WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — It was a hot summer night in Woonsocket.
The way police describe it, everyone’s windows were open. Fans were on. The streets were crowded.
Seventeen-year-old Brandon Smith was coming home with a friend. He walked through the front door on Robinson Street.
Brandon was shot and killed right there.
But by who?
The Big Brother
Brianna Tsouvalos remembers bits and pieces of her big brother Brandon.
“Like him taking us out to the local Cumby’s,” she recalled. “Picking up a slushy and just telling us to make sure you’re doing the right thing.”
She says he was always protective of her and her other brother Alex Tsouvalos.
“I remember, ‘hang out with the right people and get good grades,'” she said. “I remember him saying that.”
Alex joked about how he and Brandon would get into trouble as kids.
“You know, typical big brother stuff,” he said. “Stuff to laugh about, to ‘oh you know we shouldn’t say that in front of mom and dad.'”
Brianna said Brandon would often volunteer his time. He was loved.
“So full of life,” she said. “He fully embodied what it meant to be a full-hearted, wholesome teenager. He was really there for his friends and family.”
As Brandon and his friend entered the apartment on June 25, 2008, the 17-year-old Woonsocket kid wasn’t necessarily “doing the right thing,” according to Detective Anthony Conetta.
“But we have to keep in mind, Brandon was so young,” Conetta said. “He was good to his family. He meant a lot to a lot of people. I know a lot of people that made a lot of mistakes when they were younger that turn out to be great individuals.”
“He should have been given that chance,” he added.
Just a few steps into the threshold, someone hiding inside the home emerged and fired one single shot. Brandon was dead.
Conetta says there were plenty of eyewitnesses. Some of them saw a car speed away. Very few would talk though.
“It was hard to get a straight story,” he recalled. “There’s a lot of workable information. A lot of witnesses. A lot of people that know what happened that night.”
Alex was 11 years old. Brianna was just 8.
“It was just really hard to grasp,” Brianna said, thinking back to the moment her mother broke the news. “It didn’t feel real. Up until now, it still affects me every single day. There’s been so many birthdays and holidays that we’ve had to spend without him.”
Alex feels the same heartbreak.
“Our mother, day to day, always thinks about it,” he said. “That’s her son. Every day I feel so bad for them. For my mother. It must be so tough for her. To live your life after something like this is such a shock.”
The Case Goes Cold
None of the tips or eyewitness accounts led to an arrest. First, it was a week, then a month. The days passed without an arrest.
In December 2008, detectives renewed a push for answers. They went door-to-door in that part of the city. They talked to as many neighbors as possible, pushing a tip line for information.
In 2011, Woonsocket Police purchased a billboard in the city to generate new leads.
Still, no arrests.
“We’re out here trying to bring closure to these families,” Conetta said.
In another effort to get answers, Conetta added the investigation to a deck of cold case playing cards. Each card details an unsolved homicide or missing persons case in Rhode Island. Anyone with information is urged to call 1-877-RI-SOLVE. Brandon Smith is the 4 of diamonds.
“This case isn’t going anywhere,” Conetta said. “It might be called a cold case but it isn’t cold.”
Alex is hopeful a new look at the case will lead to an arrest.
“Justice needs to be brought up, not just for his family’s sake, but for Brandon,” he said.
“I can’t imagine how you can live your life every single day knowing that you pulled the trigger on my brother,” Brianna said as a message to the killer. “I hope that you suffer every day. I hope that you’re living a depressed and disgusting life.”