Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Addicted to Murder: The True Story of Daniel Conahan Jr.

Panic

Upon discovery of the fourth and fifth victims, residents of Charlotte County were beginning to panic. Was it a neighbor? One of their friends? And worse, no one knew when he might strike again.

In each case, Charlotte County Medical Examiner R.H. Imami arrived, took notes and placed the remains in a body bag. Because of the humidity and weather, a body decomposes quickly in Florida, and the advanced state of decomposition made time of death almost impossible to determine. During interviews with local media, Imami said he believed one man was responsible for all of the murders.

Charlotte County Under Sheriff, Col. John Davenport, arranged a press conference and stated that there was cause for residents to be concerned, but not panicked.

"Do you have some mass murderer running around preying on the citizens out here? I don't think there's cause for alarm in that way," he said. "But we do not have that subject in custody that we know of, so there is cause for concern."

Charlotte County Sheriff's patch
Charlotte County Sheriff's patch

On April 17, 1996, the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office began to share notes with the North Port Police. A task force, comprising representatives from Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, North Port Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and state attorney's offices of Charlotte and Sarasota Counties were assembled. The group began meeting almost daily to work on the unsolved homicides. Lt. Mike Gandy, head of the major crimes unit for the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, stated that, although task force members were not attributing the murders to the work of a serial killer, they also were not ruling out the possibility.

"We're investigating that as we have been right down the line," he said during an interview with the News Coast Herald Tribune. "We haven't gotten to that point yet, but we're still looking into that possibility."

The following day, television news stations broadcast alerts warning residents that a possible serial killer was on the loose in the area. The reports stated the individual was either homosexual or bisexual and most likely a schizophrenic sociopath, who probably lived in the area. Local newspapers deemed the killings "utterly, vile and depraved," and dubbed the incidents, "The Hog Trail Killings," as all of the murders occurred in remote areas, which were inhabited by wild boars.

While processing the second body discovered with Montgomery, medical examiners discovered a faintly visible tattoo on the victim's shoulder region. Photos were taken and investigators asked the local media to publish them, in hopes it would help them identify the victim.

Theresa Smith, a Naples resident, called after seeing the picture of the tattoo. She told police she had not seen her brother in some time and he had a similar tattoo. Medical examiners obtained her brother's dental records and within days made a match.

Kenneth Smith
Kenneth Smith

The victim was Theresa's 25-year-old brother, Kenneth Lee Smith. Kenneth had been a Charlotte County resident, originally from Naples, Florida. Police did not have an address for Smith and did not know how long he had been living in Charlotte County. The only information police could assemble on Smith was that he had been arrested in Collier County in 1991, on charges of grand theft, eluding officers, driving with a suspended license, petty theft, resisting arrest and reckless driving. In addition, Smith had been arrested again in 1992, on a probation violation.

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