Police still seeking tips in Woodland slaying

Posted Sept. 18, 2008, at 7:15 p.m.

WOODLAND, Maine — Despite an extensive investigation by Maine State Police detectives and numerous appeals to the public for assistance, the February 2008 homicide of Darrel Smith of Woodland remains unsolved.

In an attempt to move the investigation along, police are turning to an Aroostook County crime-solving tool to see whether they can identify who shot the 56-year-old to death inside a woodshed next to his Woodland home more than seven months ago.

Smith’s homicide is this month’s Aroostook County Crime Stoppers Crime of the Month, Sgt. Shawn Van Tasel of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department announced Thurs-day afternoon.

Crime Stoppers is a local non-profit organization that helps law enforcement officers solve crimes in The County, and encourages residents to be involved in reducing crime in the region.

By all accounts, Smith, who lived on Thomas Road with his wife, had no enemies. Friends of the couple said he was a hardworking man who would give anyone the shirt off his back.

At this point, state police believe robbery may have been the motive for the crime, and investigators have constructed a chain of crimes they believe may be linked to the Feb. 6 homicide.

Smith owned and operated Smith’s Sawmill and Logging and was found dead inside his workshop in the evening hours. State police said Smith was shot to death in the early after-noon. His wallet was taken and a safe was reported missing from the residence.

In the weeks after the homicide, investigators asked for the public’s help to locate the driver of a small, dark-colored pickup truck that was seen on Thomas Road around noon the day of the shooting. The vehicle had its hazard lights on and the hood was up, indicating the truck may have been having mechanical trouble.

State police Detective Sgt. John Cote has said that investigators believe several burglaries of safes in Aroostook County between August 2006 and February 2008 may be linked to the crime.

At the state police barracks in Houlton, detectives working on the case have created a map pinpointing 23 events — including the Smith homicide — in which safes, guns, money and other items were taken in residential burglaries.

The crimes have taken place in locations from Madawaska to Reed Plantation.

Cote said most of the crimes took place when people were not at home, and that those victimized arrived home to find their belongings missing.

In the Smith case, said Cote, investigators believe the killer was someone who had some knowledge of the sawmill, be-cause it looks like a private residence. Police say the person responsible for killing Smith at least had to know that the mill was there.

Investigators “have uncovered evidence relative to the crime,” according to Cote.

Family members and those close to Smith have been eliminated as suspects, according to investigators.

Anyone with information on the Smith homicide or any other crime is asked to call the Aroostook County Crime Stoppers at 800-638-8477. Callers do not have to identify themselves by name. Anyone providing information this month that leads to a grand jury indictment on this crime is eligible for a $1,000 award. Crime Stoppers also will pay for information on other felony crimes.

Added to the $1,000 award, the Smith family has posted a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Darrel Smith’s killer.

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