Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sex, Lies & Murder: The Pamela Smart Case

"Red Flags"

Greg Smart, victim
Greg Smart, victim

Gregory Smart was dead. Nothing could change that, not the ambulance attendants that swiftly came to his aid, nor the Derry police that came with it. At 11:19 an investigator for the New Hampshire Medical Examiner's office would make it official. The yellow tape was quickly secured around the small townhouse to protect the integrity of the crime scene.

The Summerhill Condominiums was only a mile from the town's police headquarters so it was only a short while later that Capt. Loring Jackson, dark haired and heavyset, drove up in his unmarked maroon LTD Crown Victoria to assemble his detectives. Detectives Daniel Pelletier and Barry Charewicz were assigned to the case.

Murders were rare in Derry, New Hampshire, a quiet, peaceful town, population 32,000. In fact, this was the only homicide in Derry that year. Burglaries too were relatively rare. On the surface, the crime scene looked like a bungled burglary, but Capt. Jackson was used to looking below the surface. A police officer since 1966, at 48-years-old he had the sharp eye for detail, first developed when he had once trained as a commercial artist. This skill transferred over into his work at crime scenes, where he could identify the shapes and shadows that appeared to fit and those that did not. It did not take long for Jackson to notice a series of "red flags".

Much did not fit in his viewing of the crime scene at unit 4E, leaving many unanswered questions. "The scene stunk to high heaven," Capt. Jackson recalled 10 years later. "Not much was making sense. No sign of forced entry? A nighttime burglary in a densely populated area? An execution-style killing?"

Jackson did not think that it was a burglary, "No signs of a struggle. Burglars don't usually fight. They don't pack guns. There were red flags all over the place." Even if it was a burglary, the police know that burglars don't usually go armed. Crime statistics show that burglars rarely commit homicide, and when they do kill, it is not execution-style the way Gregory Smart was murdered.

The crime scene also appeared to be staged. Staging is a way for someone to alter the crime scene before the police arrive, but this is harder to do than it sounds. An article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin mentions staging: "Offenders who stage crime scenes usually make mistakes because they arrange the scene to resemble what they believe it should look like. In so doing, offenders experience a great deal of stress and do not have the time to fit all the pieces together logically. As a result, inconsistencies in forensic findings and in the overall 'big picture' of the crime scene will begin to appear. These inconsistencies can serve as the 'red flags' of staging, which serve to prevent investigations from becoming misguided."

In cases involving a domestic homicide, the first suspects to be ruled out are those closest to them, family members, such as the spouse. In this case, Pamela Smart, Greg's young bride, had an airtight alibi. She had been at a school meeting in coastal Hampton some 35 miles southeast of Derry.

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