WOODLAND, Maine — Over the past four years, Maine State Police detectives have followed up on countless leads in the case of a 56-year-old man who was killed inside the sawmill he operated adjacent to his home. Despite diligent work, none of the tips have led to the killer.
But shortly after the four-year anniversary in February, the reward for information leading police to the killer of Darrel Smith hit $60,000. That has boosted hopes that someone will come forward with information to help detectives crack the case wide open.
“We have new and updated information that comes into this case almost weekly,” state police Detective Sgt. John Cote said during a recent interview. “And we have a detective who reviews it. I think that all that it will take is just that one little piece of information to lead us to the killer or killers. This is an active case.”
The reward stood at $40,000 just before the four-year anniversary of the killing, which took place on Feb. 6, 2008. Smith was alone when someone walked into his small sawmill on Thomas Road in Woodland, robbed him and shot him to death. They left his body for his wife, Barbara, to find.
Smith owned and operated Smith’s Sawmill and Logging, which was next to his home in this community of about 1,400 that abuts Caribou in Aroostook County.
State police said Smith was shot to death in the early afternoon, and they believe robbery may have been the motive. He was found dead inside his workshop in the evening.
Smith’s wallet was taken and a safe was missing from the residence.
Since Smith had no signs advertising the establishment and word of mouth was used to secure business, police believe that his killer or killers had to be familiar with the sawmill. It looks like a private residence. Police believe the perpetrator or perpetrators also knew he was running a cash-only business and would have money on hand since he did not accept credit or debit cards at his facility.
“I don’t know if he knew his killer,” Cote said. “But we believe they had to be familiar with the sawmill and know that he would have cash on hand there.”
Police have not released details about the crime scene or said whether there were signs of a struggle. They have recovered the safe and the weapon used to kill Smith, but would not comment on where the items were found.
Multiple pieces of evidence have been submitted to the State Police Crime Lab in Augusta for examination, and some of the evidence also has been sent to FBI laboratories for analysis.
Over the past few years, police have characterized Smith as a simple, hardworking man who was well-liked. No one has come forward to give police the name of any enemy he might have had. Investigators have looked at the family and those close to the victim and eliminated them as suspects.
Cote said that police are still looking for 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.
“That truck remains of interest to us,” he said. “We want to know if it played a role in the murder. Was someone sitting in the truck waiting for the victim to leave his house and go into the sawmill? We don’t know.”
Cote said that one of the most frustrating things for detectives is that they continue to hear that the identity of the killer is an “open secret” in the community.
“Despite that, no one will come forward to police,” he said. “But donations keep coming in to the reward fund, and that is very encouraging. To us, that shows that the support for the family is increasing.”
Members of the public who have any information about the crime are encouraged to call the Maine State Police at 800-924-2261 or Crime Stoppers at 800-638-TIPS.