Thornbury man held for trial on charges he drugged, killed N.D. man
John Roman, Of the Times Staff
CONCORD - The former lover of a Thornbury man, charged with doping and strangling a business intern in his home, testified Thursday the alleged killer told him he was the only one who knew the body was there and said, "Murder happens every day."
Daniel Hall said he found the body after driving up from Virginia at the request of defendant William F. Smithson, who initially didn’t reveal what had happened.
Hall, 29, who had previously lived with Smithson for about a yearand was hoping they would get back together, said he urged Smithson to call police about the dead man. Smithson did not.
Before the body of Jason Shephard was found by state police Sept. 20 in Smithson’s basement covered with sheets and belts, Smithson perpetuated the ruse of a missing person case regarding the intern’s disappearance, state police said.
Shephard, a South Dakota State University senior, had arrived in the area Sept. 16 for an expected three-day visit as an intern working with Smithson, a sales manager for a satellite office of Daktronics in Edgmont.
Smithson, 41, was held for trial after a preliminary hearing Thursday on charges of doping and strangling Shephard, 23, of Cavalier, N.D., after allegedly slipping a date-rape drug GHB into his drink and killing him after he spurned his sexual advances.
Magisterial District Judge Richard M. Cappelli ordered Smithson held for arraignment in county court Dec. 21 on charges of murder, aggravated assault, unauthorized administration of intoxicant, attempted rape, evidence tampering and abuse of corpse.
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lawrie at the hearing amended the criminal complaint to include charges of kidnapping, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and drug violations.
Hall, who had previously lived with Smithson about a year, testified Smithson had left a message at his parents’ home in Virginia. He said when he returned the call Smithson said he needed him to come up without giving a reason.
Hall believed Smithson was having some financial problems.
When Hall arrived at Smithson’s home after a five-hour drive, he noticed a towel hanging on the window of a second-floor front bedroom.
He waited about 20 minutes for Smithson to arrive home from work that afternoon.
After they ate hoagies Hall picked up at a Wawa store, Hall said he went upstairs to the bathroom and noticed the bedroom door was shut.
"I asked him if he had a roommate," Hall said, adding that he and Smithson had talked about getting back together.
"At one point, he said that something bad happened," Hall said, but Smithson didn’t elaborate.
Hall added that Smithson started talking about an intern at work and "was emotionally upset."
Hall asked if he was there and Smithson replied, "Yes."
Hall then asked, "Is he alive?" to which Smithson replied, "No."
The witness said he then walked into the bedroom and observed a body covered with a sheet. He said he checked it for vital signs and there were none.
"It was cold," Hall said. "I told him to call police. Myself, I was in a state of shock.
"He said he couldn’t," Hall said. "He said, what would his family think, or something."
Then Smithson allegedly told him that he had given Shephard the date-rape drug GHB, and at one point the young man "started freaking out."
Sept. 19, Smithson, a former advertising sales representative at the Delaware County Daily Times, filed a missing person report with police in West Whiteland Township, where Shephard had been staying at the Holiday Inn Express.
Smithson told police he had dropped Shephard off at the hotel the prior Monday night after they had dinner at the Ship Inn.
The next day, Shephard failed to show for work.
His work truck was still in the hotel parking lot.
It wasn’t until Sept. 21 that Hall spoke to Norfolk police in Virginia and told them about the recent events leading up to his visit to Smithson’s home for an emergency.
Lawrie asked Hall if he remembered giving a statement to Virginia police, to which he replied, "I don’t remember verbatim."
He then confirmed the statement he was shown which indicated that Smithson told Hall, "The guy started fighting back," trying to push him off.
"Is that statement accurate?" Lawrie asked, to which Hall replied in the affirmative.
Hall was asked if there was any discussion about moving the body from the bedroom to the basement.
"I think at one point I asked him, but don’t remember what he said," Hall replied.
Trooper Joseph McCunney testified that after being alerted by West Whiteland and Norfolk police, they obtained a search warrant and found Shephard’s body in the basement. The next morning, state police found a vial that tested positive for GHB in the kitchen area.