And we’ll have a small press packet to hand out to you or you may already have it. Basically it says on Friday, July 31, three decreased victims of homicide were discovered at 4605 Deerfield Drive.
It was determined that the victims were all family members. The mother, Voncille Smith, white female born on 12/26/38, son victim, Richard Smith, white male born on 6/28/56 and son victim John Smith, white male born on 11/10/67.
All three victims were killed by a blunt forced trauma. There was no forced entry into the residence and nothing was taken from the residence to indicate this was any type of a robbery.
The crime scene was very complex. It took several days to work. Team from both FDLE and with our local Escambia County Sheriff’s worked the scene and FDLE has all the specimens for lab analysis and we will await the results.
Several search warrants have been executed in reference to this investigation and we have a person of interest. The reason for the delay in doing a disclosure or speaking to the issue of this investigation, within hours of discovery of the victims, it was determined that Richard Thomas Smith was an employee of the Department of Homeland Security.
Out of respect for our fellow governmental agencies, we immediately made contact with individuals at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola and those individuals that work at the Department Homeland Security issues. We’ve asked for assistance from NCIS. NCIS in turn made the appropriate contacts to the Navy.
Prior to such time as the members of Homeland Security could give reasonable assurance that the cause of the strict position that Mr. Smith held that we have agreed to proceed with this. We felt that practicing due diligence and our prudence to ensure that they were comfortable with the fact that because of his employment there was no issues involved with National Security.
As you are well aware, after several days, we basically got a go-ahead. We are now asking DHS to mirror parts of the investigation as permitted or hand it to them to be their part, which I will not speak to as to any element of this case that may have those indications.
The elements of this case are odd at best. We have a very reclusive family. Obviously, we canvassed the neighborhood, spoken to people that have lived there for years and years. Neighbors have related to us that they never met members of this family, although they’ve lived there for years.
The method of death, we believe, through Dr. Minyard’s office is blunt force trauma. We believe the weapon was a claw hammer. Multiple blows were stuck on each and every victim. Their throats were slit also, each and every victim. Richard Thomas also suffered a gunshot wound entering his right ear and exiting behind the neck. We believe that’s the incapacitating on the attacker’s part.
By the way, both of the sons were very large, meaning very tall, obviously potentially very physically powerful.
I would like to thank again the members of the media. With rare exception, all of you work with the SAO’s office and the Escambia County Sheriff’s office, respecting the fact that I made the determination for coordination with the State Attorney’s Office to put a lock down for this case, again for intelligence, meaning that our governments, our brethren on the Department of FIP side and the Department of Homeland Security, again, we could get a reasonable assurance that everything was okay.
We ask again as always, anyone in the community who has any information about this case to please call Crime Stoppers at 433-STOP. While we have a person of interest, there are still many things about this case that we want to pursue, or call or simple dispatch, non-emergency at 436-9620. If you do not want to contact the law enforcement, when you call that last number, we ask that you request anonymity, meaning that again, you do not want your name to be used, etc., and the appropriate individuals from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office will contact you.
With that, we will entertain the questions that we can at this time. Obviously, there may be some things that I cannot answer.
Media: Sheriff Morgan, have you determined when they were killed?
Yes. Tuesday afternoon. We believe some time after 7 p.m. and that’s an approximation. Again, the doctor made this call. Amber?
Media: Do we have a motive on this?
We’re working, as always with the case, Amber, that’s an operative question. Do we know why? Why something occurred.
Initially, the family, by the way, was recently, our records have already indicated that the family, while not rich by a standard, I would say was very, very comfortable. You know, long-term savings, good job, employment, etc. There was a sizable amount of cash found in the house inside a safe that was not tampered with, so we believe that we can safely rule out robbery as the primary motive.
An element of this case that’s, sometimes I wonder if only in Escambia County, initial research has led us to believe that there is a potential that it was a ritualistic killing.
The method of the murder, blunt force traumas, slit throats, positions of bodies and then our person of interest has some ties to a faith or religion that is indicative of that.
Those of you that follow any of that will also note that at the time of death we believe on Tuesday it also coincides with what’s referred to as a blue moon, which occurs every three years.
Again, I want to let everyone know that while this is a part of our case file, it’s something that we are pursuing at this time because it has a potential, it is still at the speculative stage, but the indications are there that that’s what this is.
Media: Are you confident that this is isolated incident? You referred to the nature of poses.
We believe so through interviews. Right now we have a person of interest, again, but we’re not obviously closing our eyes to any potential for other individuals that could be involved in this. That’s why we’re asking, as always, for the public’s assistance and the media’s assistance in getting out this information.
I would say at this time, the probability is always there. I will not speculate on that. I will tell you that we live in a world with different beliefs and faiths that at times can get extremely wild and to me they’re inexplicable, but we see them every day.
Media: Sheriff the bodies were discovered during what’s called a welfare check? Could you go over what that is?
A welfare check, we receive these with some regularity, not only in our community but all the sheriffs.
If the normal activity of a person changes, then we’ll get a call at the sheriff’s office and they’ll say I know Mr. Smith lives next door. I see him every Tuesday morning when he comes out in the front yard and gets his paper. He reads his paper on the front porch every Tuesday morning. Well, it’s Thursday, Friday and I haven’t seen him. The car hasn’t moved, etc. So, we’ll be asked to go out there and do a knock on the door. If we have a belief, we can execute forced entry to do a health check, etc. Normally, we’ll try to contact a family member and so that’s how those welfare checks work.
Media: The person of interest, are you ready to release their name, need help in-
I’m not speaking to that issue.
Media: Sheriff you mentioned there were no signs of forced entry. Is there any indication that the suspect or the person of interest knew the victims?
That is a true statement. Again, no signs of forced entry on the house anywhere.
The victims were also know to be very reclusive, very secretive and by that I mean no one that we interviewed had ever entered that house. People that had know the family for years said I spoke to them on the phone.
Of course, the exception being the two sons. They, of course, left the house. Both were employed. One was employed with Wal-Mart Company and an RT student, and the son, which of course which was employed by DHS. They had contact with the outside community there, but socially, seemingly none whatsoever.
Media: They all three lived there, though?
That is correct.
Media: Are you drawing any parallels at this point to the Billings case six years ago?
No. No. Each of these will take in and of itself a separate case.
We all like think there is a pattern to the time of death. You know, that’s what makes crime, especially homicide cases so both frustrating and oddly interesting because they’re really are patterns to that, motivation, and pattern. Rarely other than said reason, you know those typically are pretty much standard, but otherwise no.
Media: Sheriff can you speak at all as to the distinction you’ve made between a person of interest and a suspect at this time.
A person of interest is someone that preliminarily, all indications are they have some ties to this case. They have knowledge or they have an association with the family.
In the initial interview process they have information or admit to contact with, but it’s not enough at this point in time to go for probable cause with the judge so we can’t make an arrest.
The suspect is someone again with the elements now tied exactly to that person. You know, hair, blood, semen, there is some element of the crime that are scientific or otherwise where I have witnesses that placed you at particular place and time that again is not directional with probable cause and obviously you become a suspect.
That’s probably the clearest statement I can make between a person of interest and someone who is now a suspect. We do not have a firm suspect at this time.
Media: This person of interest, just because they were so reclusive didn’t let friends really in, so was it another family member?
I will not speak to that issue at this time.
Media: Sheriff, you mentioned that it might be some religious or spiritual tie to this. Can you give us a little more of an idea about that?
Well, again, the time of the blue moon every three years, the method of the murders and also our person of interest is known to practice this.
Media: Can you say what religion that is?
It’s witchcraft. I’ll say that right now. There are different factions of that. While it doesn’t bother me to release it being their being, most assuredly, you do not want to want to defame or demean any particular practices.
One of the great things about our country you can believe in pretty anything you want to believe in. That doesn’t indicate that one practitioner … I’ll use a family member of mine for an example.
I have family members who are Pentecostal. They don’t strychnine and handle poisonous snakes, but there are sects in the Pentecostal faith that do. You can’t say all Pentecostals do this or all Pentecostals don’t do that. At this juncture until such time as we garner more evidence and this case progresses, then we’ll be fully preparing at that time to release that information.
Media: Would you be prepared to give a description of the person of interest so that members of the public might … In case they see the person?
White male. That’s pretty definitive, isn’t it. We deal with that every day with profiling. We’re looking for somebody.
Media: Have you or your investigative parties spoken with this person of interest?
Yes, that is a true statement. Any other questions. Okay, again I want to close the interview with anyone in our community that has any information of the homicide of the Smith family, again call 433-STOP, that’s for Crime Stoppers. By law, you remain anonymous.