Cold trail does not stop APD hunt for fugitives

From left, Yolanda Shakilla Cleveland and Neil Adam Smith

From left, Yolanda Shakilla Cleveland and Neil Adam Smith

ALBANY, Ga. -- A 2008 Valentine's Day murder remains high on the list of open crimes at the Albany Police Department.

The trail left by then-30-year-old Neil Adam Smith and then-21-year-old Yolanda Shakilla Cleveland after the shooting death of 22-year-old Cleveland Carter went cold in Miami. Albany police remain hot for the chase.

To help in the pursuit, the police have enlisted FBI agents and U.S. Marshal's Service deputies to find the accused murderers.

"We don't believe they are in Albany," said police Sgt. Terrance Whitlock. "But (Cleveland) has ties to people in Albany."

In order to step up national attention surrounding the case, police Lt. Carmelita Preston said she plans to apply for the case to be shown on the "America's Most Wanted" TV show.

"It fits all the qualifications for that show," Preston said. "We have a good chance."

The best chance here at home remains help from the community, said police Sgt. Antonio Fletcher, who noted that although Smith, the alleged gunman, doesn't seem to have ties to Albany, his accomplice does.

The investigative team believes that Cleveland's ties in the city are strong enough that someone knows where she is. There is also the possibility that the relationship between Cleveland and Smith has changed.

When relationships change, a witness or even a partner in the crime could decide to come forward, said Richard H. Walton, Utah State University author of the textbook "Cold Case Homicides: Practical Investigative Techniques."

Walton said, "Changes in marriages, friendships, with drug dealers, people in the neighborhood and others are the way cold cases get solved."

A lot of changes can happen in four years. Police hope that enough has changed for the fugitive couple that someone in Albany will call with information that could lead to them.

Smith allegedly shot Carter as the victim, his girlfriend and their two children drove on West Gordon Avenue near South Magnolia Street. Smith and Cleveland took off in a 2000 aqua-green Honda Civic, which was found abandoned on the outskirts of Miami.

While Miami police are cooperating, the key could be in the Albany community. Every tip will be followed up by investigators until the couple is found, the investigators said.

"We are going to see this case to closure," Fletcher said. "Carter has a grandmother who comes asking if we have them. I want to tell her we do."

Community members can bring justice in this case, the investigators said. Anyone with additional information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (229) 436-TIPS (8477) or investigations at (229) 431-3288. The Spanish-speaking APD-COP Tip Line is (229) 434-2677.