The Murray County Sheriff says he is waiting on an autopsy report to learn how one of his deputies died.

Michaela Elizabeth Smith passed away last week, while completing her training to become a certified jailer for the sheriff's office.

“She was our family,” Sheriff Gary Langford said.

Over the phone, Langford described Smith as a bright, Christian lady, “starting her career in something she wanted to do and she loved and we all respected her we're all going to miss her.”

Smith was hired as a jailer for the sheriff's office six months ago. As a state requirement, she was sent to Whitfield County to train in order to become certified.

“Georgia Police Officer Standard Training Council oversees it and one of the things in the school is its mandatory you have to be pepper-sprayed,” Langford explained.

Langford says Smith was pepper-sprayed. He says she was fine immediately after, but eventually became sick. He says she was treated at a local medical center and sent home, but her illness worsened.

Smith was sent to Erlanger and passed away several days later.
With no known underlying health issues and a passing physical, Langford says doctors do not know how Smith died.

“Before we send anybody to school it's Georgia law that you have to have a physical, you have to be cleared by a medical doctor. She had that,” Langford explained.

Langford says originally doctors thought the pepper spray was to blame.

“They didn't know what caused it and still don't,” he said. “They thought at first that might have been what it was then they're telling us that they don't know if it was that and so at this point we don't know.”

Smith's family is now waiting on an autopsy to get answers. In the meantime, Sheriff Langford says Smith will live on.
“She was an organ donor. She donated five of her organs and they went all over. Five people received her organs and we're really pleased with that so she still lives with us.”

Visitation is set Tuesday, July 9 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Ponders Funeral Home on Melrose Drive in Dalton. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 10.

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