Examiner’s report shows would-be burglar suffocated
Armed with a bag containing hand tools, including box cutters, Kenneth Avery Smith tied a rope around his waist and linked it to the outside of the air-conditioning vent.
Then he descended head-first into the vent, apparently trying to reach the interior of the closed Town ‘N’ Country convenience store at 3700 Fayetteville St.
He never made it inside, though.
On Oct. 16, according to a medical examiner’s report The Herald-Sun received Monday, two insurance company representatives visited the site to investigate damage from a previously reported copper theft and found Smith’s feet jutting out of the vent.
Smith, a 48-year-old father and Marine who served as a field radio operator in Norway during Operation Desert Storm, was last seen on Sept. 3 about 5 p.m. on Dunn Avenue.
That’s the date his obituary, published on Oct. 31, gives for his death.
The obituary stated that Smith played violin, enjoyed tennis, taught children the importance of water safety as a swim instructor. He loved to cook and invented his own dances, such as “The Trout” and “The Shovel.”
He had been planning to attend culinary classes at The Art Institute in Durham the month that he died.
It remains unclear what led him to the rooftop of the convenience store that September night.
The report described his body as “skeletonized” and showed that he weighed 39 pounds when he was recovered from the vent. No direct injuries were reported.
“The body was lodged head first into the vent with only the feet sticking out,” wrote Dr. Matthew Mastrodomenico in his report for the N.C. Medical Examiner’s Office. “A white rope was tied around the waist of the body and outside of the vent as an apparent safety device.”
He was identified based on comparison of postmortem X-rays to chest X-rays taken of Smith at the Durham VA Hospital in March.
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