Woman's death prompts police warning, changes to cabs - WKRN News 2

East Nashville woman's death prompts police warning, changes to cabs

Posted: Updated: Sep 26, 2013 10:48 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

While answers are elusive as to why 32-year-old Livia Smith died just hours after taking a Nashville cab last winter, her death has provoked a warning from police, and a major change for local taxis.

The warning comes from the Metro police officers who are still investigating her death.

Officer Don Davidson said the warning applies to women late at night who have been drinking and then take a cab.

"There is a lot of danger out there that I would not have thought of, and a lot of things going on that they don't know, and I did not know, until this case brought it my attention," officer Davidson told News 2.

He and Det. Matt Filter recently shared their thoughts about trying to find out what happened to Smith.

"It was a real shock to me that a cab driver can come to work, not turn on his radio, not check in with the cab company, take fares around Nashville, not log anything down, and you could be found dead later and there is no record of you being in a cab-- that is a very scary thought," said Officer Davidson.

He continued, "I would hope if nothing else comes from this, that especially females, who may have been drinking, will keep in mind that there is a possibility there might be no record of you being in a cab, and they need to be very careful of getting into a cab."

Officer Davidson and Det. Filter began learning about Smith shortly after her death on February 20.

The make-up artist who worked one job at Dillards while starting her own business had been with a female friend prior to her death.

They ended up at 3 Crow Bar in the popular Five Points area of east Nashville before Smith decided to hail a taxi for a ride to her home a few miles away.

The friend and other witnesses watched as Smith got in a yellow-looking cab alone about 2 a.m.

Two hours after leaving the bar in the taxi, the young woman's body was seen lying in the road just a few hundred yards from her home.   

"The only thing we know for sure is the cab driver was a male," said Det. Filter."And we know that she fell and hit the back of her head severe enough to kill her."

According to one main police theory, the young woman tried to flee the cab while it was still moving, fearing something like robbery or even sexual assault.

Trying to back up the theory, the two investigators were soon stunned to learn that no record existed of Smith ever getting into a Nashville cab the night she died, or any driver who saw her climb inside that taxi.

"Every one we talked to says we don't know anything, we wish we could help, but we don't know anything," said Officer Davidson. "And I find that real hard to believe."

"A lot of this boils down to these cab companies not keeping really good records," added Det. Filter.

As for the cab companies in the investigation, he said "some were cooperative, some were less than cooperative."

Nashville's cabs are regulated by the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission (TLC). It has a board that meets monthly and three inspectors for the city's nearly 800-cabs.

"I think most of our drivers are good," said interim director Billy Fields. "Could we have a few bad apples? Sure, but if we know it, we will do something about it."

Fields told News 2 how Smith's death has brought change to the cabs in Nashville.

"Only a few taxis now are without GPS," he said."The board made the decision based on what happened to Livia Smith, and they wanted the taxis to have GPS by Fall."

While talking with Fields at an airport gathering area for taxis, one of the drivers proudly displayed the new system.

"They know exactly the minute we are in, the minute we are out," he told News 2.

Fields added there will be random checks to make sure those cabbies and their taxi companies are using their GPS properly.

Sadly, no one knows if Smith got in a cab with GPS, or whether it was even working.  It's estimated that only about a third of Nashville taxis had the system at the time of her death.

Smith's brother, Ian Struthers, along with many of the Livia's friends, and investigators like Officer Davidson told News 2 that people in Nashville should take cab safety seriously, especially if you are that young woman out late at night who may have been drinking.

"I don't want any other families to deal with what we went through," Struthers told News 2.

He and the others urge customers to take a picture of a cab's license plate, the driver, their permit and text a friend that you are in a taxi, all in hopes of not having another Livia Smith out there.

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