Police in Gardiner and Richmond have ended their search for incendiary devices reportedly placed in the woods by a man accused of killing his father, but authorities urge those who roam in the woods to use caution.

Leroy Smith III, 24, told police he placed the devices in the woods to alert him to foot traffic so he could identify safe places to grow marijuana. Smith last week was charged with murdering his father, 56-year-old Leroy Smith Jr., with whom he shared an apartment on Cannard Street in South Gardiner.

“We’ve found no evidence that these devices exist, and in all likelihood this has probably been a hoax,” Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said. “That said, I cannot guarantee they’re not real.”

Police on Thursday scoured the woods by air and along train tracks looking for a campsite and the flare-like devices, which police described as paper tubes, such as toilet paper rolls, wrapped in duct tape with some filament and filled with black gunpowder.

Toman said if any of the devices are in the woods, they probably would not work; but even if they did, they probably would not explode.

“These devices weren’t meant to harm anybody,” Toman said. “They were meant to be an alerting system to Smith. If they were to work, and even that is a big question, they were meant to catch on fire so he could see where people go.”

Smith was known to take long walks in the area, including the woods, authorities said. Police also said Smith told them he was an avid hiker and was interested in survival-type gear.

Police in both communities have alerted residents by fliers and telephone. Smith told police he planted more than 20 of the devices.

“We have responded to a few incidents and checked on areas that citizens have called in to us,” MacMaster said. “Nothing was found. We feel that based on the information provided to us about the numerous amount, that we would have at least found one by now.”

Richmond Police Chief Scott MacMaster said if a device is spotted, hikers should mark the spot with a GPS tag on their smartphones or find some other way of marking the location so authorities can find it easily.

“Be careful and watch out for anything that looks suspicious or out of place,” MacMaster said.

Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

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