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Police: Man who was in ‘strained relationship’ with woman found dead in landfill charged with her murder

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Posted at 11:19 AM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 23:43:53-04

NORTH ROYALTON, Ohio — The woman’s body that was found in a landfill in Geneva on Friday has been identified as a 50-year-old North Royalton resident, and North Royalton police revealed that the man suspected of killing her and dumping her body was arrested in her vehicle the same day.

Officers investigate after call for welfare check

During the mid-morning of Friday, June 25, North Royalton officers responded to Royal Oaks apartment for a welfare check on Cari Smith, who had not reported to work as usual, according to police.

“Suspicious activity was noted at the scene consistent with an abduction,” police said. An investigation at the apartment began, with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation assisting.

Police arrived at the apartment complex to find what appeared to be dried blood droplets outside Smith's apartment, with a trail of blood leading to her garage, which had pry marks on the door, according to the police report. The complex's maintenance staff helped police open her garage, where the blood trail ended, near where the trunk or hood of Smith's car would have been. Smith’s vehicle was missing from her garage.

Police then went to Smith's apartment and announced themselves as police several times, the report states. There was no response, and officers were concerned for her well being, so they made entry into her unit with help from the maintenance staff. The living room, kitchen and bathrooms looked undisturbed and tidy, but the master bedroom was disorderly compared to the rest of the home.

Officers then found a small bloodstain on the floor of the bedroom, and much larger bloodstains that were covered by pillows on the floor and bed, the report states.

Officers heard a cell phone going off in the kitchen, then pinged it and called it to confirm it was Smith's phone, the report states.

Police track down Smith's vehicle

Police also ran a search on Smith's vehicle, and learned that her license plate showed a hit at about 4:20 a.m. that morning on SR-82 westbound getting onto I-71 northbound.

Officers then called OnStar to attempt to track Smith's vehicle. It was located by OnStar at a Walmart in Pennsylvania. Officers contacted the local police there, who were unable to find Smith's vehicle before it began moving again.

With help from OnStar, a Geauga County Sheriff's Office deputy located Smith's vehicle near Chardon, Ohio, and conducted a traffic stop, the report states. The deputy arrested the driver, 50-year-old Richard Muncie of Parma, police said. Muncie claimed to be Smith's boyfriend. The deputy advised that they saw a bloodstain on Muncie's shorts and bloodstains in the trunk of Smith's vehicle. Smith's purse was also in the vehicle.

The Geauga County Sheriff's Office provided this dash camera video showing Muncie's arrest:

RAW: Dash camera video of Richard Muncie's arrest for North Royalton woman's murder

Smith's body found in Geneva landfill

While detectives were inside Smith's apartment, where a television was still on, they heard the news about a body found at Geneva landfill.

"Detectives have put together, unfortunately, two and two — that what they were dealing with there was the back half of what we were dealing with here," North Royalton Detective Dave Loeding said.

They believe Muncie dumped Smith's body, wrapped in blankets from her bedroom, in a dumpster in Fairport Harbor.

RELATED: Body found at Waste Management landfill in Ashtabula County, sheriff says

“Discoveries in the vehicle were also consistent with the body having been transported from North Royalton to Fairport Harbor, by the subject in the victim's vehicle, where it appeared the body was initially dumped before being taken to the landfill,” police said. “It also appeared that the victim likely was killed in her home and all facets of the death had occurred on this day.”

North Royalton police said that it appeared the victim was killed by blunt force, based on initial observations.

'A strained relationship'

The investigation revealed that Smith and Muncie knew each other, but they were not living together.

“Recent complaints and reports had suggested a strained relationship,” North Royalton police said.

The police report states that the workmate who initially contacted police about Smith not showing up for work also said she was concerned because Smith had shared details about recent incidents of abuse by Muncie, saying that he had been stalking her and slashed her vehicle's tires.

Police reports show Smith accused Muncie of punching her and throwing her to the floor May 31 inside her apartment.

According to the report, Smith provided voicemails where an officer wrote Muncie "is making threats to Cari stating he is going to punch her in the face and that she is dead."

The officer also wrote, "due to the lack of cooperation and information from Cari," the case was being forwarded to the city prosecutor for review.

Police confirmed Monday no charges were filed in that case and that it was still being reviewed.

'Hindsight being 20/20...'

North Royalton's Law Director, Tom Kelly, said that on June 15, his office closed the case involving the alleged assault on May 31 due to insufficient evidence. Police said they asked Smith "multiple times" to come in and sign a HIPAA release form so they could get medical records. She did not come in until June 16, a day after the case was closed.

Kelly said there was another case involving someone arguing in a van, where it was later determined that Smith had gotten into a vehicle with Muncie after the alleged assault on May 31. Kelly said the decision to close the case on June 15 was made based on information they had at the time.

Kelly said that the May 31 case was not re-opened on June 16 after Smith signed the HIPAA release form. He said that "hindsight being 20/20, we might have looked at it more carefully," and they will in similar cases in the future.

So could Smith's murder have been prevented had an arrest been made sooner?

"I suppose so," said North Royalton Police Detective Dave Loeding. "It obviously would have been good if it could have been. It's difficult to do that. Family was aware a little bit of their relationship, had some concerns. That's a difficult one to answer."

Muncie charged with murder

Muncie has been charged with murder and is currently under arrest at the North Royalton Police Department. He's being held without bond.

Court records show Muncie has a previous conviction for felonious assault.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and North Royalton police are working together on this case, along with assistance from other agencies, including the sheriff’s office of Ashtabula and Geauga counties, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the medical examiner’s offices of Ashtabula and Cuyahoga counties.

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