Cort­ney Lake’s fam­ily of­fers con­do­lences

The Southern Gazette - - Front Page - BY ROSIE MULLALEY AND TARA BRADBURY

As po­lice were at the scene where Philip Steven Smith’s body was found Nov. 1, the fam­ily of his ex-girl­friend, Cort­ney Lake, of­fered their con­do­lences to his loved ones.

“We un­der­stand too well the sud­den and tragic loss of a loved one,” Lake’s fam­ily wrote in an emailed state­ment to the me­dia.

“We ac­knowl­edge that no one has been charged in con­nec­tion with Cort­ney’s dis­ap­pear­ance and mur­der. How­ever, if Philip Smith was in fact in­volved, we hope he left in­for­ma­tion that will lead us to her.”

Lake, 24, dis­ap­peared June 7 and po­lice be­lieve she was mur­dered. The last time she was seen was when she was get­ting into Smith’s pickup around 7:30 p.m. that night near her Mount Pearl home.

The Telegram has learned that Smith, 25, died by sui­cide. Sources say Smith called his fam­ily on the night of Oct. 3 and said he was go­ing to kill him­self. The fam­ily then re­ported him miss­ing.

An RCMP po­lice dog found his body at 3 a.m. in the woods.

As of the next af­ter­noon, there was still a heavy po­lice pres­ence in the area of Belle­vue Beach, about an hour west of St. John’s, along with mem­bers of the Rovers Search and Res­cue and the Avalon North Wolver­ines Search and Res­cue.

Searchers con­tin­ued to comb a wooded area next door to a cabin be­long­ing to Smith’s fa­ther.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Rovers and RNC Const. Colin Deacy would not re­lease any in­for­ma­tion, only to say they were do­ing an ev­i­dence line search. In all, close to 42 peo­ple from var­i­ous search and res­cue groups were gath­ered be­hind the cabin to be­gin the two- or three-kilo­me­tre search to the Trans-Canada High­way.

RNC of­fi­cers also used a drone dur­ing the search.

Res­i­dents in the area were shocked to hear the news.

“Never knew a thing un­til I heard it on the news,” a lady work­ing at a con­ve­nience store said.

Down the road at the gas sta­tion, the clerk and a cus­tomer both said they knew Melvin Smith to be a nice man. They knew lit­tle about his son.

“But this is crazy,” the woman said. “Some­thing like this never hap­pens here.”

Smith had re­port­edly been stay­ing at his fam­ily’s cabin.

He had been sched­uled to ap­pear in New­found­land and Labrador Supreme Court Nov. 3, where the Crown was set to ap­peal one of the con­di­tions of his re­lease from jail.

As part of a sen­tence Smith re­ceived last June — the same day Lake went miss­ing — he was given a one-year driv­ing ban with an ex­cep­tion for work pur­poses. Crown prose­cu­tor Jude Hall was ap­peal­ing that con­di­tion, ar­gu­ing that such an ex­cep­tion isn’t le­gal.

Smith didn’t show up in court when the mat­ter was called last month, de­spite hav­ing been served with a sum­mons while be­hind bars at Her Majesty’s Pen­i­ten­tiary. A sec­ond sum­mons was is­sued for the Nov. 3 pro­ceed­ings.

Smith was also a no-show in provin­cial court on two other dates, for a peace bond hear­ing re­quested by Cort­ney’s mother, Lisa Lake. Lisa had been look­ing to have a peace bond against Smith, ban­ning him from con­tact­ing her, but sher­iff’s of­fi­cers (who aren’t tasked with in­ves­ti­gat­ing a per­son’s where­abouts) had trou­ble lo­cat­ing him. He was served with the doc­u­ments within the past few days.

The day Cort­ney Lake dis­ap­peared, Smith was in provin­cial court in St. John’s, where he pleaded guilty to charges of as­sault­ing her, dis­tribut­ing nude pho­tos of her and breach­ing or­ders to stay away from her and her fam­ily. He was also charged with dan­ger­ous driv­ing and fail­ing to stop for po­lice, in con­nec­tion with an in­ci­dent that took place a month ear­lier.

Smith’s sis­ter had called po­lice to say she was wor­ried about Smith and thought he was in his truck, parked near the air­port. Of­fi­cers lo­cated him there, but he drove away as they ap­proached. Af­ter a short chase, po­lice lost the truck, but later lo­cated him sit­ting in it, parked off Peace­keep­ers’ Way in Con­cep­tion Bay South. He was at­tempt­ing to harm him­self and of­fi­cers took him to hos­pi­tal.

Smith, who had no pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record, pleaded guilty to all his charges June 7 and was sen­tenced to two days’ time served, pro­ba­tion and an or­der that he not con­tact Lake or her fam­ily. That’s when he was handed the driv­ing ban.

The Crown prose­cu­tor at that time told the court Smith was go­ing through some sort of men­tal-health cri­sis.

On Aug. 9 he was back in court, where he pleaded guilty to breach­ing a num­ber of court or­ders, in­clud­ing that he stay away from Lake and her fam­ily. He ac­knowl­edged pick­ing Lake up in his truck on the evening she dis­ap­peared.

Smith made a plea bar­gain for 30 days in jail with 24 left to serve, but was re­leased on good be­hav­iour 16 days later.

Po­lice have never pub­licly con­nected Smith with Lake’s dis­ap­pear­ance, though they did seize his truck, which matched the de­scrip­tion of the truck Lake was get­ting into when she was last seen. Po­lice later re­turned the truck to Smith, who even­tu­ally sold it.

In their emailed state­ment Nov. 1, Lake’s fam­ily pleaded once again for in­for­ma­tion about Lake’s where­abouts.

“Our fam­ily needs to hon­our Cort­ney with the dig­nity of a proper good­bye,” they said.

Any­one with any in­for­ma­tion is asked to con­tact the RNC at 7298000 or Crime Stop­pers anony­mously at 1-800-222-TIPS.

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