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DNA leads to arrest in '08 slaying

LAWRENCEVILLE -- At dusk on July 18, 2008, Genai Coleman sat in her gold Dodge car, reading her Bible in a well-lighted section of a Red Lobster parking lot in Duluth. She was waiting to pick up her daughter, who worked at the restaurant.

Police theorize that Coleman -- a deeply spiritual, 40-year-old mother of three adoptive daughters who taught elementary school in DeKalb County -- could have represented the opportunity one particular vagrant was looking for.

A gunman shot Coleman in the chest, extracted her from the vehicle and sped away. In a matter of hours, she was pronounced dead at Gwinnett Medical Center.

After more than 18 months and a complex investigation involving the DNA of twin brothers, Gwinnett police believe they have Coleman's shooter in custody.

Homicide detectives tracked down and arrested Donald Eugene Smith, 51, on the streets of downtown Atlanta this week, charging him with murder in Coleman's death. On Friday, however, police also arrested his twin brother, Ronald Edward Smith, and now believe he is the killer.

"After arresting Ronald, it was determined that forensic evidence matched up to that in the vehicle," said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli.

Both men are believed to be homeless.

"They're both pretty much living on the fringe," said Gwinnett police spokesman Officer Brian Kelly.

Kelly said police have secured video footage of one of the Smiths at a gas station near Pleasant Hill Road moments before the killing -- along with footage of him walking from an Atlanta shopping plaza where Coleman's car was abandoned and found three days after her death.

Inside the vehicle lay the case's lynchpin -- evidence containing Smith's DNA, police said.

Gwinnett police Cpl. Damien Cruz, the lead investigator, said a Georgia Bureau of Investigation analysis recently linked the DNA to a sample previously taken from one of the brothers. Cruz couldn't say when the sample had been taken and declined to discuss their criminal history.

"There's certain things I can't divulge because its ongoing," Cruz said.

Cruz said investigators aren't sure why Smith was allegedly in the vicinity of the Red Lobster parking lot and a nearby bus station. No weapon has been recovered.

Charges against Donald Smith will be dropped and he is being released from custody, Schiralli said.

A seasoned teacher and youth advocate, Coleman served in the U.S. Naval Reserves and considered helping youth "her ministry," according to her obituary. She was buried in her native Elkhart, Ind.

A message left with Coleman's family in Indiana was not returned Friday. Cruz, the investigator, said family had been notified of the arrest.

In the wake of Coleman's death, her family told media in Elkhart she'd planned to return home in a matter of weeks to open a preschool academy.