A Columbus man who was wrongly accused of murder by Upper Arlington police said he isn't resentful. He's simply relieved and hopeful those who mistakenly charged him will offer an apology.
Sitting in the bright glare of television news cameras and facing reporters in his attorney's office June 19, Jeffery Lamar Smith, 51, of south Columbus was largely composed and devoid of anger just hours after the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office announced an aggravated murder charge against him had been dismissed.
Days earlier, he spent around 20 hours in the Franklin County jail on a $1.5 million bond after being charged in the June 11 fatal stabbing of Charles McCoy, 31, of Columbus outside China Dynasty, 1689 W. Lane Ave.
He was released on his own recognizance in the early morning hours of June 14, but he remained charged with aggravated murder.
He said he didn't sleep in the week after being accused of the killing.
But as reporters pressed him for information, only once did a tear slide down his left cheek. He said all he wanted was a night's rest and an apology from the UAPD.
"An apology would be a start," Smith said. "I'm not upset. They had a job to do and I feel like they got it right.
"I'm so happy that they cleared me because I'm an innocent man."
Smith was mistakenly identified in a photo lineup as McCoy's killer by eyewitnesses.
At the press conference, he said an employee at China Dynasty blamed him for the crime, and he believes it happened because she was covering for her boyfriend, whom Smith and his attorney, Joseph Landusky II, believe is the real perpetrator.
"It's been rough for me," Smith said. "Nothing like this ever happened to me in my whole life.
"To be accused of murder, facing life (in prison) with no parole -- it just stings you inside. You don't know what's going to happen to you. Your life is in the hands of the law and you just don't know what way it's going to go."
In response to June 19 questions from ThisWeek, officer Bryan McKean said in a text message that police had no additional information about the murder or any suspects in the case.
On June 15, the UAPD asked for the public's help in locating Jeffrey Blaire Harrison, a "person of interest" in the murder.
Harrison is described as a black man, 6 feet tall and weighing 195 pounds. Police are seeking information about his whereabouts and were looking for a dark green 1997 Ford Expedition, Eddie Bauer edition, with Ohio license plate GRG8563.
Anyone with information about Harrison or the vehicle is asked to call Upper Arlington police at 614-581-5160.
During the press conference, Smith said he's been going through a lot, but he also was concerned about the victim and his family.
"I would like to say sorry to the (McCoy) family, sorry for their loss," he said. "I know they're going through a lot of suffering and pain. They will have their man soon."
Smith's sister, Precious Smith, said her family has been through a lot emotionally, and was burdened financially when they had to seek a lawyer to help free her brother. She said she wasn't sure if they would pursue a civil lawsuit against the UAPD.
"It was very stressful," she said. "He's a very private person and within 48 hours, he's the most famous person in the city for murder, and we know he didn't do it.
"We're grateful that it was taken care of in a good time frame, but we didn't know that was going to happen."
Landusky said he knew Smith wasn't the killer because he didn't have any scratches or injuries on his body or face; police reports said McCoy was killed during an altercation outside the China Dynasty restaurant on West Lane Avenue.
He was reserved in comments directed toward the department but credited UAPD Lt. Jon Wilhelm and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien with exonerating his client.
"It's a flaw in humanity," Landusky said. "We all have the problem. None of us are perfect. We all fall short at times."
Now that the case against him is dismissed, Smith said a burden is off his shoulders.
"Being accused of murder is something," he said. "It's real deep. I can't even explain it. Being in court for murder and a $1.5 million bond, it just makes you want to drop to the floor."
Smith said he was at his house "all day" the day of the murder, and he and his attorney said they had surveillance video from Smith's residence that would prove that. They declined to turn over the video at the press conference.
Although he hadn't heard anything from Upper Arlington police, Smith made it a point to tell reporters he blamed the person "who lied to police" about the identity of the culprit.
"I don't hold no grudge against Upper Arlington police," he said.
He added that he was looking forward to his life returning to normal and getting some much-needed sleep.
"I will sleep real well," Smith said. "I haven't had any sleep with a murder case hanging over my head.
"I'll feel comfortable knowing this has been resolved. I feel confident I'll sleep like a baby."