Just after 9 p.m. on July 18, 2008, schoolteacher Genai Coleman was waiting to pick up her daughter near a transit station in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
She was then approached by a man with a gun, who fatally shot the 40-year-old in her chest before fleeing the scene in her gold Dodge Stratus. A witness quickly called 911, and once police arrived, a local bus driver reported seeing a black male walk around to the driver side of the vehicle and call Coleman a “motherf---er.”
The bus driver heard a gunshot and saw the man pull Coleman out of her car to the ground before speeding away. She told investigators that the man was wearing “white shirt with a green shirt over the top,” according to “Criminal Confessions,” airing Saturdays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
That night, Coleman’s car was found parked in a lot about 40 miles away in Forest Park. Fingerprints were lifted from the door frame, and a cigarette butt was found on the car floor and submitted for DNA testing.
In hopes of obtaining a visual of the suspect, Gwinnett County Police Department Detective Damien Cruz reviewed surveillance footage from the area where the shooting occurred as well as where the car was abandoned.
About an hour or two before the murder, a man talking on his cell phone and wearing a white and green softball shirt purchased a pack of cigarettes — Bronson Light Longs — from a nearby gas station. The Bronson filters appeared to be a match to the filter from the recovered cigarette butt.
By looking at video from a restaurant in Forest Park, Det. Cruz spotted the same man walking through a parking lot “not 15 feet from where the car was dumped.”
“That’s not a coincidence. This is my guy. I mean, this could be the guy who committed my murder,” Det. Cruz told “Criminal Confessions.”
With little else to go on, investigators waited for the DNA results to come back on the cigarette butt. It tested positive for male DNA, and once the sample went through CODIS, it was revealed to be a match for a felon named Donald Eugene Smith.
“We were able to determine that [Donald Smith] had felonies where he had used a weapon before. So, we knew that we had the potential for somebody that didn’t have qualms about committing a serious, violent felony,” said Chief Assistant District Attorney Lisa Jones.
Investigators obtained Smith’s cell phone records and discovered the phone had pinged towers near the crime scene as well as Forest Park on the night of the murder.
Smith was brought in for questioning and claimed to have never seen Coleman or her car, telling them there was no way his DNA could have been in the vehicle.
When confronted with video footage from the gas station, he told detectives, “That is definitely not me.”
He also claimed that the phone number they tracked belonged to his identical twin brother, Ronald Smith, who also lived in Gwinnett County.
“This becomes real interesting because as a matter of fact, DNA is split between twins,” Donald told detectives. “It's indistinguishable. They share DNA. I’ve never been in that car.”
While Donald initially refused to implicate his brother, he later confirmed that the man in the surveillance video was Ronald.
“Yeah … it is my twin,” he told investigators, who also spoke with the twins’ parents and sister to confirm his identity. All three said the person in the footage was Ronald.
Gwinnett authorities soon arrested Ronald and obtained both his and Donald’s fingerprints. Ronald’s were found to be a match to those found on the car. Confronted with the evidence, Ronald ultimately admitted to killing Coleman, but he claimed it was an “accident.”
“It was a hair trigger. I set out to take a car … at gun point. The gun went off,” Ronald said. “She said, ‘You shot me!’ … It was a .357. I think it was five shots. And then I went and sold it before I ended up doing something stupid again.”
He also admitted to driving her car and leaving it in Forest Park.
Ronald was charged with Coleman’s murder, and at his October 2012 trial, he was found guilty of all the charges brought against him, including felony murder and hijacking a motor vehicle.
He was sentenced to life plus 25 years in prison, reported local newspaper the Gwinnett Daily Post.
To hear more about the case, watch “Criminal Confessions” on Oxygen.
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