AUGUSTA — Leroy Herbert Smith III, accused of killing his father last weekend in the Gardiner home they shared, yelled that he is a “political prisoner” following his first court appearance Thursday.
Smith, who was ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation, told case investigators he killed his father and then “filleted him and buried him in the woods because his dad sexually assaulted him his whole life,” according to affidavit by Maine State Police Detective Jonah C. O’Roak. There is no record of Leroy Herbert Smith Jr. on a sex offender registry in the U.S.
The affidavit disclosed grim details about the slaying, alleging that Smith killed his father by stabbing him in the jugular, dismembered the body and spread the remains among 16 trash bags.
Smith, 24, was charged Tuesday with the murder of Leroy Smith Jr., 56, and then disposing of the body in a rural wooded area of Richmond.
Justice Donald Marden on Thursday read the charge against Smith of intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder and told him it carries a penalty of 25 years to life in prison.
Standing with attorney Pam Ames, who was appointed to represent him in the case, Smith responded briefly to the judge’s questions by saying “correct” in a loud voice when asked about his name and whether he understood the charges.
As he left the courtroom to return to the Kennebec County jail, Smith hollered to the assembled news media representatives: “I’m a political prisoner held as a patient.” He then called out his Twitter nickname and also referred to himself as “God” and “Lord.”
His Twitter profile Thursday morning appeared to show a photo of Smith giving an obscene hand gesture. His last tweets on the social media site, on Sunday, include “I have no magic!” and “ … you have some spare time on your hands, and my father is dead (he is done writing songs for you most of the time).” There are also several nonsensical tweets that suggest he is speaking as God.
Smith allegedly has referred to himself as God in front of Massachusetts and Maine police, and he also suggested he was affiliated with the Hells Angels.
Smith allegedly told police he killed his father because of a history of sexual assault, a claim the younger Smith made at least once on his Facebook page. Family members, citing a desire to not impede the police investigation, would not talk about the assault claims.
A public records search indicates that neither the younger nor the elder Smith had criminal convictions in Massachusetts. The father was convicted of driving with a suspended license in Maine in 2008. Westborough, Mass. Police Chief Alan Gordon told New England Cable News that his department had interaction with the elder Smith in the early 1990s because of reported domestic disputes. It was unclear whether the elder Smith ever was arrested, and Gordon did not return a call seeking clarification.
A written request for an interview with Smith at the Augusta jail was denied Thursday.
“In speaking with mental health personnel at the jail, it would not be in Mr. Smith’s best interests right now,” said Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Ryan Reardon.
Smith graduated from Algonquin (Mass.) Regional High School with honors in 2008, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported Thursday. Smith posted a profile on BeRecruited.com before his graduation, seeking a spot on a college hockey team, in which he claimed to be 6 feet tall and weigh 185 pounds. Court documents list him at 5-feet-11 and 155 pounds.
“I am a hard working, dedicated athlete committed to doing the job the right way,” he wrote. “I get the job done.”
Leroy Smith Jr.’s brother, Edward P. Smith, of Northboro, Mass., told the Telegram that his nephew, Leroy Smith III, was kicked out of the Northboro home he shared with his mother, Linda Brigham, and her husband months ago. Smith lived briefly on his own in Westborough before getting into trouble and moving to Maine.
A woman who answered the phone at Brighams’ home Thursday would not comment. Family genealogy records posted online indicate that Brigham, 49, was Linda Jeanne Carter when she married Leroy Smith Jr. in April 1988. Leroy Herbert Smith III was born about 17 months later. Available records did not indicate when the couple divorced, but friends said Leroy Smith Jr. moved to Maine about 15 years ago to make new start.
Edward P. Smith, who did not return a call Thursday seeking additional comment, told the Telegram that his brother “was a pretty good guy” who moved to Maine because he owed his ex-wife money and could pay her a little at a time. Edward P. Smith told the Telegram that his brother wanted to help Leroy Smith III because he had been getting into trouble. The men lived together a little more than a month when Leroy Smith Jr. discovered that his son suffered from mental illness, Edward P. Smith said.
Leroy Smith III was arrested Monday morning on a warrant citing a harassment charge in Massachusetts.
Smith was banned from his apartment building in Westborough, Mass., last fall after he started to upset other tenants and the landlord, Gordon said. Smith also reportedly set his guitar and amplifier on fire in the backyard because “he believed they were emitting evil music,” Gordon said.
The younger Smith was served with a protection-from-harassment order on Oct. 29 and violated it on Oct. 30, Gordon said. The town’s court issued a warrant for his arrest when Smith failed to show up for his December court date.
After the initial protection order was issued, the Secret Service contacted police to say they wanted to question Smith about threats he allegedly made against President Barack Obama. Gordon said the FBI had launched an investigation into the allegation.
On Thursday, Marden ordered that Smith undergo a forensic evaluation of his mental health, a move supported by both the defense and prosecutor.
According to the affidavit filed in court, Smith told police he stabbed his father in the head and neck and then used three knives to “dismember his father” — a Ginsu knife and an Asian-style knife and an unidentified third weapon. The state medical examiner found that the elder Smith was stabbed to death, saying he died of “sharp force trauma,” according to investigators.
Smith told police he videotaped the killing and the FBI “told him to put a video of the event on YouTube” but said he later deleted the video.
The younger Smith then cleaned up everything — even renting a carpet steamer — and took $1,463 from his father’s wallet.
Steve Marson, owner of River Road Variety on Route 24 in south Gardiner, just two-tenths of a mile from the Smiths’ Cannard Street apartment, said the younger Smith came into the convenience store five times in a four-hour period Saturday. That included once around 7:30 p.m., when Marson was in the store, though he didn’t wait on him personally.
After a police officer came into the store Monday to ask about the crime, Marson said police reviewed the store’s security camera footage and cash register records from Saturday and found Smith had bought multiple cleaning products.
“Now that the whole thing has come out, you can see he was trying to clean up his mess,” Marson said. “He bought stuff you’d use to clean up messes — ammonia, bleach, paper towels, trash bags.”
Marson said the younger Smith occasionally came into the store. He was quiet some days, but that Saturday he chatted with the store’s clerks casually, “like nothing was wrong, like the average guy coming into the store, buying stuff.”
Marson said the elder Smith was a regular in the store, grabbing coffee and a breakfast sandwich every Monday through Friday, very early in the morning.
“He was a very hardworking guy, working and taking care of responsibilities,” Marson said of the elder Smith. “It’s a sad situation. His father was a wonderful man whose mission in life was just to survive and pay his bills.”
The steam cleaner, according to a police affidavit, didn’t come from Marson’s store. Smith told police it came from the Hannaford supermarket in Gardiner, about four miles away, and he walked there and back.
Police have said Smith was known for walking for long distances in Gardiner and Richmond.
Marson said a customer said she saw Smith walking on Route 24, dragging the steam cleaner behind him, near Cottage Street, three miles north of the Cannard Street apartment.
On Sunday, Smith drove his father’s Jeep to Westbrook, where he flagged down a police officer and asked directions to Dreamers, a strip club that operated there briefly several years ago. The officer looked up Smith’s identification, found a report about the outstanding arrest warrant from Massachusetts and took him to the Cumberland County Jail.
At the jail, Smith “made excited utterances that he killed his father,” O’Roak’s affidavit states, and gave police directions on a map to find his father’s remains. When an initial search proved unsuccessful, Smith added that he had also discarded a coffee table and other furniture parts, and police said they found the furniture with what looked like blood stains.
Smith apologized to investigators for discarding furniture in the woods.
Police found body parts in 16 dark trash bags as well as a T-shirt and other blood-stained clothing off Lincoln Street in Richmond, according to the affidavit. One of the first bags opened contained a jeans-clad human leg.
Friends of the elder Smith — and later police — had gone to the apartment looking for him last weekend, but the son told them his father had gone away and would return Monday.
Smith told police he first discarded the body parts in a Dumpster outside the apartment, but later retrieved them after realizing they had not been carted away. His climbing into and out of the Dumpster to remove items piqued the curiosity of neighbors, who told the Kennebec Journal that they saw him in the trash bin during a rainstorm on Sunday and found it strange.
He told police he put them into a vehicle, and police said they thought he meant his father’s 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and then dumped the bags in Richmond. Smith told police he planned to return to bury the body on Monday.
Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea said Thursday the state would request a Harnish hearing, a special proceeding under which the state can take away Smith’s right to be released on bail. Meantime, Marden ordered Smith held without bail.
The long-haired, bearded Smith, in shackles and in a yellow jail uniform, did not enter a plea Thursday morning.
Ames, Smith’s attorney, told the judge she needed time to evaluate a number of statements Smith already has made to investigators before she could file any pretrial motions.
Since the tip that led police to his father’s remains in Richmond, police have been combing the woods in Richmond and South Gardiner seeking evidence of homemade fireworks signaling devices that might have been planted by the younger Smith. On Thursday, investigators were searching the area from a helicopter and along railroad tracks.
Staff Writers Craig Crosby and Keith Edwards contributed to this report.