Rapid City Journal from Rapid City, South Dakota on March 21, 1993 · 11
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Rapid City Journal from Rapid City, South Dakota · 11

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Rapid City, South Dakota
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 21, 1993
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11
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Records, B2 In Our Schools, B4 Fun Factory, B6 II yU JL j(T1 Sunday March 21, 1993 Rapid City Journal Life on the run rap dod kDaltoinnia) Jo Beth Smith says prison official used threats against her husband to get her By Bill Harlan Journal Staff Writer Jo Beth Smith says a prison official in Oklahoma raped her and extorted money from her, then forced her to keep quiet by threatening her jailed husband's life. Smith went public with her story Friday night. She spoke during an interview and later at a meeting in Sturgis, where 50 of her friends had gathered to offer support. Jo Beth and David Gordon Smith, both 39, were arrested in the Black Hills March 4 after more than seven years on the run. In November 1985 David Smith escaped from an Oklahoma prison, where he had been serving a life sentence for killing the Catoosa, Okla., police chief during a robbery. The Smiths had lived outside Deadwood since 1987 as "Gary and Bobbie Johnston," until a television viewer recognized him on "Urn solved Mysteries." 7 thought I could keep David safe and it would be over, but it wasn't over.' - Jo Beth Smith He remains in jail 8'1 . . . . hprp auaitincr pytrnHu " - O - tion. Jo Beth Smith was released on $10,000 bond Thursday. Since his arrest, David Smith has told friends in the Black Hills that he was forced into the robbery at gunpoint. He has denied shooting the police chief. Jo Beth Smith told their friends the same thing Friday night. "He is not the man they've tried to paint in Oklahoma," she said. The Oklahoma prosecutor and an eyewitness to the robbery both have disputed Smith's claim in telephone interviews with the Journal. Investigators here also have questioned the Smiths' credibility. She faces revocation of her parole in South Dakota on a charge of possession of a controlled substance an injectable prescription drug called Versed. She took it from the Deadwood hospital, where she worked. Smith said she intended to use the Versed to kill herself. She had just seen the first "Unsolved Mysteries" broadcast and she said the fear of her husband being apprehended was becoming unbearable. She said the fear also was unbearable in July 1983, when she tried to kill herself with an overdose. During an interview, Smith frequently choked back tears as she described how an official from the prison where her husband was being held showed up at her door on Dec. 17, 1984. "He told me he needed to speak to David and that it was important." She said she let him in and he started to grab her. "He '.A' 'V ' ', i y , - Vs. :.V.AM Journal photo by Don Polovich Jo Beth Smith talks to the Rapid City Journal about life on the run. pulled me down. He raped me. To this day, 1 can feel that man on me." Afterwards, she said, "He told me to tell no one because he was in a position to hurt David." Smith said that over the next seven months the man repeatedly demanded sex and, eventually, money, if she didn't, she would never see her husband again. She said she gave him $5,000 her entire savings. "I didn't know what else 1 could do. I thought I could keep David safe and it would be over, but it wasn't over." Smith was working as an operating room nurse at the time. "I snapped in July," she said. She said she tried to overdose with drugs, but a friend found her. After that, David knew something was wrong. In September, she finally told him what was happening. "I though he would explode. I was really the only thing he had in life." She said that when David Smith confronted the man, he admitted what he had done and threatened to have ex-convicts "really tear me up." Now, she said, they both were in danger. In November, Jo Beth and David Smith took the proceeds from the sale of her house in Muskogee, Okla., and fled. Their attorney here, Bruce Ellison of Rapid City, won't let them talk about the details of the escape, but it must have been easy. David was an unsupervised trusty. Later they wrote letters detailing the rape allegations to her father, Ray McNary, to David Smith's father, who has Fugitives lived full lives despite fearful charade By Bill Harlan Journal Staff Writer Sell your house, cash the check and leave your family and friends without so much as a goodbye. Start a completely new life under an assumed name, in a new state, never knowing whether the next knock on the door will be the FBI. Could you do it? "It takes a certain amount of focus," Jo Beth Smith says. She and her husband, David Gordon Smith, lived like that for Vh years after he escaped from prison. (See related story.) In an interview Friday, Jo Beth Smith talked about life on the run. The toughest part was being cut off from her family, which she described as close-knit. Until she and her husband were arrested on March 4, she had not talked to her parents or her two sisters since 1985. "All that stuff had to be locked away somewhere," she said. "You can't take it out and look at it and exam it. If you did, it would drive you crazy." She says that except for one letter to each family after they fled, they never contacted anyone. The night after his arrest, David Smith learned his father had died two years ago. The Smiths were living in South Dakota as "Gary and Bobbie Johnston," first in Sioux Falls and then, since 1987, just outside Deadwood. In 1991, a knock on the door did come. It was an FBI agent, and David Smith thought it was over But the agent was only doing a background check on a neighbor who had applied for a federal job. "David did the interview, and the guy got the job." Jo Beth Smith said. Oklahoma authorities say David Smith shot and killed a police chief during a robbery in 1978. Jo Beth does not believe that She says it was their belief in each other that allowed them to survive. There are no support groups for fugitives, so the Smiths had only each other to talk about their biggest problem. And they didn't talk about it much. They called each other "Gary" and "Bobbie" even when they were alone "David and Jo Beth ceased to exist," she said. They had met while he was in prison. She had accompanied a friend who was visiting her husband. He introduced Jo Beth to David. It was love at first sight. "It was as if our souls were forever locked," she said. They married in 1982. On the advice of her attorney, Jo Beth Smith would not say why they chose South Dakota or how they got driver's licenses, Social Security numbers and other documents. How did they remain free so long? Having cash helped. She had just sold her home in Muskogee, Okla. It also helped to have skills. She was an operating room nurse, so it was easy to take a state test and become a certified operating-room technician. David Smith is a skilled all-around handyman and builder. He was a service manager at a car dealership in Spearfish. She worked as an operating room technician and, most recently, at a grocery store in Spearfish. They bought a house with a barn on seven acres in Two Bit Gulch. They called it "the Rockin' Spruce Ranch" because it is mostly "rock and spruce." They bought a couple of horses, a dog and a cat. They joined a four-wheeling club and a group opposed to the expansion of an open-pit gold mine. They made lots of friends. And they bought TV Guide every week. Their friends kidded them about that because the Smiths could receive only "IVi channels" in the gulch, but they weren't looking for old movies. "With the onset of reality TV, we were very fearful," she said. They pored over schedules to see if some real-life police show was profiling David Smith, escaped convict. It happened first in February 1992, on "America's Most Wanted." The show was on a channel the Smiths could not get, so they rented a motel room to watch the broadcast, there was a lot of hugging and crying and sleepless nights," Jo Beth Smith said. But no one recognised them. Nor did anyone recognize them when the show was re-run. In October, "Unsolved Mysteries" ran its own version of the story The Smiths watched that one at home. Jo Beth said it was getting harder for her to hold it together. In December, she was arrested for possession of a prescription drug she had taken from the Dead-wood hospital, where she worked. "Twice in my life I've been a very weak person," she said She says she intended to use the drug to kill herself. She was photographed, fingerprinted and taken to Lawrence County Jail, where she spent the night "in sheer panic." No one figured out who she was. In January she received a suspended imposition of sentence, though now she faces revocation of her parole. Ironically, the same mindset that kept the "Johnstons" focused on their new identities may have kept the Smiths from running after they saw "Unsolved Mysteries." "We didn't really see the ramifications of it all," Jo Beth Smith admitted. She said they felt like law-abiding citizens who built a good life, Jo Beth Smith said being arrested was a catharsis. For the past two weeks she has been feeling the grief she has denied for IVi years. "It's not a lifestyle I'd want for myself or anyone else," she said. "I'm really very tired of crying." 'It's not a lifestyle I'd want for myself or anyone else. I'm really very tired of crying. ' - Jo Beth Smith After the show since died, and to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Ray McNary, who is here with his daughter, confirmed that he had received the letter. McNary also said an investigator with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections had confirmed to him that the department had received the letter. "But they never did anything about it," McNary said. Jo Beth Smith says the prison official who raped her had previously been investigated for theft, extortion and harassment of convicts' wives, but nothing was ever done. She believes he has since retired. But she says she still believes her husband's life will be in danger if he is returned to Oklahoma. He will fight extradition. If David Smith is convicted of escape, he could face another life sentence. Is Jo Beth Smith telling a tall tale to rationalize her husband's flight? Ellison says he is working to prove she is telling the truth. He also hopes to win a new trial for David Smith. JQURNALPoll Should DOD fly VIPs to Panama to inspect Guard?1 Should the Department of Defense fly state officials, business people and reporters to Panama to inspect the South Dakota National Guard? Democrats have criticized Gov. George Mickelson for two such trips, saying they are a waste of tax dollars. The VIPs are flown on a military jet airliner at a cost of about $48,000 per round trip. Participants pay for their own hotels and meals. Mickelson led one trip March 7-11. Lt. Gov. Walter Dale Miller will lead another trip later this month. Democrats also point out that almost all of those invited were Republicans and many were contributors to the governor's 1990 reelection campaign. Mickelson says the trips help build troop morale and help people back home understand the role of the Guard, which is conducting a major exercise in Panama. What do you think? Call our special JOURNALPoll line at the Rapid City Journal Community Information Center and tell us your opinion. Call 348-7200 in Rapid City or 1-800-348-7202 from outside Rapid City. You must use a touch-tone phone to take part in the poll. You may be asked for your name, address and phone number and an additional comment. Your call is free, and calls will be recorded 24 hours a day. Please call by noon Sunday. T. irex lawyer glad Scfooefffeir goimg But Patrick Duffy says U.S. attorney already has caused serious damage to his clients' reputations. By Oebra Holland Journal Staff Writer The attorney for the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City says he is glad to see a new U.S. attorney on the horiaon, but he said current attorney Kevin Schieffer may already have caused too much damage during his time on the job. "It's hard to say at this point how things will play out, but God only knows nothing could be worse for my clients than Kevin Schieffer," Patrick Duffy of Rapid City said Saturday. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., announced Friday he had nominated Sioux Falls attorney Karen Schreier to replace Schieffer as U.S attorney in South Dakota. "If Tom had announced that he was appointing kli Amin 1 would be dancing a jig," Duffy said. "Unlike Schieffer, she (Schreier) is actually a lawyer and has some legal experience " Schieffer, who has a law degree, was former chief of staff to Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S D. Pressler nominated him to be U.S. attorney and former President Bush appointed him. Schieffer was swo-n into office in 1991, but has never been confirmed by the Senate. Duffy said Schieffer had done extraordinary damage to the reputation and finances of his clients, Pete and Neil Larson, owners of the Black Hills Institute "I'm happy to see him (Schieffer) go, but I wish he had never arrived on the scene," Duffy said. Neil Larson said he was glad to see Daschle had nominated a replacement. "It's our hope that this attorney will look over the case carefully and fairly," he said. The Larsons own a commercial fossil-hunting business in Hill City and excavated the remains of the Tyrannosaurus rex fossil named Sue in northwestern South Dakota in 1990. The U.S. government, under Schieffer's direction, seized the fossil last May from the Institute in Hill City as evidence in a investigation of possible illegal collection of fossils from federal lands. The fossil was found on the Cheyenne River Reservation on land held in trust for an Indian rancher. No criminal charges have yet been filed and the case has remained embroiled in the courts since last May. Outfitters suing G&F over constitutionality of powers JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - A group of outfitters, upset by the amount of power the Wyoming Fish and Game Commission wields over hunting seasons, has asked a judge to declare laws granting that power unconstitutional. District Court Judge Larry Lehman said he will decide within a few weeks whether the state Legislature violated the Constitution when it granted broad policy making powers to the commission, including the ability to set the length of hunting seasons and to determine budgets for the Game and Fish Department. The challenge was brought by eight organizations that op posed a 1992 decision by the commission to shorten the elk hunting season in the Jackson Hole area by 11 days. Attorneys for the outfitters claim the Legislature has not provided sufficient guidelines for the commission's exercise of their powers. The commission's actions threaten outfitters' economic well-being, attorneys said. And state law should require the commission to consider the financial impact of its rules and policies. "There are not adequate standards to guide the agency or this court," said William Schwartz, an attorney for the outfitters. Gail March dies at 100 Gail Hamilton March, who played surrogate mom to four generations of students at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, has died She died Saturday at a local nursing home. March celebrated her 100th birthday with friends and family at Tech in January. March's husband, Guy March, was a professor in Tech's mathematics department for more than til) years. On many occasions students would go to the March home in the evening to seek help from their professor on a math question, Gail March told the Journal in a 1988 interview. "We would have six or seven kids a night come up for extra help," she recalled. Sometimes the students would arrive at supper time. "Daddy (Guy) would sneak out the back door to go get more food. I did a lot of cooking back then," she said. She helped Guy develop the Tech e 0Sm . 'O- H March Alumni Association and from 1960 to 1981, the Marches spent a lot of time traveling to alumni dinners and meetings all over the nation. Gail March continued to participate in Tech activities until recently. She has appeared at nearly every commencement since becoming a part of the college. During 71 years of campus affiliation, March offered her extended family of Tech students "lots of love, understanding and compassion," said Tech President Richard Gowen. Pending funeral arrangements for March are on page B2.

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