FREMONT COUNTY – The mystery surrounding skeletal remains found south of Texas Creek in 2016 has been solved, investigators say, by painstaking DNA database searching and tips from the now-suspected killer’s acquaintances across the country.
Jeffrey Smith, 37, of Goodyear, Arizona was arrested last month for the fatal shooting of Remzi Nesfield, believed to be 23 at the time of his death, likely in 2007. Nesfield was reported missing in 2007 and no clues ever emerged about his whereabouts or condition until September 2016 when a hiker found skeletal remains along Fremont County Road 28 about a mile and a half east of State Highway 69, south of Texas Creek.
It was determined that the human remains belonged to someone who had been shot in the head, but the person’s identity remained unknown. A facial reconstruction model was unveiled in July 2017 in the hopes of triggering someone’s memory about seeing someone similar to the model. Meanwhile, DNA samples were analyzed. “We had a national search run with the DNA and had a positive hit on the DNA sample through some Arizona Department of Corrections records which matched to Remzi Nesfield,” Fremont County Coroner Randy Keller said Monday at a press conference in Canon City.
After publicly identifying Nesfield in December 2017 and classifying his death as a homicide, investigators began speaking with acquaintances of Smith from across the country, including one who now lives in New York City and was able to provide information to NYPD, which relayed it to local investigators. “Identifying some friends that were close to the suspect that he confided in, and having them come forward with the information that they had,” was the key to solving the case, said Fremont County Sheriff’s Office Detective Peter Rasmussen.
Based on those interviews, investigators contacted Smith and became wary of his explanations. “We had spoken to the suspect several times and there were inconsistencies in the interviews that he had given,” Rasmussen said, “so we were able to kind of poke holes in his story, basically, which led to the confession.”
Fremont County Sheriff Allen Cooper was careful to reiterate that Smith is innocent until proven guilty, but also indicated statements made by Smith to investigators were self-implicating. “We do know that illegal drugs played a part in this,” Cooper said regarding a possible motive for the killing. “Drugs were an integral part of this case.”
Investigators characterized the cold case as initially having “less than a one percent chance” of being solved, but multi-agency and cross-country cooperation helped solve the nearly 12-year-old crime a little more than two years after the mysterious human remains were discovered. “One little break in the case is sometimes all you need for that dam to come crumbling down, and then we achieve the resolution that we really hope we can achieve,” Cooper said. “More than anything, we have some closure for Mr. Nesfield’s family. They reported him missing. No one knew his whereabouts, no one knew where he might be.”
Smith is being held on a no-bond hold at the Maricopa County Jail in Phoenix, pending extradition to Colorado.