Conflicting Picture Of 22-year-old

His Family Says Dallas Jermaine Smith - Charged With Possessing A Pipe Bomb - Is Super-smart

August 17, 2009|By Tricia Bishop | Tricia Bishop,

Dallas Jermaine Smith was the kind of kid who read the dictionary cover to cover - encyclopedia, too.

He could be a "nuclear scientist" if he wanted, his dad told a police investigator. He can dismantle and rebuild a computer in no time, and he is his former foster mom's favorite ward. She called him "very special" in court documents.

But those records also show him to be a boy who built 21 pipe bombs by the time he was 13, when he detonated one in his mother's Temple Hills apartment, perhaps practice for the Los Angeles federal complex his personal journal said he wanted to target, according to FBI records from 2000.

Since then, he's declared social connections to the Bloods gang, spent time in at least three detention facilities and been arrested while carrying a "creditable WMD" recipe, according to the FBI.

On Monday, Smith is expected to appear in Baltimore Circuit Court to answer charges that he possessed another working pipe bomb - No. 22 of his known explosives - while standing near the University of Maryland BioPark facility in Poppleton last summer. It was in a yellow knapsack, along with all-black clothing that included Converse sneakers, leather gloves, a skull cap, a bandanna and a balaclava face mask.

Smith's attorney, who plans to argue to suppress that evidence, says the 22-year-old may just have too many brains and too little focus. Others suggest Smith is on his way to being the next Unabomber.

Law enforcement records and interviews with family come out somewhere in between, depicting a rebellious boy with tenuous family relationships and possible mental issues who grew into a young adult never adequately diagnosed, despite two years in a psychiatric facility.

"I never really did get a chance to know Dallas," said his maternal grandfather, Eddie Smith, who now lives at a senior center in Baltimore.

"I don't think he's that bad a child," he added, "if [only] he had somebody really to just get him the proper attention."

There's a lot of Smith's life missing in his court files, and multiple attempts to reach his parents were unsuccessful.

Smith's grandfather said his daughter got pregnant when she was still young and that the couple never married, passing the child back and forth to raise.

When he lived with his mother, he spent most of his time on the computer, never going to friends' houses and never bringing anyone home, said his grandfather's estranged wife, Gwendolyn Smith. She doesn't know why he became interested in the bombs or how he came to be charged with concealing a deadly weapon in 2005.

He was living in a juvenile detention facility when he was arrested in 2006 with the weapon recipe. He told the FBI he thought it was a formula for "meth."

"He would not listen to anything his father tried to tell him, so his father gave up on him, and his mother didn't want to be bothered," Gwendolyn Smith said.

Essie Audain, 82, took him into her Northwest Baltimore home, near the county line, when he was about 17. He graduated from high school while under her care.

"He was so different," she said. "Smart. I've never known a man that smart."

Smith told her he had "fluid on the brain." He said he'd been on his own since he was 7, sleeping in construction projects sometimes, returning to his parents' homes at other times. She didn't know about the bomb past.

Smith's latest arrest occurred in July 2008 in the 800 block of W. Baltimore St., on the city's west side.

According to police, a UM officer "observed a bulge sticking out" in the waistband area of Smith's right side and asked him what it was. A search and scuffle followed, and police found the explosive and the clothes. Smith has since been held without bail in the Baltimore City Detention Center.

He told investigators last year that he would have to join a gang "set" in jail to stay safe. He said he would "man up," that people would get killed if he talked.

Audain didn't recognize that person. She was used to the brilliant boy who reads the encyclopedia.

"I'm so confused about him," she said.

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