Solving Murders and Burglaries: New Police Chief Smith Shares His Favorite Two Cases

by Toni Hopper
Marlow Police Chief Ronnie Smith, center, shares a laugh with two of his officers, Jace Gilley, left, and Lt. Cole Jack, during a break at the station. Photo by Toni Hopper/The Marlow Review Marlow Police Chief Ronnie Smith, center, shares a laugh with two of his officers, Jace Gilley, left, and Lt. Cole Jack, during a break at the station. Photo by Toni Hopper/The Marlow Review

Marlow's new police chief's experience and change in roles is like night and day. Ronnie Smith worked the night shift at Lawton for nearly 20 years and even helped solve a murder case in 2007. Then he joined the Marlow Police Department. Still on nights as a patrol officer, he helped catch the Christmas ATM burglary crew in December 2022. Up until his retirement in May, Smith had worked for MPD for about 5 (1/2) years.

After working nights for all those years, having a day/desk job is refreshing. His retirement was short, 3 months.

"I took a few months to retire, spend time with my daughters and play golf," Smith said. "I definitely knew I was going to go {back} to work." It wasn't long before his phone was ringing. Chief Leroy Walker retired, after 30 years with MPD. He's now enjoying his grandparent status and life as a cowboy. As for Smith, those who knew him were curious. His phone began ringing.

Smith said he knew God would put him where he needed to be. Watching him interact with fellow officers, it's obvious he enjoys what he does. He has plans to modernize some things for efficiency, but as with any changes, it takes time.

As a young boy, Smith enjoyed riding with his father, Ronnie Smith Sr., in the police cruiser. The elder Smith served 44 years between Lawton and Comanche County Sheriff's Office. "I would come down and ride with him in the summers. I moved around as a kid, with my mom in Texas. I was born in Lawton, and moved back to Lawton when I was 15." His father was the role model and influence that set the course for his own path. "He was a major when he passed. I have big shoes to fill. It's in my blood."

In order to be a constant presence for his daughters, he took the night shift. His wife, Kelly, is a professor at Cameron University. Their daughters are both grown now, Payton Davis is married, and their younger one, Aubrey is 20. She's Smith's golfing partner.

"I coached both of my girls in travel softball and I didn't want to miss any of their games, so I did a lot of nights for 20 years. Both were All-Staters in softball."

During his years at Lawton, he worked his way up the ranks, having served as a Lieutenant, captain, and watch commander over a team for six years. "I've come full circle, started out as an officer, then detective, narcotics, then supervision. I came here and now this," he said. When asked what he hopes to bring to the community in his new role, his first response was about the officers.

"I think we have a good base, and good officers who do an excellent job," he said. "We have excellent dispatchers here. They are not just dispatch, but also for fire, EMS. They know what they are doing." As for crime, it's a lot less than what Smith was accustomed to dealing with in Lawton. "Everywhere has their crime, the juveniles, but our officers do a good job of getting on it if something does come up," Smith said. Adding Officer Ronnie Branch last month increased Marlow's Police Department to 11 officers. Branch is the new School Resource Officer, and is employed by the city.

Smith shared his two most interesting cases - one in Marlow, December 2022, and the other in Lawton, January 2007. Both are uniquely different.

"On Christmas night there was an ATM burglary at Legacy Bank (Marlow), I jumped in the car and stopped them at the Lawton-Duncan Y. He said that Officer Corey Loftice was there with him. "We were able to make 4 felony arrests, and recover $26,000."

While it may have not seemed like a big thing to some, just the idea that the young adults and a juvenile were able to finish the job in about 2 minutes and get caught before leaving the area is credited to how quick Marlow officers responded.

The other case was the murder of a cab driver in Lawton. Smith's "long" version has a few twists and turns, so here's the "short" version. A cab driver was murdered in the middle of the night, but Smith was working a day shift when it happened. Detectives didn't have much to go on, just a particular style of car that could be involved. "I had a case of `this ain't going to stand.' I spent about 4 or 5 hours driving Lawton, through hotels, apartment complexes, so forth."

Smith canvassed the entire city of Lawton from east to west. When he arrives at the back of a complex, he sees a car matching the description. "There was this male standing in the breezeway and he gives me "the" look. I went on and acted like I didn't see him, and I called in and asked if they had anything else." Smith said the suspect got in the car, he pulls him over and {the driver} said, "This isn't my car, it's Delarenta's (Burton) car. I asked where he was and he said, "In the apartment." I detain him in my car, get a couple units there. We go up and see the door is open and whenever I go to knock, the guy who ends up being the murder suspect - tries to slam it on us and I see a rifle in the room. He takes off, we chase him. We get in the room, there's blood all over his shirt. I see a wallet on the ground ... everything slows down, we get everybody detained, the murder weapon was where he had run to try to get it. We get a search warrant. There were five individuals.

They had burglarized two liquor stores, a fashion store, and the night before called for a pizza delivery to a vacant house. When the pizza guy got there, they robbed him and started shooting at him.

That pizza box was in the house. Delarenta, he confessed to the murder."

Smith remembers a specific conversation. "I left that station that day and said, I'm going to go find this guy, and told my captain ... he laughed at me and that doesn't happen very often."

In addition to his on-the-job training, Smith has a degree in criminal justice and applied science from Cameron University, an advanced law enforcement certification through CLEET, and numerous management and leadership courses.

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