stress & Anxiety, Oak Harbor, OH 43449, www.stresscenter.com) have both helped immensely. Now I'm amazed at how good I feel, how much easier it is to function well every day, and to sleep well every night. I believe I'm truly off the roller-coaster! And thank God for that, it had been a rough ride.

Now, I shop at Whole Foods or Wegman's, as I can no longer find the wholesome, unprocessed, organic foods I require at the local Giant or Safeway. Please keep in mind that health is a journey, rather than a destination, and that every minute of every day, we have a choice about what we consume (including nourishing food, uplifting movies, inspiring & educational tv programs, logic-improving games, loving advice, healthy friendships & life-long education). At my age, I refuse to settle for anything less than what is best for my overall health. I may still have 50 years to go, hopefully they will be years of good health. Although I wish I’d have known all this when I was 20, I can say that I now truly appreciate the positive changes I’ve seen for my efforts.

I hope this information will assist you in making all your lives more enjoyable and productive. The transition can be difficult, but very much worthwhile. I’m living proof that diet alone has profound implications for good health or disease, based on our choices.

God bless you all. Namaste.

P.S. For a preview of "Lick The Sugar Habit" visit http://books.google.com and search for the title. There were several other titles among the results which also attracted my interest. Bon voyage!