Damion Smith

U.S. Marshals arrested a 38-year-old man in Atlanta yesterday, in connection with two separate Tucson murders that happened in 2004.

Damion Smith is being held in Atlanta awaiting extradition to Pima County, Sgt. Pete Dugan, a Tucson Police department spokesman, wrote in a news release.

On June 7, 2004, police went to an apartment in the 8000 block of East Lakeside Drive and found 35-year-old Alex Grijalva dead from blunt force trauma, according to the release.

Homicide detectives learned that Smith was involved in the murder and obtained an arrest warrant for first-degree murder, but were unable to locate him, the release said.

Four months later, on Dec. 31, 24-year-old Richard Vega was stabbed to death inside an apartment in the 6400 block of East Golf Links Road. Detectives learned that Vega had been stabbed during a fight with Smith and obtained a second arrest warrant for his arrest, according to the release.

Detectives continued to search for Smith over the years, but leads began to fade. In October, the U.S. Marshals Arizona WANTED Violent Offender Task Force began as assisting TPD with the investigation and obtained an arrest warrant on the grounds of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, the release said.

With assistance from federal authorities in New York and New Jersey, the investigation revealed that Smith might be living under the name of his brother, Steven Smith, who has been in federal prison since 1993. 

Arizona Marshals discovered that Smith had been stopped for speeding by Georgia law enforcement in April, but used his brother's name to avoid apprehension, the release said.

Body-camera footage from the traffic stop was used to confirm Smith's identity and U.S. Marshals in Atlanta were dispatched to locate and arrest Smith, who was found at a North Atlanta hotel.

“The partnership between the Tucson Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service sends a clear message to fugitives that city, county and state lines will not limit the reach of law enforcement and our goal of bringing violent criminals to justice," Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus said in the release. "This arrest will hopefully bring some needed closure to the families affected by the actions of Damion Smith”.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191


I'm a government watchdog reporter, covering public safety policy and family issues.