DALTON, Ga. — Asked for one word to describe Michaela Smith, her friend Megan Marcus said, “Bubbly.”
“She had such a personality,” Marcus said. “She had faith in Jesus and was an avid churchgoer and was always inviting people to come to church and small groups. She was sweet, caring and had the best sense of humor.”
On Wednesday, family and friends, along with most of the personnel of the Murray County Sheriff’s Office, will mourn the 26-year-old deputy jailer, who passed away on July 3, at her funeral service. She was hospitalized after a training exercise involving pepper spray a few days earlier.
"I think me and her friends and family believe that sometimes God just calls you home," Marcus said. "I think that is the case. God needed her more than we did.”
The funeral service to celebrate Smith’s life will be at 11 a.m. on Wednesday at Eleventh Avenue Baptist Church. Burial will be in Serenity Hills Memorial Park in Chatsworth. Donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in lieu of flowers.
Smith’s body was sent to the Georgia state crime lab for an autopsy and escorted back to Ponders Funeral Home on Sunday by Murray County fire and sheriff’s office vehicles. An American flag was draped from the tower of a fire truck as the hearse brought Smith home. Sheriff's office Chief Deputy Jimmy Davenport said the results of the autopsy have not been released.
“I don’t know when we will get it,” Davenport said. “I still have questions myself. I am staying in touch with the family every day, and it is frustrating. It truly has broken my heart, and not having answers makes it even harder. We are all waiting on the doctors and medical examiner. You just need the ‘Why?’”
“It is definitely a shock to us all,” Marcus said. “It is still hard to believe. I keep thinking I can text her and call her and then it hits me that she is in heaven. It is hard to accept. It is hard when you lose somebody so unexpectedly like that.”
Smith had just begun her career in law enforcement. A 2011 graduate of Southeast Whitfield High School, she completed her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Dalton State College in 2017. She had been working as a jailer at the sheriff’s office for nearly six months.
“She loved working there,” Marcus said. “She was always wanting to give people second chances. She believed if you made a mistake, everyone should have a second chance and treated the people in the jail with respect.”
Davenport said the loss has been felt throughout the ranks of the department.
“We lost one of our own and there is a hole in our heart,” Davenport said. “From all accounts, she was a rising star. She loved her job and she served our citizens at the sheriff’s office well. I think we are all just numb.”