Three years later, Woodland homicide still unsolved

Posted Feb. 12, 2011, at 5:05 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 8:36 p.m.
Barbara Smith of Woodland holds two photographs of her late husband Darrel, whose murder remains unsolved after three years. The Feb. 6, 2008, homicide remains an open and active case.
Barbara Scott | Aroostook Republican & News
Barbara Smith of Woodland holds two photographs of her late husband Darrel, whose murder remains unsolved after three years. The Feb. 6, 2008, homicide remains an open and active case.

WOODLAND, Maine — Just over three years ago, someone walked into 56-year-old Darrel Smith’s sawmill on Thomas Road in Woodland, robbed him and shot him to death.

They left his body for his wife to find.

Maine State Police have been investigating the case nearly daily since the Feb. 6, 2008, incident, but to date have not arrested or charged anyone in connection with the killing.

“We continue to work the case and we receive information almost on a daily basis,” state police Detective Sgt. John Cote said Friday. “But often that information comes to us third- or fourth-hand and usually isn’t as promising as we initially hoped. But this remains on people’s minds and they are continually passing us information, so it leaves us hopeful that the information will eventually help us solve the case.”

Smith was found shot to death in his shop at his residence. Smith owned and operated Smith’s Sawmill and Logging, which was next to his home on Thomas Road. He was found dead inside his workshop in the evening by his wife, Barbara Smith.

State police said Smith was shot to death in the early afternoon, and they believe robbery may have been the motive. Smith’s wallet was taken and a safe was missing from the residence.

Cote said Friday that police have always believed the killer or killers was familiar with the sawmill, which looks like a private residence. Smith had no signs advertising the establishment.

“It was basically a word-of-mouth business in the Caribou area,” said Cote. “If you were just driving by, you wouldn’t know that someone was operating a sawmill in there. We believe the perpetrator or perpetrators knew he was running a cash-only business.”

Smith did not accept credit or debit cards at his facility, according to police.

Cote said he could not comment on the crime scene or say whether there were signs of a struggle. Police have recovered the safe and the murder weapon, but would not comment on where the items were found.

Smith’s wallet is still missing.

Cote said multiple items of evidence related to the crime have been recovered and submitted to the State Police Crime Lab in Augusta for examination during the last 36 months. DNA evidence also is being examined by forensics experts.

“We have chosen the best labs to look at this evidence so that we can get as much information as possible,” said Cote.

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 that he might have had. Investigators have looked at the family and those close to the victim and eliminated them as suspects.

“Three years later, there is nothing about Smith’s life that we don’t know,” Cote said. “And as far as that aspect goes, nothing has changed. As far as we know, he has no enemies. He was well-liked, a well-respected family man.”

Cote acknowledged that rumors and speculation about the possible killer or killers still circulate in the community and that information has been passed on to police, but no one has come forward with solid, direct, credible information to assist investigators.

“It is very important that we not be hasty, because we only get one shot at this,” Cote said Friday. “If we charge someone and go to trial and it is not successful, that is it.”

Cote said investigators have received a great deal of support from the Caribou Police Department and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

“They have assisted us and passed on information they have learned,” he said.

In the months after the murder, detectives working on the case 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 took place in locations from Madawaska to Reed Plantation between August 2006 and early 2008.

Police no longer believe the cases are linked, as some of the burglaries that occurred during that time have been solved, making them less likely to be connected to the homicide.

At the same time, Cote said, police still believe robbery was the motive. He said robberies have become more common in Aroostook County and around the state, as individuals with escalating drug problems seek out money to fund their habit.

Cote said investigators hope offers of cash rewards will help bring critical information to light and they remain in touch with Barbara Smith.

Barbara Smith said Saturday that the pain of her husband’s loss remains with her every day. She still lives in Woodland and hopes the reward fund will convince someone to come forward.

“It hasn’t had much of an impact so far, but I am still hoping,” she said. “My family feels the same way.”

His death, she said, “still seems like it happened yesterday,” adding that it is hard for her to accept that the person who killed her husband is still walking around freely.

She asked anyone with information about the crime to come forward.

The Smith family initially offered a $30,000 reward for information and increased it in 2009 to $40,000, a record amount for any Maine State Police case. Since then, a separate reward fund of close to $15,000 has been established. Police hope the rewards will lead to information that results in the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for Smith’s death.

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.

WOODLAND, Maine — Just over three years ago, someone walked into 56-year-old Darrel Smith’s sawmill on the Thomas Road in Woodland, robbed him, and shot him to death.

They left his body for his wife to find.

Maine State Police have been investigating the case on nearly a daily basis since the Feb. 6, 2008, murder, but to date have not arrested or charged anyone in connection with the killing.

“We continue to work the case and we receive information almost on a daily basis,” state police Detective Sgt. John Cote said Friday. “But often that information comes to us third or fourth hand and usually isn’t as promising as we initially hoped. But this remains on people’s minds and they are continually passing us informa-tion, so it leaves us hopeful that the information will eventually help us solve the case.”

Smith was found shot to death in his shop at his residence. Smith owned and operated Smith’s Sawmill and Logging, which was next to his home on Thomas Road. He was found dead inside his workshop in the evening by his wife, Barbara Smith.

State police said Smith was shot to death in the early afternoon and they believe robbery may have been the motive. Smith’s wallet was taken and a safe was missing from the residence.

Cote said Friday that police have always believed the killer or killers was familiar with the sawmill, which looks like a private residence. Smith had no signs advertising the establishment.

“It was basically a word of mouth business in the Caribou area,” said Cote. “If you were just driving by, you wouldn’t know that someone was operating a sawmill in there. We believe the perpetrator or perpetrators knew he was running a cash-only business.”

Smith did not accept credit or debit cards at his facility, according to police.

Cote said he could not comment on the crime scene or say if there were signs of a struggle. Police have recovered the safe and the murder weapon, but would not comment on where the items were found.

Smith’s wallet, however, is still missing.

Cote said multiple items of evidence related to the crime have been recovered and submitted to the State Police Crime Lab in Augusta for examination during the last 36 months. DNA evidence also is being examined by forensics experts.

“We have chosen the best labs to look at this evidence so that we can get as much information as possible,” said Cote.

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 that he might have had. Investigators have looked at the family and those close to the victim and eliminated them as suspects.

“Three years later, there is nothing about Smith’s life that we don’t know,” Cote said. “And as far as that aspect goes, nothing has changed. As far as we know, he has no enemies. He was well-liked, a well-respected family man.”

Cote acknowledged that rumors and speculation about the possible killer or killers are still circulating in the community and that information has been passed on to police, but no one has come forward with solid, direct, credible information to assist investigators.

“It is very important that we not be hasty, because we only get one shot at this,” Cote said Friday. “If we charge someone and go to trial and it is not successful, that is it.”

Cote said investigators have received a great deal of support from the Caribou Police Department and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.

“They have assisted us and passed on information they have learned,” he said.

In the months after the murder, detectives working on the case 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 took place in locations from Madawaska to Reed Plantation between August 2006 and early 2008.

Police no longer believe the cases are linked, as some of the burglaries that occurred during that time have been solved, making them less likely to be connected to the homicide.

At the same time, Cote said, police still believe robbery was the motive. He said robberies have become more common in Aroostook County and around the state, as individuals with escalating drug problems seek out money to fund their habit.

Cote said investigators remain in touch with Barbara Smith. She has declined to speak publicly about the case, other than through a written statement in 2009 expressing the hurt and sadness that still grips her in the aftermath of the murder. She asked anyone with information about the crime to come forward.

She could not be reached for comment over the weekend.

Police are hoping that a substantial reward offered to anyone who provides information that results in the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for Smith’s death will help. The Smith family initially offered a $30,000 reward for information and increased it in 2009 to $40,000, a record amount for any Maine State Police case.

Since then, a separate reward fund of close to $15,000 has been established.

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 1-800-638-TIPS.

Similar articles:

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business