Girlfriend charged in fatal shooting of man known in D.C. area Goth scene

Caralee Cottle.
Caralee Cottle. (Fairfax County Police.)
By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Feb. 14, Cara Cottle posted this Facebook update to her boyfriend, Dirk Smiler:

"Dirk I love You. Even if I want to kill you sometimes!!"

On Feb. 15, shortly after punching Smiler in front of their roommates in Annandale, Cottle allegedly shot him once in the head with a rifle.

On Tuesday, she was arrested and charged with murder.

Smiler, 37, was an avowed hedonist, a Goth and a fixture in the D.C. nightclub scene, and his death brought an outpouring of fond, boozy memories from his large circle of friends.

Cottle, 31, is a former Marine sergeant who had been dating Smiler for a few months and was not well known to his family.

Witnesses and law enforcement sources said that after Cottle and Smiler had a confrontation in the living room of their rented house on Little River Turnpike, reportedly over Smiler's dalliance with another woman, the couple went downstairs to Smiler's basement bedroom and things got quiet.

Then, after about 15 minutes, the roommates heard a boom. Cottle then ran upstairs, naked and covered in blood, and screamed that Smiler was dead, according to witnesses and police.

Smiler was shot once in the head with a World War II-era bolt-action rifle, according to witnesses and law enforcement sources. Cottle declined to be interviewed by homicide detectives and checked herself into a mental hospital for three days, according to numerous people familiar with the case.

Cottle then hired renowned defense attorney Peter D. Greenspun.

"Cara Cottle did not murder Mr. Smiler," Greenspun said Tuesday. "The truth will be revealed in court without regard to the rampant speculation in the media and blogs. Cara is grateful for the huge support she has received and looks forward to the truth being presented to a judge and jury."

Cottle moved in with her mother in Manassas while police investigated Smiler's shooting. On Feb. 24, Cottle wrote on her Facebook page that she was returning to the Annandale house to "say good bye to my LOVER, my best friend and the person who taught me who i am." A photo of a shirtless Smiler playing in a drum circle is posted as Cottle's profile picture.

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