Sister speaks out after brother found shot dead on running tractor in SC woods

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OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — Oconee County deputies are asking for your help as they investigate the death of a man found dead on a still-running tractor.

“It’s a very difficult time because we haven’t gotten over losing our parents three days apart and now I’ve lost the only brother I have,” said Vickie Wilbanks, Danny Smith’s sister.

It’s on a Westminster property on Coffee Road, where detectives said Smith was found shot to death on the running tractor.

“It’s my parents’ property that he was taking care of and he was bush hogging,” Wilbanks said.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said Smith was reported missing by his wife on Wednesday night, after she was unable to contact him.

“We were just devastated. Devastated, and heartbroken because he is such a precious man. Never would harm anyone. Everyone loved him,” Wilbanks said.

Investigators said his wife heard the tractor running and saw it in the woods. Smith was found slumped over the steering wheel. Haskell Long lives near the family’s property.

“It was really a shock. Nobody expects something like this where we live. It’s just something you don’t hear of, and knowing Danny, he don’t have any enemies. I have no clue about anyone that would shoot him,” Long said. “Just seems like it must be an accident, but we just don’t know what kind or how, or anything like that. Real shocking to all of us,” he said.

Detectives said Smith died from a gunshot wound to the back. Smith is estimated to have died sometime between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and his death has been ruled a homicide, according to the coroner.

“We feel terrible that something like this happened and the loss of him. He was just such a great person. I just hate to lose someone like that,” Long said.

While the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said they don’t know if Smith was hit by a stray bullet or not, his sister and the community are left grieving.

“We were very close. And we lost our parents back in October and its been very hard, but we’re struggling through,” Wilbanks said.

The family and friends are hoping your help will lead them to answers.

“We’re just praying that somebody will come forth,” Wilbanks said. “I would just really love for our community here to come forth. If you know anything, come to my house and talk to me. Call the sheriff’s department, or please just let some of us know if you know anything or seen anything,” she said.

Investigators are asking anyone with information or who may have heard gunshots in the area to call the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office at 864-638-4111.

Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said interviews are underway, and their office also submitted evidence to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s (SLED) Crime Lab for testing on Friday. Crenshaw said they do not believe there is a threat to the public at this time.

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