This undated photo shows Ryan and Laura Smith with their son Caleb. (Source: Ryan Smith, Facebook)
(Meredith) -- A U.S. mother fell into a ravine after she tried to escape a shepherd who fatally shot her husband and 4-year-old son in the country of Georgia, police said.
Ryan Smith and his wife, Lora, had been living in the Republic of Georgia for over 10 years, working to revive the traditional carpet weaving industry.
The Interior Ministry of Georgia said in a statement on Monday that a 20-year-old shepherd killed Smith and his toddler son, Caleb, on July 4 -- but authorities did not find their bodies until days later.
Police began searching for the Smiths last Friday at Khada Gorge, in the Dusheti region of Georgia, after a friend reported them missing. There, investigators found the family’s car and their personal belongings.
Within hours police recovered Lora’s body from the edge of a waterfall. The next day, they found Smith’s remains.
The 20-year-old suspect confessed to shooting Smith and Caleb with a hunting rifle and then hiding the boy’s body “in an avalanche,” according to police. The mother died after falling into the ravine while trying to escape.
Officials arrested the suspect, whose name has not been released, and charged him with premeditated murder. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Police believe the murder stemmed from a long-standing dispute between the shepherd and Smith, but officials did not provide further information.
According to his Facebook page, Smith was from San Diego and moved to Georgia in 2011, where he founded reWoven, a company that creates traditional handcrafted woven carpets.
His wife Lora, who he'd married in 2005, taught English through a Georgian government program. They both had dual citizenship in Georgia and the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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