Seth Smith

Seth Smith was a Renaissance Man.

He was a motivator who gave pep talks to his classmates at Cosumnes Oaks High School, an undergraduate who planned to earn his bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley within three years, and an entertainer who loved to break out in song and dance.

Smith’s charisma was enjoyed by his classmates at Elizabeth Pinkerton Middle School who celebrated “Seth Day” and wore shirts that bore his face.

He recently wanted to enroll at the London School of Economics after graduating from UC Berkeley.

“He was hungry to understand the world and to do something positive in the world,” his mother, Michelle Rode-Smith told the Citizen.

During the late evening of June 15, Smith was walking on Dwight Way near his Berkeley home when an unknown suspect fatally shot him. He was found on a sidewalk in the middle of a residential neighborhood that’s a few blocks away from the main thoroughfare of San Pablo Avenue. Smith died before he was to turn 20 on July 4.

The Berkeley police last week offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the killer’s arrest. They currently lack a description of a suspect or suspects involved in the incident.

“I want to know why someone would hurt my beautiful son,” Rode-Smith said.

The visual and performing arts departments at Pinkerton Middle School and Cosumnes Oaks High created a tribute to Smith soon after he was identified as the homicide victim. They posted a Facebook video of him when he was “The Wolf of the Week” at Cosumnes Oaks High. In this video, he speaks about his prolific work in student theatre, which included playing lead characters in four plays.

“It’s a team activity in theatre,” he said. “You have to figure out how you individually interact with everybody else and how to maintain a team atmosphere while also improving yourself.”

Christina Chun-Moslen, a drama teacher at Cosumnes Oaks High, recalled how he mentored classmates in their theatre productions.

“It didn’t matter if he was the lead in a show or in an ensemble or if he had a lot to do, he was always there for everyone else,” she said.

The teacher noted that she heard that Smith took classmates aside and talked them through their nerves and insecurities. She also said that he usually found a way to make people laugh. Smith played Dogberry, a constable in William Shakespeare’s comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing” - Chun-Moslen said that he stayed in character during intermission and threatened to “arrest” her for talking.

“He was someone who was really loved on campus and his family has been a staple of the Elk Grove community for years and years,” she said.

Smith grew up in Clarksburg and attended schools in the Elk Grove Unified School District where his mother teaches at Carroll Elementary School.  

Rode-Smith said that her son became an entertainer at a young age - she recalled a moment when a 5-year-old Smith got onstage with a wedding band and sang Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” with them.

She said that Smith was 12 when he excelled at an Academic Talent Search exam offered by California State  University, Sacramento, and his leadership skills and confidence later flourished when he attended Pinkerton Middle School. His mother described his passion for learning.

“He could outplay anyone on ‘Jeopardy’” Rode-Smith said. “He ate books like food; he was so enamored by knowledge.”

Rode-Smith said that her son did not continue working in the performing arts when he enrolled at UC Berkeley. He instead dedicated himself to academics by double-majoring in history and economics, and he had plans to work as a research assistant for a PhD candidate there.

This month, Smith wanted to stay at his rental house and get to better know his roommates.

“He wanted to hang out and get to know everyone, and form bonds,” Rode-Smith said. “And then this (shooting) happened.”

Reward Offered in Smith Case 

The Berkeley police announced on June 18 they are offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who fatally shot Seth Smith.

“Even the smallest detail could be critical in solving this crime,” authorities stated in a press release. Smith was reportedly found unresponsive around 11:30 p.m. on a sidewalk near the corner of Dwight Way and Valley Street in the Southwest Berkeley area on June 15.

Readers with information about this incident can contact the Berkeley police’s Homicide Unit at(510) 981-5741 or their non-emergency number at (510) 981-5900