Son is charged with murdering father Man buried in yard in Southwest Baltimore

June 16, 1996|By Edward Lee and Marego Athans | Edward Lee and Marego Athans,SUN STAFF

For more than six months, no one had seen or heard from Thomas Randolph Smith Jr.

But Friday night, police investigating complaints about bad checks written on Smith's bank account found out where he was -- buried in the back yard in Southwest Baltimore under a row of tomato plants, slain with an ax.

Yesterday his son, Thomas Randolph Smith III, was charged with first-degree murder.

"All I could think of when the detective told me was Lizzie Borden, Lizzie Borden," said the victim's sister, Carol Ann Kraker, who reported her brother missing in April.

"This is the kind of stuff you read about that happens to somebody else. What is this world coming to? This is his own kid."

The body was uncovered behind the home in the 3000 block of Janice Ave. that was shared by father and son. The home is owned by the grandmother of the victim's estranged wife, according to police, the victim's sister and neighbors.

Agent Ragina L. Cooper, a police spokeswoman, said investigators believe that Smith, 44, was killed Dec. 6 in an argument over money. "The father and son began to fight, and [the son] claims he reacted in self-defense," Cooper said.

Cooper said the city police became involved early this month after they were contacted by authorities in Anne Arundel County about checks written in the elder Smith's name.

A warrant had been issued May 9, charging Smith with writing a bad check May 9 to McIntyre's Auto Repair in the 4000 block of Ritchie Highway.

The son, 21, had been charged with writing a bad check at the same business April 30, according to court records.

A dirt patch

In another incident, the son was found guilty in Anne Arundel District Court June 6 of one count of theft from the A & D Pawn Shop in the 700 block of Crain Highway North in Glen Burnie. He was given a 30-day suspended sentence and a year of probation, and ordered to serve 24 hours of community service.

In their investigation, city police found that the elder Smith had been reported missing April 17 by his sister.

An officer from the Missing Persons Unit went to the home to interview the victim's mother-in-law Wednesday and noticed a patch of dirt in the middle of the yard, about 6 feet by 5 feet, Cooper said. "It was the only patch without any grass on it."

Cooper said the officer also saw a pile of dirt next to the house and learned from several witnesses that the son had dug a 4-foot-deep hole in January.

That led to a search warrant and the discovery of the elder Smith. Kraker, the victim's sister, said yesterday that she started getting suspicious after hearing that friends of her brother were worried that he had stopped visiting a trailer he rented in the mountains, where he would go for weekly hunting and fishing jaunts.

But when she questioned the son, he told kept changing his story, at one point saying his father had gone to California because an uncle had died and he needed to make arrangements, Kraker said.

'It comes true'

During one of her visits, when no one answered the door, Kraker walked to the back yard and saw a large patch of dirt near the back porch, prompting her to alert police. She said she had the feeling her brother was buried there.

"I didn't verbalize it, because sometimes when you say it, it comes true," she said.

At one point, Kraker contacted her brother's office, Tri Star Freight Systems, where he worked as a forklift operator, and a personnel officer told her the last day co-workers had seen him was Dec. 4, when he left in good spirits and said, "I'll see you tomorrow."

The son, she was told, had tried to pick up his father's last paycheck, but the company wouldn't let it go.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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