Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Police & Fire

Murder suspect is taken into custody in Nashville

One of two area fugitives sought on murder charges for a West Toledo slaying earlier this month was arrested Friday night in Nashville while attempting to gain employment at a tattoo parlor in that central Tennessee city.

Earnest Otto Smith, 38, a drifter whose known addresses have included one in Napoleon, was arrested by the Nashville area's violent crimes task force on a charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. The task force, which includes members of the FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, made the arrest at an undisclosed time at the Ink Gallery on Elliston Place, Jennifer Johnson, a spokesman for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told The Blade yesterday.

Mr. Smith and Cathy Barnett, 45, of 305 1/2 Craig St., have been sought on separate charges of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in the slaying of James Dillingham at the Crown Inn, 1727 West Alexis Rd., officials have said.

The slaying occurred Jan. 3. The arrest warrants were issued Jan. 7 by Toledo police.

Mr. Smith was booked into a Nashville-area jail and is to be put in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service tomorrow, Ms. Johnson said.

Toledo police declined comment. The detective assigned to the case was not available.

Police have said Ms. Barnett was staying with Mr. Dillingham at the Crown Inn the night before the shooting. She left and returned with Mr. Smith. Police found Mr. Dillingham's body on a sidewalk outside Room 25 after responding to a call about shots being fired. Mr. Dillingham had a gunshot wound to the chest.

Capt. Ron Spann, head of the Toledo Police Department's investigative services bureau, has said investigators believe the shooting occurred inside a motel room and that Mr. Dillingham collapsed after stumbling out. Fingerprint and other evidence were found. Several hundred dollars were believed to have been stolen from Mr. Dillingham, police have said.

Mr. Smith was acquitted in 1997 of an involuntary manslaughter charge for the beating death that year of an East Toledo man, Dale Turner, outside the Rooster Inn tavern on Starr Avenue in East Toledo.

Mr. Smith used to own King Otto's Tattoo, 807 Starr Ave. The tattoo parlor was closed in November, 2002 by order of the Toledo-Lucas County health department because of questions about its sterilization procedures and record-keeping. It marked the first time the agency ordered an operating tattoo parlor closed.

Ms. Barnett was convicted of soliciting in 1993 as well as multiple disorderly conduct and drug-related charges over the last two decades.

Contact Tom Henry at: or 419-724-6079.

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