'Cold Justice' investigators discuss Kirby Smith homicide case, arrest

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comJune 11, 2014 

"Cold Justice" stars Yolanda McClary (left) and Kelly Siegler.

Ten years after Kirby Smith’s homicide, witnesses had “a little bit more to add” after “Cold Justice” stars Yolanda McClary and Kelly Siegler arrived in town in late May, the TV stars said this week.

Smith was shot to death at his Jacqueline Drive auto repair shop in March 2004. His estranged wife and her alleged boyfriend were charged last week with his murder.

McClary and Siegler said parts of this investigation were a first for the show, which is in the middle of its second season.

“(Columbus police Sgt.) Matt Blackstock, who worked with us while we were there, made the original scene and was the original investigator on the case, which was the very first time we’ve been able to do that, to have the original cop be with us while we worked on the case,” said Siegler, a former prosecutor. Siegler and McClary, a forensics expert who is the basis for one of the characters on “CSI,” investigate cold cases around the country as part of TNT’s “Cold Justice.”

The Kirby Smith investigation does not have an air date yet, but TNT said it will be scheduled in the batch of new episodes returning June 20 at 9/8c.

The pair spoke with the Ledger-Enquirer this week from Ohio, where they were working on another case.

Siegler said they were first approached about 10 months ago by Columbus police Sgt. Randy Long, one of the department’s cold case investigators. “And he reached out to us because we have to always be invited to participate in any case and law enforcement has to ask us first,” she said.

Both Siegler and McClary were provided with all the necessary background on the case, including offense reports and crime scene photos.

“We look at crime scene data. Try to make sure that we completely understand what went on out there. And so basically we just try and rip this case apart and then rebuild it from moment to moment,” McClary said.

The pair came to Columbus on May 28 and investigated into the beginning of June. Smith’s widow, Rebecca Smith Haynie, and Donald Keith Phillips were arrested June 5. They appeared for the first time in court the following day.

“I think that what we ran into is what we always hope to run into, is a bunch of witnesses who are still luckily alive and local … and everybody had a little bit more to add to what they had said before,” Siegler said. “And I think it even surprised the detectives that there’s just a little bit more information with every witness we ran into, which made the case stronger in everybody’s eyes.”

McClary added: “Definitely a couple of really good pieces that you always hope for that did happen off of some main players, so that helped changed the ballpark a little bit.”

McClary and Siegler worked with three CPD investigators each day during their investigation. As a rule, they don’t discuss specifics in order to preserve the District Attorney’s case.

“One of the cool moments was we were sitting in our war room, and I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the photos because I know that Yolanda is going to cover that,” Siegler said. “But she and (CPD) actually got into an argument, a hard argument, doing demonstrations about the way it all went down. So I just kind of kicked back in my chair and watched them all argue and see who was going to come out on top. And Yolanda did.”

Not every case “Cold Justice” investigates ends in an arrest — and an arrest precipitating so quickly after their investigation isn’t normal, either.

“It is not normal and it was a wonderful surprise. … The way those guys (law enforcement) were on board and ready to move was very impressive and it wouldn’t have happened without them,” Siegler said.

McClary and Siegler met with Smith’s son and daughter during their investigation.

“They are two incredible, incredible people that I think keep their father’s spirit alive,” McClary said.

“Everybody we ran into had nothing but nice things to say about Kirby and still even think of him today,” she said. “So I think as the people that knew him and the family watch that, all of that is going to show.”

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