Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Darren O'Neall

Skeletal Remains

Police search Greenwater area for Robin's remains (Gary C. King)
Police search Greenwater
area for Robin's remains
(Gary C. King)

On Monday, May 25, 1987, the day that Memorial Day was officially observed that year, skeletal remains were discovered by hikers in the same general wooded area previously searched by Edna and her family near Greenwater. It was the same area in which the psychic had directed Edna to search, and the remains were scattered over an area near a running stream. Some of the remains were collected, and several pieces of clothing and personal identification belonging to Robin were found nearby, partially buried beneath a rotting tree stump. Detective Stout, other investigators, and Explorer Scouts went out to the site and searched the area. Edna was notified that the remains could be those of her daughter's after a Pierce County medical examiner concluded that the bones belonged to a Caucasian female in her early 20s with blond hair.

After being told that more bones were needed, specifically jawbones and teeth, to make a positive identification, Edna again pushed the issue with the sheriff's department and insisted that a more thorough search of the area be conducted. She was told that searchers would go back out and excavate the wooded area just as soon as time and manpower allowed. But Edna couldn't wait for the sheriff's department, which was already overworked and understaffed due to budget cuts, and took it upon herself to go to the location to dig and search for the additional bones and teeth needed to make a positive identification. As a result of her efforts, which consisted of hands and knees searches over nearly a two-week period, she found the additional bones that were needed, including a jaw bone. After a dental comparison of the jawbone was conducted, the authorities positively concluded that the remains were indeed those of Robin Smith. Robin, said the police, had been beaten to death, likely with a heavy object such as a hammer. An additional search of the area turned up a rusty hammer in the nearby stream.

Robin's bloody sock and bone fragment (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Robin's bloody sock and bone
fragment
(Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)

By this time Larron Crowston became even more despondent over Robin's death despite the fact that he had done everything he could to help the police find her killer. He continued to blame himself for her death, saying that she would still be alive if he hadn't left her at O'Neall's apartment when he had gone fishing. Edna did everything she could to try and comfort him, to no avail. He eventually sought professional help and was placed on medication.

****

Meanwhile, on Saturday, June 13, 1987, while detectives in Washington and Oregon were busy running down leads to O'Neall's whereabouts, the nude body of Lia Elizabeth Szubert, 22, was discovered by a passing motorist along Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon, about 12 miles east of the town of La Grande, when the motorist stopped to relieve himself at the side of the road. Although it was near dusk, he spotted a frighteningly familiar form lying at the bottom of an embankment. When he investigated further he discovered much to his horror that it was the dead nude body of a rapidly decomposing young female. Horrified, he reported his grim discovery to the Oregon State Police. Following an autopsy, the cause of Szubert's death was listed as strangulation.

According to Detective James Howells of the Twin Falls, Idaho, police department, the case involving Szubert unfolded like this: Szubert was traveling alone from Twin Falls to Boise on Tuesday, June 9, 1987, en route to the airport to pick up her fiance, Duane Abbott, who was coming to visit her from San Diego, California. Along the way she developed car trouble and called a friend from a Gear Jammer truck stop near Mountain Home, Idaho, along Interstate 84. This was the last time anyone heard from her, and she was reported as a missing person later that evening. Several individuals at the truck stop described a male individual matching Darren O'Neall's description as having been present in the area of the truck stop prior to Szubert's disappearance. He was also spotted several times a couple of hundred miles to the north, in the Spokane, Washington area, several hours after Szubert's disappearance.

Meanwhile, Edna wanted to lay Robin to rest with a proper burial, but Robin's remains were kept in a Pierce County evidence locker. She threatened to get a court order to enable her to bury the remains, but was told that if and when O'Neall was apprehended, his lawyer could request that forensic experts examine the remains, which would mean that she would have to have them dug up. As a result Edna decided to wait to bury her daughter, and for the time being began praying at a memorial, complete with a statue of the Virgin Mary, for Robin that she had constructed in her backyard. She also traveled to the Greenwater area where she regularly placed flowers on the spot where most of Robin's remains were found.

 

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