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On first night of Domestic Violence Awareness month, community remembers woman killed by her boyfriend

Police say Katherine Smith was brutally killed by her boyfriend.

CONYERS, Ga. — Days after her death, family and friends paid a tearful tribute to a woman police say was strangled to death by her boyfriend. 

Conyers Police charged Dexter Shepherd, 52, with murder for Katherine Smith's death.

Police said Shepherd brought Smith to Piedmont Rockdale Hospital Friday night, telling medical staff that he found Smith, whom he described as his girlfriend, unconscious in the bedroom of his home. Doctors pronounced the 52-year-old woman dead about 1:00 a.m. Saturday morning, and the cause of death was unknown at the time. 

But as they spoke to Shepherd, nurses and investigators with the Rockdale County Coroner’s office noticed that he was telling at least two versions of the story about Smith’s condition leading up to her death. They called in the Conyers Police Department to investigate more.

Detectives interviewed Shepherd and executed a search warrant at his Rockbridge Road home to better understand what caused Smith’s death. 

Investigators determined Shepherd put Smith in a choke hold and strangled her while the two were arguing. Police said Shepherd tried to revive Smith with CPR, but it didn't work. He then drove her to the hospital instead of calling 911 for help. It ultimately led to her death.

Credit: Rockdale County Sheriff's Office

Tuesday night family and friends gathered with candles and balloons, sharing memories of Smith in her honor, and reminding everyone there that October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

"My heart goes out to the whole family and the whole Rockdale County," said one of Smith's friends, Jason, who spoke about her life. "I just want everybody to remember how she was. This is her homecoming, y'all. It was her time."

Credit: Provided
Katherine Smith

"Please just take your time and look at your situation real hard. You never know what's next," he cautioned. "Put God first and he will guide you to wherever you're going."

Jason described Smith as someone who was always looking out for others. 

"To me, my personal experience with, her, every time she seen me, I probably be up to no good, and then she'd be like, 'I see how you act Jason'," he said. "That was her though."

It was that fierce loyalty in her that Smith's cousin said bonded them together so tightly. 

"She got my back, I got her back," she said.

Smith's cousin said they always hung out and did everything together. She described her as a sweat woman, who was a "special person in my life." And though the pain was present, she said she knows Smith is "resting in peace right now." 

"A sister. A friend. All that got took away from me," Smith's cousin said. "All I can say is, baby, I love you. I'm gon' miss you. But it's all right. You there with your father, and he going to take care of you better."

Tyson Paul contributed to this report.

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