CHARLOTTESVILLE (WINA) – After speaking with his mother about two weeks ago, Charlottesville Police said they filed a “missing person’s” report for 28-year old Erik McFadden. He’s the “person of interest” CPD has been trying to find since Dashad Sage Smith’s November 20, 2012 disappearance from West Main Street. It was him who Sage was supposed to meet that evening, and police believe he was the last person to see Sage alive that night.
In a Thursday morning press conference in the city’s new York Place studio, Captain James Mooney (acting Chief as Chief RaShall Brackney is reported out-of-town), Detective Regine Wright, and members of Sage’s family appeared together… particularly of note since those who’ve supported Sage in the past have accused CPD of not working hard enough to solve the case. Mooney said a detective spoke briefly with McFadden shortly after Sage’s disappearance, but left town and failed to show up for scheduled interview with CPD a short time after that. He says neither Charlottesville Police nor some members of McFadden’s family have seen Erik since.
Detective Wright read a statement from Sage’s father, Dean Smith, who stated however he believed “there wasn’t any equality in the investigation due to these facts… one, my child is black; two, my child is transgender. The mission now to find my child and bring Sage home”. While CPD began treating this case in late 2016 as a homicide, Mr. Smith’s note addressed Sage directly to “keep fighting”.
She then read a statement from Denise McFadden — Erik’s mother — who said she did not know her son was missing until 2014. She thought his father had filed the report, and writes his father will not return attempts to contact him. She would like Erik to know if he’s out there and needs help, he can call his mom. McFadden writes “let’s bring an end to this so everyone involved can begin to heal”.
Dashad Sage Smith
On her own behalf, Wright — the lead detective in the case — says she has had much opportunity to speak with family members and close friends on the gender issue.
“After speaking with them, I understand Sage loved being a woman. Sage’s grandmother Ms. Cookie would be the first one with a lot of pride and a lot of joy to tell you this. I also understand Sage was comfortable with being a man. Sage was comfortable with being called Sage… and Sage was comfortable with being called Dashad. Sage liked to dress as both a man and a woman. Ms. Cookie once told me, no matter whether Sage was dressed as a man or a woman, Sage just wanted to look good… Sage wanted to be ‘fly’, were her words.”
Dashad Sage Smith
Wright continued, “Family and friends have expressed Sage was still exploring gender identity at the time of the disappearance. That being said, CPD will address Sage as Sage, and will avoid the use of pronouns. We ask that you have patience with use because we are human, and we will make mistakes.”
“Because we are still looking for Sage’s body and Sage had not begun to make a transition, there will be many times we will have to use the anatomically correct definition as a male. We will also ask that you respect Sage’s family members and friends as they were each on their individual walks on their journey with Sage.”
Dashad Sage Smith
“One of the goals of this press release is to ask the worldwide community for their help in locating Erik McFadden, so we might bring closure to Sage and Sage’s family. I ask we focus on uniting in a common goal of using a social media platform to push this message out as far as possible so we can find Erik McFadden.”
Sage’s mother, LaTasha Dennis, spoke impromptu after Detective Wright saying her son “chose to be called whatever you felt comfortable with”.
However, she wants the focus to be on finding Sage.
Dashad Sage Smith
“The fact remains that my child is missing… and that to me is all that matters. I am in a situation where I cannot grieve and I just need closure. The only thing that remains in my mind is who did something to him, how did it happen. I also can visual his face at that moment, and knowing there was no one there who loved him. So I feel like the main focus needs to stay on him, getting Erik McFadden here so we can ask questions to find out where my son is… and what happened to him.”
Sage’s sister, Eaonna Langston, spoke about how she was 14-years old when Sage went missing at the age of 19… and how she at the age of 20 is now the age Sage at the time of disappearance. She called Dashad, also known as Sage, as a childhood best friend to her.
“I reflect on how I’m growing older than he ever did, and experiencing things he never was given the opportunity to do because his life was cut short. With every milestone I reach, I wish he was able to be there… getting my license, graduation, scholarship ceremonies, or college move-in day — but he was not.”
“To Erik McFadden, or anyone with information on my brother Dashad Sage Smith, please contact the Charlottesville Police Department. Only the truth will set you free of the burden you carry, and set my family free of the pain you have caused them. What is a life of secrets and hiding. The family and community need answers and closure, and Dashad deserves justice. Please share this so his story can be heard by the nation in hopes of somebody coming forth with information.”
Captain Mooney said McFadden attended Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, from August of 2009 to April of 2011. Detectives believe McFadden may have traveled to, and could be living in cities such as Baltimore, Md., Joppa, Md., Lake City, S.C., Columbia, S.C., Atlanta, Ga., New York City, N.Y., Rochester N.Y., and potentially to other unknown locations on the West Coast.
“It has been nearly seven years since Smith disappeared, but the Charlottesville Police Department is hopeful with the help of the media and continued public interest, we can finally solve this case and bring closure to a family and community that has experienced anguish over the loss of a family member, a friend, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community.”
“Therefore, we are asking anyone with information about McFadden’s disappearance or Smith’s homicide case to contact Detective Regine Wright at (434) 977-3381, or our anonymous CrimeStoppers tip line at (434) 977-4000.
A $10,000 reward is being offered through CrimeStoppers, and an additional $10,000 is being matched by the City of Charlottesville for information leading to an arrest in Smith’s case.”