Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Darren O'Neall

Robin is Missing

Upon returning from his fishing trip, Larron discovered that Robin had not returned home. He and Robin's mother, Edna, became exceedingly worried about her well being after being unable to locate anyone who knew where she was. Fearing for Robin's safety, Larron and Edna reported Robin missing to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.

Detective Walt Stout (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Detective Walt Stout
(Pierce County
Sheriff's Dept.)

As the missing person investigation got underway, Mary Barnes told Pierce County detectives Walter "Walt" Stout and Terry Wilson that she had left the apartment the morning of the party for a few hours, but when she returned in the afternoon both O'Neall and Smith were gone, as was O'Neall's car. After a search of the apartment, Barnes informed authorities that O'Neall had taken food, camping gear, clothing, and other items. She also discovered that an electrical cord to the television was missing, which she as well as the detectives considered very strange.

According to Barnes, O'Neall often carried a knife on his belt and another hidden in his boot. She also said that O'Neall claimed to have knowledge of survivalist skills obtained from his prior enlistment in the Army Rangers and Green Berets, but the detectives were unable to find any evidence that he was ever a member of either of the elite military groups, only that he had been an enlistee in the regular army. Barnes told the investigators that O'Neall dressed primarily in western wear, including cowboy hats, boots, and jeans. In addition to having worked as a bartender and a laminator in a cabinet-making shop, the detectives learned that O'Neall exhibited considerable talent in woodworking skills. Barnes corroborated information from other sources that O'Neall was also known to frequently change his appearance through hair growth and cutting, adding and removing a mustache and beard, and sometimes wearing wire-rimmed glasses.

Later on the day that Robin failed to return home, O'Neall showed up at a friend's home at 1:30 p.m. driving a 1972 Chrysler New Yorker with Montana license plates. He explained that he was going away for awhile, but did not indicate where he was going or for how long he would be gone. O'Neall asked to borrow some money from his friend for a truck that he claimed he wanted to buy, and dropped off one of his dogs for his friend to watch for him during his absence. O'Neall's friend accompanied him to the car, which was backed into a driveway across the street, and noticed while they were talking that something was kicking hard against the back seat from inside the trunk. When his friend asked him what was inside the trunk, O'Neall explained that he was having difficulty with his other dog and had locked it inside the trunk as a form of punishment.

"I told him, 'That's sick. You don't put a dog in the trunk,'" the friend explained later when he talked to the police. "Then I walked away without writing him the check, and he drove off."

Detective Terry Wilson (Gary C. King)
Detective Terry Wilson
(Gary C. King)

O'Neall's friend told Detective Wilson that O'Neall had seemed very nervous, like he was hiding something, and stressed that he had not heard any dog barking from inside the trunk. Later, Robin's relatives discovered that the second dog, the one that was supposed to have been in the trunk, was still at O'Neall's apartment, apparently abandoned.

Later that night at a nearby hospital emergency room, a man requested treatment for facial cuts and scrapes. The man fit O'Neall's description: a teardrop mark on his cheek and the word "J-U-N-E" tattooed across his knuckles. The following morning a man walked into the Safeway grocery store in Enumclaw, Washington, a man believed to be O'Neall. He purchased pastry, cigarettes, and Black Label beer.

Two hours later a flagman noticed someone in a car second in a line of cars in the Greenwater area near Mount Rainier waiting to get past roadwork. Unlike the others, the man did not have skis, even though he was headed toward the mountain. Also unlike the others, the man drove on by, pulled off the road, waited for twenty minutes, then returned the way he had come. The investigators eventually believed that the man seen by the flagman was none other than Darren O'Neall. It was at that time, they eventually theorized after no sign of Robin was ever found, that he pulled off the highway onto a rugged logging road and disposed of Robin Smith's body.

Robin's relatives, friends, and acquaintances soon told the investigators that it was completely out of character for Robin to just leave with O'Neall, especially since she was engaged to Crowston, and a missing person report was finally filed when deputies followed up on the initial reports called in by Edna and Larron. In those reports Robin was described as wearing blue jeans, a pink-and-white shirt, purple coat and white tennis shoes. She had a quarter-inch scar above her left eye. Similarly, an APB was issued for O'Neall, in which he was described as 5 feet 11 inches, 170 pounds, medium build, blond hair, blue eyes, and a light complexion. It also described a vertical scar on his right cheek, a six-inch surgical scar on his abdomen, a small, barely visible five-point-tip star tattoo below his left eye, and the name "J-U-N-E" tattooed on the knuckles of his left hand. Though there was no sign of O'Neall or Robin, Robin's family and fiance did not give up the hope that she was still alive.

Robin's coat found in the car trunk (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
Robin's coat found in the car trunk
(Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)

Another day passed, and on Monday, March 30, 1987, the dark yellow Chrysler O'Neall was known to drive was found abandoned at a rest stop 15 miles north of Everett, Washington, north of Seattle, along the northbound lanes of Interstate 5. Though the car was the clue that almost got away, it was eventually linked to O'Neall and investigators opened the trunk. Inside the detectives found the blood-soaked jacket that belonged to Robin Smith, two teeth, a bone fragment, and a heavily blood stained interior. The cops suspected that Robin had been beaten severely with a hammer or some other heavy instrument while held captive in the trunk of O'Neall's car. No longer did the detectives hold out much hope that Robin was still alive. Nonetheless, Edna continued to grasp a thin thread of hope and refused to believe that the worst had happened.

The trunk of O'Neall's car containing items of Robin's clothing (Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)
The trunk of O'Neall's car
containing items of Robin's clothing
(Pierce County Sheriff's Dept.)

 

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