CANDIA, N.H. — A man appeared in court Wednesday on charges he beat his wife to death with a flashlight, but authorities still haven’t said who killed the couple’s 4-year-old son, who was found strangled alongside his mother.
Christopher Smeltzer, 37, of Auburn was arrested late Tuesday and charged with second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Mara Pappalardo Smeltzer, 39. She and son Mason were found dead Monday in the couple’s home, and her husband and the couple’s 7-year-old daughter were taken to a hospital for treatment of undisclosed injuries.
Smeltzer was arraigned Wednesday in Candia District Court, where he entered no plea and did not speak other than to answer “yes” when asked if he accepted his court-appointed lawyer. According to a complaint filed with the court, he is accused of killing his wife by hitting her in the head multiple times with a flashlight. The medical examiner also said she died by ligature strangulation.
Arrest warrants and affidavits in the case were sealed; Public Defender John Newman argued that he should be able to see them so he could prepare for Smeltzer’s next court appearance, expected later this month. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young objected, and several minutes after they approached Judge David LeFrancois, he ruled to keep the documents sealed.
Young later said authorities still were investigating the circumstances of Mason’s death.
“The house is still being searched, interviews are being conducted, and that will continue over the next several days, if not several weeks,” Young said. “We are trying to protect the integrity of the investigation to make sure we can get all the evidence to determine what happened in that residence.”
Other court records show that Mara Smeltzer had filed a petition seeking custody of the children in September. She told a Salem family court judge she was homeless and living with her mother-in-law, and that she couldn’t afford to pay any court fees at the time but would once she was back on her feet. There is no indication the petition was ever served on her husband.
In court Wednesday, several of Smeltzer’s supporters yelled encouraging words at him as he left the courtroom. Others spoke after the arraignment saying he was an excellent father who would do anything for his children. Outside, about 10 of Mara Smeltzer’s friends and relatives stood by as her sister Michele Harris read a statement.
Harris said the family’s focus is on 7-year-old Mercey Smeltzer and ensuring she is cared for, and said the loss of Mason at such a young age was unbearable.
“His chubby little cheeks and his big smiles will remain in our hearts forever,” she said.
Harris described her sister as a devoted mother.
“We will miss her beautiful smile, the sound of her laugh and her shiny black hair,” she said.