62-year-old Danny Andrew Smith was on his tractor on June 30, bush hogging his parent’s property in Westminster, South Carolina, but he did not come home. Smith was found hours later still on his running tractor, slumped over.
Smith had been shot in the back while he rode the tractor, which then crashed into a tree. Even more shocking than the crime was the arrest of an 8 and 9-year-old who was subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter.
The sheriff says Smith was shot once in the back, but investigators charged both boys because they both fired the gun in Smith’s direction.
The boys are charged as juveniles in Family Court, and their names were not released.
“It’s a very difficult time because we haven’t gotten over losing our parents three days apart, and now I’ve lost the only brother I have,” said Vickie Wilbanks, Danny Smith’s sister.
“It’s my parents’ property that he was taking care of, and he was bush hogging,” Wilbanks said.
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said Smith was reported missing by his wife on Wednesday night after she was unable to contact him.
“We were just devastated. Devastated and heartbroken because he is such a precious man. Never would harm anyone. Everyone loved him,” Wilbanks said.
Investigators said his wife heard the tractor running and saw it in the woods. Smith was found slumped over the steering wheel. Haskell Long lives near the family’s property.
“After a consultation with the Solicitor’s Office, and based on the evidence obtained in our ongoing investigation, we believe that both juvenile males discharged a firearm in a reckless manner in the direction of Mr. Smith who was bush hogging on some family property,” said Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. “At this time, it is still undetermined which shot ultimately struck and killed Mr. Smith. However, based upon South Carolina law, the hand of one is the hand of all and that is why Family Court has been petitioned in regards to charging both juveniles with Involuntary Manslaughter.”
The current laws in South Carolina states that juveniles under the age of 10 cannot be detained. According to Sheriff Crenshaw, both of the juvenile suspects have been remanded to the custody of their parents as the judicial proceedings continue.
“The Sheriff’s Office is continuing its investigation and due to that fact, no information will be released that will identify the juveniles in this case,” said Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. “At this time, no information about motive or where the firearm was obtained will be released due to the ongoing investigation and any additional details will be released as conditions and developments warrant.”
The weapon that was allegedly used in the shooting, a .22 caliber rifle, has been recovered and examined by the SLED forensics lab in Columbia, South Carolina.