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Kidnapped Washington Budtender Found Dead, Suspects in Custody

Chris Roberts

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Cameron Smith, a well-known and well-liked Washington State cannabis dispensary budtender who was kidnapped at gunpoint on Sept. 10, was found dead this week. His alleged kidnappers and presumptive killer are in police custody.

Authorities discovered the body of Smith, 46 and a native of Toledo, Ohio, sometime on Sept. 14, according to KHQ.com, approximately four days after he went missing.

The cause of death was not disclosed, but a gunshot wound is suspected, given the circumstances of his abduction.

Smith was eating lunch in his vehicle outside the Lucid Cannabis Company in Cheney, Washington, on the afternoon of Sept. 10 when, according to authorities, he was approached by Donovan Culps, 36, and his niece, Violetta Culps, 18.

The pair had just been turned away from buying cannabis at the dispensary for lack of identification.

As the Spokesman-Review reported, Donovan Culps then fired a handgun at Smith’s car before taking it and driving away, an altercation captured on surveillance video. Violetta Culps was videotaped leaving the scene driving a Ford pickup truck, which had earlier been reported stolen.

The following day, a construction crew found Smith’s wallet on the Spokane Indian reservation. The day after that, Smith’s vehicle was found. Donovan Culps was arrested on Thursday, following a car chase with police that ended with a crash into a tree.

Violetta Culps is still at large as of Sunday, but a third suspect, Alisha Jackson, 18, who is suspected of being present during the kidnapping, was arrested on federal charges on Friday.

It’s believed Smith was targeted wholly at random, possibly out of frustration after Donovan Culps was refused service at the dispensary. According to Cheney Police Capt. Richard Beghtol, Culps has an “extensive criminal history” and was wanted by federal authorities for a probation violation.

Cannabis can be sold to anyone 21 and over in Washington State—which would have meant Violetta Culps would have been turned away—but purchases generally require an ID. And a typical condition of probation is abstention from drugs, including cannabis.

According to Michael Schoefield, one of Lucid’s owners, persons matching the Culps’ descriptions were turned away after being repeatedly told they needed identification. They were “cordial” while in the store and “didn’t talk much,” according to the Spokesman-Review, but turned violent when they encountered Smith.

As per video surveillance, the male suspect, believed to be Donovan Culps, fired two shots at the driver’s side window of Smith’s Acura SUV before climbing in and driving away.

Michael Schofield, one of Lucid’s owners, told the Spokesman-Review that Smith was chosen randomly to “relieve [Culps’s] frustration.”

“This is all just a bad place, bad time,” he told the newspaper. “This is 100 percent a terrible tragedy.”

While Smith had worked at the dispensary as a budtender since moving to Cheney a year and a half ago from Ohio, there was no immediate indication that the Culps knew him—or that they were certain he worked at the dispensary.

This is the first reported abduction at a Washington State-licensed marijuana retail outlet, according to Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman with the Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board. Generally, marijuana retail outlets are associated with reduced crime rates in the nearby vicinity, studies have shown.

Smith’s body was found concealed “in heavy cover” a few feet away from a rural state highway, according to police.

According to the Spokesman-Review, Donovan Culps confessed to the crime in a Facebook post.

“I am a person that will tell you just how it is,” he posted, according to the newspaper. “I want everybody to know including the FBI I take full and all responsibility… He gone ain’t no coming back.”

Schofield is now raising funds to have Smith’s body sent home to his family in Ohio, he told the newspaper. As of Sunday, a GoFundMe page set up in Smith’s name had raised about $4,100 towards a $10,000 goal.

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