Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

Principal Smith

Jay Smith outside court with his lawyer (AP/Wide World)
Jay Smith outside court with his
lawyer (AP/Wide World)

Jay Smith, the principal of Upper Merion, was a man of many quirks. For one thing, he always wore black suits. Sometimes they were ill fitting and when a secretary asked him about them he replied, "Believe it or not, I buy all my suits at the Salvation Army."

Students and teachers alike noted his dry, sardonic sense of humor. He enjoyed "open mike" session in which he would deliver messages to Upper Merion students over the school's public address system. "This is your principal speaking," a syrupy-voiced Jay Smith began in one such message. "There is a new regulation for gym clothes. You may wear yellow bottoms and blue tops. Or you may wear blue bottoms and yellow tops. I trust that this will please authoritarians in the faculty and not displease libertarians. But I have one caveat: In the winter it shall be the duty of each and every student to be encased in warm underwear."

A tall man with thinning hair and hooded eyes, Smith was a colonel in the Army Reserves and had always hoped to make general. He held a Ph. D. in education from Temple University.

The home life of the Smith family was troubled. Smith was married to a woman named Stephanie, who worked in dry cleaners and was given to white boots, form-fitting clothes and teased hair. She had a shapely figure and a wrinkled, hook-nosed face. She called everyone "hon" and had a folksy manner that contrasted sharply, even humorously, with her husband's sophisticated aura.

Their oldest daughter Stephanie was grown and married. She was a heroin addict like her husband Eddie, a fact that caused her parents much grief. Their younger daughter Sheri was better behaved but emotionally disturbed.

At least some of the problems that plagued Smith's marriage were due to his sexual proclivities. He subscribed to swingers' magazines, both gay and straight. Rumors of promiscuity persistently swirled about him, but he would admit to only one extra-marital affair. That was with the married female principal of an elementary school whom he addressed in letters as "lovewoman." His wife eventually left him but returned after coming down with cancer and lived with him until her death from that disease.

Although there is no evidence he actually practiced it, Smith had an interest in bestiality. He had many pornographic books on the subject of sex between people and animals. He worked this interest into at least one of his dry witticisms. When someone on the Upper Merion staff complained to him about the way the school was being run, Smith coolly replied, "You don't need this job anyway. You live on a farm, don't you? You should raise dogs. Men can never sexually satisfy a woman. If animals can help the blind they can be surrogate sex partners."

Sometimes when Susan Reinert was teaching a late class, she would leave Karen and Michael in the principal's office. Smith did not appreciate that and told his secretary, "I don't like teachers bringing their damn kids around school. We're not here to babysit."

"You'd have to like those kids," the secretary retorted. Both Michael and Karen were known as well behaved and unusually sweet kids.

"I don't like any kids," Smith said.

That attitude was only one of many things that made school principal seem a strange career for him.

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