AUGUSTA — A Gardiner man accused of murdering his father over the weekend is expected to make his first court appearance Thursday, and an Augusta restaurant is working to raise money to help bury his father.
Leroy Herbert Smith III, 24, is scheduled to appear at 8:30 a.m. in Kennebec County Superior Court, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. Smith was transferred Wednesday to the Kennebec County jail in Augusta from the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, where he had been held since his arrest early Wednesday on a warrant unrelated to his father’s murder. Smith was being held without bail.
Smith was charged Tuesday with murdering his father, 56-year-old Leroy Smith Jr., inside the apartment the men shared at 16 Cannard St. in Gardiner.
Westbrook police arrested the younger Smith after he waved over officers to ask for directions shortly after midnight Monday. Smith, who initially was charged on a fugitive from justice warrant from Massachusetts on an unrelated crime, gave police information that ultimately led to the discovery of his father’s remains in woods off Lincoln Street in Richmond.
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes confirmed Wednesday that Smith’s court proceedings will occur in Kennebec County rather than Sagadahoc County, where the remains were discovered, because the alleged murder occurred in Gardiner.
Gardiner and Richmond police and canine units from the Maine State Police combed the woods in South Gardiner and Richmond on Tuesday and Wednesday for primitive pyrotechnic devices that Smith might have placed out there starting in March.
Richmond Police Chief Scott MacMaster said they aren’t certain the devices exist. The local police departments put out a joint news release Wednesday asking the public to be alert in case anybody comes across one. Police passed out fliers in South Gardiner and used Richmond’s reverse-911 system to warn residents.
The devices may be small cardboard tubes, perhaps 4 inches long, with duct tape and fishing line attached. MacMaster said they could cause injury, but after being exposed to wet weather, they might not explode.
Smith apparently intended the devices to indicate where people were going in the woods so he could find a place to camp or grow marijuana undetected, MacMaster said.
Anyone who suspects they have found such a device should not touch it and call the police, the release said.
On Wednesday, The Red Barn restaurant in Augusta, which employs one of the elder Smith’s nephews, has launched a fundraiser on GoFundMe.com. The account was established Tuesday evening and raised more than $2,200 in less than 24 hours. Alicia Barnes, The Red Barn’s business and social media manager, said the elder Smith had no life insurance.
“The family is trying to figure out how to pay for his burial expenses,” Barnes said.
Friends on Tuesday remembered the elder Smith as a hard worker with a passion for life and music who helped make their lives better. They spoke of his positive attitude and easy laugh, and they described him as a giving person.
His son was banned last fall from his apartment building in Westborough, Mass., after he started to upset other tenants and the landlord, Police Chief Alan Gordon said.
At one point, Smith set his guitar and amplifier on fire in the backyard because “he believed they were emitting evil music,” Gordon said.
The younger Smith was served Oct. 29 with a protection-from-harassment order and violated it Oct. 30, Gordon said. The town’s court issued a warrant for his arrest when Smith failed to show up for his December court date. It was that warrant that led to his arrest Monday night. Cumberland County Jail officials said Smith was on a psychological watch while held at their facility.
Gordon said the Secret Service contacted Westborough police at one point to say they wanted to question Smith about threats he allegedly made against the president. Gordon said the FBI had launched an investigation into the allegation.
Gordon said Smith “thought he was God,” a claim he repeats frequently on his Facebook page, which includes a picture of the burned-out guitar and amplifier and numerous rambling, profanity-laced entries that describe, among other things, a deep paranoia about the government. Smith repeatedly describes himself as “head of the KKK” and at one point expresses a desire to start World War III.
In one entry, posted Feb. 12, Smith claims he “spent the last 6 days in a mental wellness unit,” because of an argument he had with his father.
“I have no depression, anxiety or other mental health issues,” the younger Smith wrote in the post. “I just have an issue with you knowing who I am and letting me rot on society’s edge. – God.”
Barnes, who said her brother suffered from schizophrenia, urges more help for victims of mental illness in the GoFundMe and The Red Barn Facebook pages dedicated to Leroy Smith Jr. Barnes noted that this is Mental Health Awareness Month, a fact that caused The Red Barn owner Laura Benedict to reflect on her own journey with depression in a post on the Red Barn Facebook page and a subsequent interview on radio station 92 Moose.
“One of our employees lost his uncle and a cousin because of this tragedy, which could have been avoided if the younger Leroy had received the proper mental health treatment,” Barnes said. “His nephew … would like to help his family cope with this double tragedy. They lost two family members on May 5 because of a broken system and the stigma surrounding mental illness.”
To make a donation to GoFundMe.com, search for “Red Barn Cares for Leroy Smith Jr.” and click on the link.
The elder Smith’s friends are organizing a second fundraiser, the details of which are not yet finalized. For information, email Nadine Aubuchon Blaisdell at [email protected]
Staff Writer Susan McMillan contributed to this report.
Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642 or at: [email protected]