“He was a big advocate of the security of our community. It was rooted in him, ”said Cherrie Smith, his wife. “He loved the law. He was passionate about getting things right. He had so much integrity. “
Dee Smith, a former Weber County attorney and candidate for Attorney General for Utah, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Thursday, causing shock and grief among family and friends. He was 52 years old. They remembered a man who was driven in his work – most recently as Weber County’s assistant attorney prosecuting criminal cases – but perhaps more focused on his family.
“He was a great father to his children. He was a great husband to his wife, ”said Steve Haney, a Weber County attorney investigator who worked with Smith. He remembers Smith, who lived in South Ogden and often fell from work to catch his children at their sporting events.
Smith died while mountain biking the Green Pond Trail near the Snowbasin ski area. His wife said he was at the starting point with his friends when he suddenly collapsed. Paramedics were called to the scene but were unable to resuscitate him. He was apparently in good health, exercising, and engaged in many sports, and Cherrie Smith said an autopsy would be done to determine the cause.
“It was a very sad, unexpected thing,” she said. In addition to his wife, he has four children between the ages of 24 and 18 – Shayla Bigelow, Joshua Smith, Sydnee Smith and Sierra Smith.
Dee Smith was most recently associate attorney with the Weber County Attorney’s Office, but it was only the youngest of many roles in the legal and judicial system. As a Democrat, he was appointed by the Weber County Commissioners to serve as Weber County’s attorney when his predecessor, Mark DeCaria, was appointed judge. He was elected district attorney unanimously in 2010, then competed unsuccessfully for Utah attorney general in 2012, losing to John Swallow, a Republican. Smith continued to serve as a Weber County attorney but did not seek re-election for the office now held by Chris Allred in the 2014 election.
After retiring from the district attorney’s office, Smith assumed the post of judge at the Ogden Court of Justice in January 2015. In January 2017, he moved back to the prosecution and took on the role of assistant attorney. His focus was on criminal cases and Haney said he would normally volunteer for the toughest cases. “He was one of us. He wasn’t a cop, but he supported and defended us and was just our champion whenever we needed him, ”said Haney.
Significantly, Haney said, Smith’s efforts to prosecute misdeeds and put criminals behind bars helped keep Weber County safe.
“He prevented murders by standing up and saying the guy shouldn’t be free and imprisoning people who should be imprisoned,” Haney said. “He prevented people from getting hurt.”
The Weber County Sheriff’s Office posted a tribute to Smith on Facebook. Smith was “a teacher, mentor, and campaigner for the criminal justice system,” it says. “Dee has influenced the careers of so many police officers who will forever be grateful to them.”
Police officers formed a procession to accompany the transport of Smith’s body from Ogden Regional Medical Center to Salt Lake City for an autopsy on Thursday. They also formed a procession to accompany the transport of his body back to South Ogden, Cherrie Smith said.
Smith grew up in South Ogden, graduated from Bonneville High School and then received his bachelor’s degree from Weber State University. He graduated from the University of Utah with a law degree, and Cherrie Smith said her husband’s connection with Weber’s prosecutor’s office dates back to this time. During his law degree he did an internship as an office clerk and after completing his law degree he was employed as a public prosecutor.
“It was his love. He loved the law, ”said Cherrie Smith. Prior to his appointment as district attorney, he left the Weber County law firm for some time and worked as a private practice attorney.
Family has always come first throughout his career and, like Haney, Cherrie Smith remembered her husband rushing from work to attend his son’s mountain bike races and daughters softball games and other sporting events. “He loved his family very much. He put us first, ”she said.
He was a snowmobiler, hiked, water-skied, competed in triathlons, and more.
“ABOUT HONOR AND INTEGRITY”Dee Smith’s tenure in the prosecution was controversial.
Smith and Allred were the architects of Ogden’s 2010 anti-gang restraining order, which was designed to help crack down on gang activity in the city. The Utah Supreme Court overturned the initiative in 2013. Then, in 2015, two suspects arrested under its rules were sued for violating their civil rights and a federal judge stood on their side. But other questions remained unresolved and this case is still winding its way through the US District Court.
Smith also followed the high-profile murder case against Matthew Stewart, who was charged in 2012 with killing a police officer and injuring five others in a shootout after members of a drug task force entered his home to search for drugs. Stewart later died of apparent suicide in a prison cell while the case was on trial.
In terms of politics, Smith was an outlier as a Democrat in GOP-dominated Weber County. But his wife said he was more in the middle of the political spectrum.
Oscar Mata, who is active in the Weber County’s Democratic Party, said Smith understood his role as the last Democrat to be elected to Weber County’s national office. But he never became overly partisan. The Weber County Democrats turned to Smith twice to run for the county office after serving as district attorney, but he turned it down each time.
“It was never about partying with Dee. It was about honor and integrity, ”said Mata.