SOUTH OGDEN — In his varied roles with the Weber County Attorney’s Office, Dee Smith put a focus on public safety.
“He was a huge proponent of keeping our community safe. It was ingrained in him,” said Cherrie Smith, his wife. “He loved the law. He had a passion for making things right. He had so much integrity.”
Dee Smith, a former Weber County attorney and candidate for Utah attorney general, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Thursday, prompting shock and sadness from family and friends. He was 52. They recalled a man who was driven in his work — most recently as a deputy Weber County 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, an investigator in the Weber County Attorney’s Office who worked with Smith. He recalls Smith, who lived in South Ogden, dashing from work on frequent occasions to catch his kids at their sporting events.
Smith died as he was heading out on a mountain bike ride on the Green Pond Trail near the Snowbasin ski resort. He was with his friends at the trailhead, said his wife, when he suddenly collapsed. Medics were called to the scene but couldn’t revive him. He was in seemingly good health, athletic and active in many sports, and Cherrie Smith said an autopsy was being completed to try to pinpoint the cause.
“It was a very sad, unexpected thing,” she said. In addition to his wife, he is survived by four children ranging in age from 24 to 18 — Shayla Bigelow, Joshua Smith, Sydnee Smith and Sierra Smith.
Dee Smith most recently had been a deputy attorney in the Weber County Attorney’s office, but it was only the latest of many roles working in the legal and justice systems. A Democrat, he was appointed by Weber County commissioners to take over as Weber County attorney when his predecessor, Mark DeCaria, took a judge’s position. He was elected to the county attorney’s post in 2010, running unopposed, then vied, unsuccessfully, for Utah attorney general in 2012, losing to John Swallow, a Republican. Smith continued as Weber County attorney but didn’t seek reelection in 2014 elections to the post, now held by Chris Allred.
After leaving the county attorney’s post, Smith took over in January 2015 as a judge in Ogden’s Justice Court. He moved back to the county attorney’s office in January 2017, taking on the deputy attorney role. His focus was on criminal cases and Haney said he would typically 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,” Haney said.
Significantly, Haney said, Smith’s efforts to prosecute misdeeds and put criminals behind bars helped keep Weber County safe.
“He prevented homicides by standing up and saying that guy should not be free and getting people put away who should be put away,” 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 warrior for the criminal justice system,” it reads. “Dee has been influential in the careers of so many law enforcement officers, who will be forever grateful.”
Law enforcement officers formed a procession to accompany the transport of Smith’s body on Thursday from Ogden Regional Medical Center to Salt Lake City for the autopsy there. They also formed a procession to accompany transport back to South Ogden of his body, Cherrie Smith said.
Smith grew up in South Ogden, graduating from Bonneville High School and then getting a bachelor’s degree from Weber State University. He studied law at the University of Utah and Cherrie Smith said her husband’s connection to the Weber County Attorney’s office dates to that period. He interned as a clerk in the office while studying law and was hired on as a prosecutor after getting his law degree.
“It was his love. He loved the law,” Cherrie Smith said. He left the Weber County attorney’s office for a time, working in private practice as a defense lawyer before his appointment as county attorney.
Through his career, family was always first and, like Haney, Cherrie Smith recalled her husband dashing from work to attend his son’s mountain bike races and his daughters’ softball games and other sporting events. “He loved his family dearly. 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 county attorney’s office wasn’t without controversy.
Smith and Allred were architects in 2010 of Ogden’s anti-gang injunction, meant to help crack down on gang activity in the city. The Utah Supreme Court threw out the initiative in 2013. Then, two suspects arrested under its provisions sued in 2015, saying their civil rights had been violated and a federal judge sided with them. But other issues remained unresolved and that case is still winding its way through U.S. District Court.
Smith also prosecuted the high-profile aggravated murder case against Matthew Stewart, charged in 2012 with killing a police officer and wounding five others in a shootout after members of a drug task force entered his home to search it for drugs. Stewart later died in a jail cell of an apparent suicide while the case worked its way through the courts.
As for his politics, being a Democrat made Smith something of an outlier in GOP-dominated Weber County. But his wife said he was more at the middle of the political spectrum.
Oscar Mata, who’s active in the Weber County Democratic Party, said Smith understood his role as the last Democrat elected to countywide office in Weber County. But he never got overly partisan. Weber County Democrats approached Smith twice after his term as county attorney about running for county office but he declined each time.
“It was never about party with Dee. It was about honor and integrity,” Mata said.
A viewing will be held Thursday from 5-8 p.m. at the Fifth Ward Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Chapel at 4380 Orchard Ave. in South Ogden. A funeral service will be held Friday starting at 11 a.m. at the Bonneville High School auditorium, 251 E. 4800 South in Washington Terrace. Both events are open to the public.