A former Coolville woman died while in a pickup truck with her police officer cousin near the southwest Virginia town where he worked earlier this month, and authorities are alleging that she was shot and killed by that man in an apparent murder-suicide.
Emeri A. Connery, 26, was a 2011 graduate of Eastern High School in Reedsville, Meigs County, who built up a significant following on social media as a fitness model, and most recently lived in Columbus. Connery grew up in Coolville and lived there through high school, her triplet brother Kyle Connery said in a brief interview Friday.
“Emeri was my triplet sister,” he wrote in a Facebook post memorializing Emeri and her cousin. “She was the most amazing, beautiful, badass, and inspiring woman I’ll ever know. Klint and I love you and can’t wait to see you again. You’ll forever be a part of us.”
Connery’s cousin, Bailey S. Smith, 21, of Duffield, Virginia, allegedly shot and killed himself while in the pickup truck with Connery. Smith served as a police officer for Big Stone Gap, Virginia. That community is located near the Tennessee border roughly three miles from where law enforcement authorities found the car (on U.S. Rt. 23 in Lee County, Virginia).
The Virginia State Police are investigating the Sunday, March 10, incident leading to Connery’s death as a “murder-suicide,” according to a release issued by that agency last week, after police found a 2015 GMC pickup truck that had run off the left side of the highway into the median.
“Investigators have confirmed that the shootings occurred within the vehicle and, at this stage, are investigating the incident as a murder-suicide,” the release reads. “A firearm was recovered from inside the vehicle. There is no evidence to indicate another vehicle or individual was involved in the shootings.”
Tracie Cooper, district administrator with the Virginia Office of the Medical Examiner, confirmed Friday that her office believes Connery died of homicide with a gunshot wound to the head, and Smith died in “an act of suicide,” also with a gunshot wound to the head.
Connery’s brother, Kyle, said that he’s holding out hope for Smith’s innocence. “No one thinks Bailey is responsible for this, and it’s still under investigation,” he said.
Meanwhile, the town of Big Stone Gap apparently “went blue” to honor Smith’s memory last week, with local businesses putting up blue-ribbon displays and a wreath with Smith’s name and badge number inside the doors of the town hall, according to a report in The Coalfield Progress newspaper.
EMERI CONNERY AND HER TWO brothers were all committed athletes, according to her obituary in Sunday’s Athens Messenger, and Connery was a standout athlete during her time at Eastern High School, competing in basketball, track and field and cross country. She had thousands of followers on social media (including 324,000 on Instagram alone).
“Emeri's love, happiness and passion for life was easy to see from day one,” the obituary reads. “These qualities carried over to every aspect of her life and resonated with anyone who knew her or of her. Having an active mother and father, older sister and two brothers allowed Emeri to not only fall in love with sports and fitness, but to excel and make a living out of it.”
Kyle Connery asked that people make donations memorializing Emeri Connery to a scholarship in her name. It will support a female athlete at Eastern High School. Donations can be made to that scholarship fund by mailing checks to the Emeri Connery Flying Eagle Scholarship Fund, care of First National Bank, P.O. Box 187, Glouster, OH 45731.