April 6, 2020 | By Kristen Brainard
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Christopher Smith was a charismatic family man and enjoyed spending time with the people he loved the most. With his trademark bubbling and lively personality, he gained the nickname “Hollywood” growing up.
That personality is unforgettable for Christopher’s family. They will always remember his ability to light up a room. But he’ll never be able to do that again.
Christopher was murdered in a home invasion. His case has never been solved. He was 28.
Born in San Diego, California, Christopher grew up loving parks, playgrounds, and sports. He also helped usher at the local church he attended with his grandmother.
“Christopher loved coming to the church with us. He was a great usher and loved spending Sundays in the church,” his mother, Dana Smith, said. Christopher was very involved with the church and loved his church family.
When Christopher was 12, his family left San Diego and relocated to Texas. He joined the Boy Scouts while living in the Lone Star State.
His father was in the Navy, so Christopher moved often as a kid. They ended up in Jacksonville, Florida. Christopher attended Englewood High School and played on the basketball team. Christopher loved basketball, according to his grandfather Richard, and he strived to give his best at every practice and game. Christopher loved having his family in attendance at every game.
Christopher also played the trombone and trumpet in the school band. He danced enthusiastically in the marching band because he liked to shine in front of others. His family loved watching him perform on the field during halftime, whether in person or through video chat. His “Hollywood” personality was sure to come through during his performances.
“We would always FaceTime Dana during his marching band performances. He loved to dance on the field with the band,” Carolyn Smith, his grandmother, recalled. “When he got out on the field and started to dance with the drum majors, you could just tell he was having a good time. He lit up the field.”
When Christopher was a teenager, he developed an obsession for the Air Jordan sneakers and began to collect them. “Chris came to visit, and he asked me to take him to the mall to buy more of those Jordan shoes,” his uncle John Coleman said. “He loved to collect them. It was like every time I saw him, he had a new pair of those Jordan shoes on.”
At age 17, Christopher began working at Sun Suites, helping clean rooms and doing basic front desk work. Christopher worked hard while he was finishing high school. He got accepted to Penn State University and was also offered a welding school opportunity. But Christopher chose neither – he decided to continue working.
On February 29, 2008, Christopher and his girlfriend Maranda Williams welcomed their newborn daughter, T’Asia, into the world. Christopher was ecstatic to have a baby girl and took great pride in becoming a father. Christopher and Maranda shared custody as T’Asia grew up.
When T’Asia lived with him, Christopher made sure her hair was done for school every day and that her outfits matched. He attended her school events and made sure she did her schoolwork. Christopher was also a part of the PTA at her school.
Maranda said that being a father solidified Christopher’s manhood, and he would have done anything to protect her. The two of them always co-parented and made sure T’Asia knew she was loved.
Maranda said that, although she and Chris had not been romantically involved for years, the death was shocking to her. She will never forget the times she spent with Chris, and she is so thankful for the time she had with him.
T’Asia, now 12, remembers the time she spent with her father and talks about him often. She understands her father is not here in person but continues to watch over her.
On September 27, 2012, two individuals forced their way into Christopher’s Jacksonville apartment. There were four people residing in the apartment at the time, including T’Asia. Christopher could have escaped through a back door, but he wouldn’t have left without the others. He was shot multiple times before being taken in an ambulance to Orange Park Community Hospital, where he died.
For the Smith family, it is impossible to know why anyone would want to hurt Christopher. He treated everyone like family and would have done anything for the people he loved. He had no enemies. Rather than a funeral service, the family held a celebration of life, where they allowed everyone to share their best memories of Christopher.
Brittan, Christopher’s sister, saw her brother for the last time at her college graduation. She and Christopher had always been very close, playing games together throughout their childhood. They had a typical brother-sister relationship, and Christopher protected his sisters at all costs.
The whole family loved to play games at his great grandmother, Mama Sis’s, house. Her house is where the family spent most of their time and where Christopher spent most of his childhood. Brittan remembers Christopher for his large spirit and kind loving heart. She believes that Chris would have done amazing things if he had been given the chance to live his life.
In the year’s since Christopher’s murder, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has not been able to solve the case. The Smith family believes that Christopher probably knew his murderers. People he thought he could trust.
Due to his giving spirit, Christopher treated everyone like family, and his mother believes this was his downfall that night. Nothing was taken from the apartment except the life of Christopher.
If you have any information on the unsolved murder of Christopher Smith, please call the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500. To remain anonymous and possibly be eligible for a $3,000 reward, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.
Research and Impact
Many survivors that we speak to often share a common experience – protection by avoidance. Children are many times “protected” by the adults that surround them following a homicide, to keep them from the violent nature of what had occurred to their loved one.
These adults believe that protecting the youngest victims is done out of love and an internal certainty that avoiding the topic at hand will help heal better, but it’s not the case. The long-term impact that adults who grew up as “protected” children suggests that avoidance behaviors associated with trauma and grief can have far-reaching implications on mental and emotional health.
Being honest, open, and clear is the number one tip when helping child survivors address their grief and trauma associated with a homicide. For more tips on helping children impacted by homicide, visit Kids Matter, Inc.
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