Death in Harris Hollow: ‘Malicious wounding’ takes life of longtime resident

Neighbor of victim: ‘He had a heart of gold . . . he would help anybody he could’

A Harris Hollow resident discovered last Thursday night clinging to life after an alleged assault has died at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie S. Compton said 60-year-old Jonas “Jay” Alther was discovered unconscious and sitting in a truck in the driveway of his home in the 200 block of Harris Hollow Road. A sheriff’s deputy who found the resident determined that he was suffering from severe head injuries and alerted rescue personnel.

A Flint Hill man, 47-year-old Randy Lynn Smoot, was later arrested in connection with Alther’s death. Smoot was charged by sheriff’s investigator James Jones with aggravated malicious wounding and is currently being held without bond at the RSW (Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren) Regional Jail in Front Royal.

Randy Lynn Smoot RSW Regional Jail

According to Compton, on the night of Thursday, Oct. 19, the sheriff’s office responded to a call for a welfare check at Alther’s house, a tidy brick rambler just a few minutes’ drive from the town of Washington.

“Mr. Alther was unconscious, unresponsive and appeared to have sustained an injury to the head,” Compton said in a statement. “Mr. Alther was treated by EMS and transported to Inova Fairfax hospital, where [he] remained hospitalized through the weekend.”

He succumbed to his injuries on Sunday, the sheriff said.

The Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office is working with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney while continuing to investigate the incident. It is not known if Smoot obtained his own lawyer or whether a public defender was assigned to represent him.

Law enforcement authorities did not say where Alther might have been assaulted — whether it was inside his home and he then made his way outside to his truck; if it was while sitting in the truck in his driveway; or whether he was assaulted at another location and then drove the truck to his residence.

One neighbor in Harris Hollow said it was his understanding that a heavy-duty “flashlight” was used as a weapon in the crime, although that could not be confirmed with authorities. In her statement, Compton made no mention of a crime tool.

“I cannot confirm or deny at this point in the investigation as to what [weapon] was or was not used,” the sheriff later told the Rappahannock News.

The same neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was told that Alther was beaten “severely” in the head.

According to another neighbor in Harris Hollow, Alther spent most nights at his elderly mother’s home, also near the town of Washington, and he would then return to his house during the day.

“He was a person who stayed to himself,” said the neighbor, whose home is not far from Alther’s residence. “But he had a heart of gold. I got along with him. I’ve never had a problem with Jay. He would help anybody he could.”

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John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at