Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Unsolved Child Murder: Erica Heather Smith

Erica Heather Smith

Erica Heather Smith

Ashburn, Virginia, teen Erica Smith was only 14 on July 29, 2002, when she told her younger brother, Billie, 10, that she was going out to meet a friend. Erica had been watching her brother while her parents were at work, and said she would be back soon. That was around lunch time. Erica never got to the friend’s house and she never came home.

At the time Erica lived with her father, William “Pete” Smith, and her mother, Pam. She played soccer, basketball and had been a cheer leader in middle school. Growing into a beautiful young women, she of course talked on the phone incessantly with friends, some of them, her father noted, were male, but it all seemed like a harmless, normal part of growing up. When Erica didn’t come home that night, her parents got organized and called all her friends, but no one knew where Erica was or where she had been. Her parents quickly turned to the police for help, but Erica would not be found alive.

A map of the area where Erica's body was found. (Click to Enlarge)

The pump house and a map of the area where Erica's body was found. (Click to Enlarge)

Her body was found by hikers 11 days later in a shallow grave, in a wooded area along Broad Run Creek. Specifically, she was found near an old pump house between Waxpool Road and Loudoun County Parkway across from Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia. Police have very little evidence to go on, but they do believe that the killer may have returned to the secluded party spot more than once. Anyone that frequented that spot between 2001 and 2002 might have seen the killer.

Erica did leave behind a diary that detailed her secret life, one that her family did not know about. Her parents were heartbroken to find out that their 14-year-old child had been in telephone contact with men as old as 21, whom she sometimes met at a gas station near the house, some of whom she had had sexual encounters with. In one entry Erica claimed to have become pregnant, but her friends assured Erica’s parents that it was a lie that she often told to keep her lovers from leaving her. Police and her family alike wonder if a false pregnancy scare hadn’t been part of her killer’s motive.

A male friend of Erica’s told police that the day she disappeared she called him to boast that she was meeting a man, who had just returned from Europe, and that he was taking her shopping. Erica was found wearing the same clothes she had on when she was last seen, leading police to believe that whoever picked her up dumped her body that day.

Eica Heather Smith

Eica Heather Smith

Ten years after the murder Loudoun County formed a cold-case detective team that has been reviewing the evidence, statements to police and the timeline, with some success, though no specifics have been released.

Hairs collected at the time Erica’s body was found were tested in 2002, and were re-submitted for testing and DNA analysis in 2012, but no results have been made public at this time. A sticker that could be a label or tag possibly from a European manufacturer was found near Erica’s body, but investigators have not been able to identify it.

At a candlelight vigil on the 10th anniversary of Erica’s murder, Leesburg Today reported that her father told the assembled mourners, “We still seek justice, and we will continue to seek justice until the day we die.” Her mother told the group of 50 people, “It has been 10 long years and it has not been easy,” she added “I still see her smiling at me. I still see joking with me. I still hear her saying, ‘Mom, I love you.’” Her family has not given up on finding Erica’s killer.

Anyone with a tip or any information on the case of Erica Smith is strongly urged to contact the Loudoun County Sherriff’s office at 703-777-1919, or to call Crime Solvers at 1-877-777-1931. A form was set up for anonymous tips through the Loudoun County government website.

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