San Diego

Family of 3 with San Diego Ties Killed in Republic of Georgia

Locals are remembering an American family with San Diego ties that was killed in an apparent murder plot in the Republic of Georgia last week.

Police in the former Soviet Republic say the father, identified as Ryan Smith, and his 4-year-old son were shot and killed on the Fourth of July. The mother, Lora Smith, died when she fell into a ravine while trying to escape the attack.

Their bodies were found days after they were reported missing. Georgian police say a 20-year-old man confessed to the killings.

The couple had been living in Georgia for more than 10 years working to revive the traditional carpet weaving industry there. Together they founded reWoven, a socially-conscious company that creates traditional handcrafted woven carpets. Lora also taught English.

Family friend Ken Gowen says the company's goal was two-fold.

“Revive the art and provide a sustainable income for these women who didn’t have extensive means of providing for their self,” Gowen said.

Gowen’s wife, Barbara, tried to describe the couple.

“That’s a hard one,” she said before her emotions got the best of her.

Gowen finished her thought.

“We’re losing a couple who's passionate about caring for other people, and the way they did, it's a rare commodity these days and they did it so graciously. They were committed believers in Christ,” Gowen said.

The Gowens say the Smiths' legacy will live on through their humanitarian efforts. They also say the carpet company family is hoping to continue.

Before the couple died, friends said they were close to building a playground for children in Georgia.

Other friends of the family told NBC 7 that Ryan grew up in Rancho Penasquitos and attended Mount Carmel High School.

The Smiths’ family still has to bring their loved ones back to the states. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help them make it happen.

Police did not give a motive in the killings.

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