"In a completely random act of violence, the police say, Staff Sgt. Dwight L. Smith drove into a stranger as she was walking her dog in a stately Wilmington neighborhood on Monday morning, put the woman into his vehicle and then killed her with blows to the head, according to the criminal charges.
So beloved was the victim, Marsha Lee, 65, that hundreds in the community joined her grieving family at a temple on Thursday afternoon. Van Olmstead, a member of the temple’s board of trustees who knew her, said there was an overflow crowd, “like in the High Holidays.”
The killing — described in a police affidavit filed with the Court of Common Pleas in Wilmington — could not have been more chilling.
The family of the suspect — who is 24 and had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received a Purple Heart — was haunted by questions of its own. Could Sergeant Smith have committed such a horrific act? Could he have snapped so completely?
Sergeant Smith first told the police that he did not know how blood got into his vehicle, but then later in questioning said that Ms. Lee had been in his car. He told the police that he had “clicked on,” and wanted to kill someone, according to the affidavit."
About half a million American soldiers have suffered from brain-rattling concussions in Afghanistan or Iraq, and one result is an epidemic of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The basic question is whether Ms. Lee, as she walked her dog on a quiet street here, became an indirect casualty of our foreign wars.
Congress talk a good game about honoring young men and women who went to war, but they don’t allocate the resources necessary to care of them. A result is certainly disability and suicides. Could it also include brutal crimes like this one?
“I know my child,” said Sergeant Smith’s father, Dwight Sr., a 49-year-old manager in the Philadelphia schools. “This isn’t my kid. He was a goofy kid. This isn’t the same man that I sent over.”