On December 23, 1973, at approximately 8:30 a.m., Trooper Smith observed a Chevy Impala with Oklahoma license plates parked on the side of the road on Basset Avenue, north of Red level and Highway 19.
The car was occupied by convicted felons Ronald Jones and Carl Ray Songer, who had recently walked away from an Oklahoma work release program. Smith knocked on the window of the car and motioned for the driver to get out of the car.
Songer, who had been hiding in the back seat, fired 6 shots at the trooper with a .22 Ruger single action pistol. Smith was struck 4 times in the upper body and once in the knee. Smith managed to fire a few shots, before staggering for several feet, and falling to the pavement. The culprits fled, but were soon apprehended with the help of two hunters who witnessed the horrible scene.
Smith, 28, had been with the Florida Highway Patrol for 8 months. He had previously served with Tallahassee Police Department, where his father was a captain. Smith is survived by his wife and daughter, Alicia, who was almost 2 when her father was ambushed.
Songer had been sentenced to die in Florida’s electric chair. In 1989, the Florida Supreme Court reduced Songer’s sentence, stating that executing Songer for Smith’s murder “would be inappropriate.”
“Based upon the circumstances of the case, we believe the death penalty would be unfairly applied in this case,” the Court’s ruling said.
The ruling is an outrage to both law enforcement and to Smith’s family, who felt understandably betrayed by the court. While Songer languishes in prison, the surviving members of the Smith family are serving a life sentence without their beloved husband, son, and father.
“Throughout my life, I have only come to know my father through stories and photos,” Smith’s daughter said in a letter at the hearing in 1989. “The only hope we had for an end to this nightmare was for Songer to be executed.”
In October, 2010, a monument was erected on Basswood Drive, at the site of the heinous crime. On July 19, 2011, the twin structures at the Cross Florida Barge Canal Bridge were named the Ronald Gordon Smith Memorial Bridge in honor of the fallen trooper.
A sample letter is provided below. Letters can be faxed to:
Florida Department of Corrections
Division of Parole, Victim Services
Attention: Daphne Asbell
Fax: (850) 921-8712
Re: No Parole for Carl R. Songer (inmate #041036)
Dear Parole Board Members:
I respectfully ask that you DENY PAROLE to Carl Songer, inmate #041036. This inmate’s murder of Trooper Ronald Smith in 1973 should preclude any consideration for parole.
On Sunday, December 23rd, 1973, Trooper Smith was shot and killed while checking on two suspicious subjects. Trooper Smith had served the citizens of Florida for only eight short months when he was murdered.
As a concerned citizen, and in the interest of public safety, I again respectfully ask that you DENY PAROLE to inmate #041036. Justice demands that he be made to spend every remaining day of his sentence in prison.
To learn more: