In the early morning hours of February 19th, fire crews responded to what they believed was a brush fire along the train tracks in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood. Under the brush however, they discovered human remains.
Those remains, described by police to Cleveland.com were burned so badly as to preclude investigators from determining if the victim was male or female. Investigators also stated that the remains were dismembered leaving the body without its hands, feet, and head.
On February 26th, the medical examiner determined the identity of the victim as 54-year-old Plainesville resident, Bernett Renee Smith.
Cleveland.com spoke with her family.
By Adam Ferrise | cleveland.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Benette Renee Smith loved to write poetry and sing. Family members described her as “sweet,” “gentle” and artistically talented, but her life was one of struggles.
The 54-year-old grandmother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and wrestled with drug addiction for most of her adult life. Like many Americans without ready access to mental-health services or addiction and recovery services, Smith often spent time living on the streets, bouncing between shelters and jails where mental-heath treatment is often sparse.
Family members said they grew concerned for Smith’s safety when she didn’t respond to phone calls and text messages on Jan. 23 as they tried to wish her a happy birthday. Within three weeks, they would learn her grisly fate. Cleveland firefighters discovered her dismembered body Feb. 19 in a smoldering brush pile in a field near train tracks in the city’s Collinwood neighborhood.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner on Wednesday identified her with DNA analysis and Cleveland police are investigating the case as a suspected homicide. The medical examiner has not made an official ruling on how she died, and as of Saturday, Cleveland police have made no arrests or released any details about a possible suspect.
Smith’s death horrified her family and left them saddened and searching for answers to who took her life.
“I don’t know what kind of evil monster could do this,” her brother Bobby Jones said. “It’s hard to fathom the evilness among us. What could you do to make someone do that to you? She had her demons, as we all do, but she was a sweet soul. She dealt with her issues as best she could.”