WOODLAND, Maine — It has been one year since someone entered Darrell Smith’s workshop on Thomas Road in this Aroostook County town, shot him to death and made off with his wallet and a safe containing an undisclosed amount of cash.
Investigators today are still working the case as hard as they did at this time last year, state police Detective Sgt. John Cote said Thursday.
And they are confident they are getting closer to solving the crime.
“We continue to work this case on a daily basis, and we have had new developments in the last few weeks,” Cote said in a telephone interview. “We have recovered some very critical evidence, but the victim’s wallet is still missing.”
Cote said he could not elaborate on what the recovered evidence was.
Smith, 56, was found dead inside the workshop on the evening of Feb. 6, 2008.
Smith owned and operated Smith’s Sawmill and Logging.
State police said Smith had been shot to death during the early afternoon that day and that robbery may have been the motive. The victim’s wallet remains unaccounted for and a safe is missing from the home.
In the weeks after the killing, investigators asked for the public’s help to find 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.
The Smith family subsequently posted a $30,000 reward for anyone who could provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of Smith’s killer
The reward is still being offered, and police said they are still looking for anyone who might have seen that truck.
“We really want to emphasize that we are seeking any information, no matter how insignificant someone thinks it is,” Cote said. “It is those little pieces of the puzzle that we are going to put together and solve this.”
Cote said police departments across Aroostook County are working together to solve the crime and are freely sharing any information they think might be helpful. Investigators also are working with officials at the Maine State Police crime lab in Augusta.
Investigators continue to probe whether several burglaries of safes that have occurred in Aroostook County between August 2006 and the present may be linked to the crime. They also are exploring whether another string of burglaries could be connected to Smith’s death.
At the Maine State Police barracks in Houlton, detectives who are working on the case have created a map pinpointing events — including Smith’s death — in which safes, guns, money and other items were taken in residential burglaries.
The crimes have taken place in locations ranging from Madawaska to Reed Plantation.
Cote said most of the crimes have occurred while people were not at home. People have simply arrived back home to discover they have been victims, he said.
Just last week, thieves broke into the Ashland Food Mart in Ashland, forcing open a safe and stealing an undisclosed amount of cash. Cote said police are considering whether that could be tied to the burglary spree or the Smith homicide.
Burglaries also occurred last year at several Aroostook County town offices.
In the Smith case, investigators say they believe the killer was someone who had some knowledge of the mill, as it resembles a private home.
Smith had no enemies, according to police, and was a “well-liked, hardworking” man. His family members and those close to him have been eliminated as suspects.
Cote said the Smith family is kept abreast of the homicide investigation.
“We are confident that we are getting closer to solving this case, but we do not want to move forward prematurely,” he said. “It takes time to solve these cases. That is why we are stressing to the public to come forward with any information they may have. There is no information that is insignificant.
“This case is just as important to us now as it was on February 6, 2008,” Cote said.
Anyone who has information about the Smith case is asked to call the state police barracks at 800-924-2261 or Aroostook County Crime Stoppers at 800-638-8477.