In May of 2015, a woman heard gunshots inside a home on East Village Road in Elkton and came downstairs where she discovered the bodies of her boyfriend, 38-year-old Derrick Smith and her daughter, Ta'Yonna Russ, who was just 22.
Hours earlier, the victims had been celebrating at Russ' sister's baby shower.
“Early on in the investigation, Erik McNeely became our primary suspect,” said Captain Joseph Zurolo of the Elkton Police Department, but investigators still needed evidence, and it took years to discover that Smith owed McNeely money, and allegedly when he grew tired of trying to collect it, McNeely went to Smith's house where he would make him pay for the bad debt with his life.
“The male victim was the primary target. He went there with the intent to harm him,” said Zurolo, “Unfortunately, the female victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time and we believe she woke up during the commission of the crime and saw the suspect.”
Police believe McNeely shot and killed her after she witnessed Smith's murder.
In a town, which averages about two murders per year, the arrest closes a case, which has haunted the family and investigators alike—-knowing who they thought was responsible for the shootings yet denied justice until now.
“Our detective unit, especially our lead detective, in this case, Lindsey Ziegenfuss, is very tenacious, left no stone and turn and worked tirelessly for the three and a half years on this case,” said Zurolo, “I know (she) was in contact with the family on a regular basis. Hopefully, it does put them at ease and there's some closure for them that they have a perpetrator who is responsible for this horrendous crime in custody now.”