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Last edited by Icy on Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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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.

©DelcoTimes 2007
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Letter from the Editor: Some stories hit a little too close to home
Phil Heron, Times Editor
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In this business, you all too often find yourself dealing with people struggling with the worst circumstances life can throw at you. You try to be compassionate, understanding; the last thing you want to do is add to the grief that person already is dealing with. And yet we know that sometimes - even when unintended - that’s exactly what we do. It’s part of the job.

We tell stories. Not all of them are nice.

I often remind our staff of the fragile emotional state many of the people we deal with are in, and imagine being in similar circumstances.

Last week we got a chance to do just that.

From the very first report we got on it, the story had an eerie, haunting quality to it. A body had been found in a home in Thornbury Township. On Tanguy Road.

For some reason that location struck a nerve. It was familiar; I just couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

I would learn soon enough.

Police had been called to the home of Bill Smithson. I know Bill. So do a lot of people at this newspaper. He worked here for almost a decade. I would consider him a friend. Always had a smile on his face. Always a cheerful greeting.

I am trying to remember if I had seen him or talked to him since he left the newspaper. Now I can’t get a different image of him out of my mind. Head bowed, in handcuffs, wearing a blue prison jumpsuit, that was Bill on the front page of the Saturday newspaper. He was leaving court after being arraigned on first-degree murder charges.

The first reaction, as it is with every story, is how could this happen? It’s one we ask with every story. For those answers, we go to the police, and the documents, specifically the affidavit of probable cause, in which they lay out the reasons they are bringing charges against a suspect.

In this case, those details would paint a picture of a person most of us did not know. There was talk of a young intern, of a date-rape drug, of sexual advances spurned, of a strangulation, and finally of a cover-up, of a missing person report that was perpetuated for several days.

Many crime cases are routine. Murders usually are not, especially when they involve someone you know. This one was a punch to the gut.

I was immediately struck by two things: I wanted to be sure that we handled this story just as we would one that involved a stranger. I did not want to give the impression that this case was being handled differently because we knew the person involved. I would soon find out that would be easier said than done.

Just as there are to almost every story we deal with, there are two distinct sides to this story as well. Our job was to try to tell both of them. Along the way, not everyone would like what we did.

They would wonder how we could write such things about a person they knew. And they would be left to contemplate how such evil could befall a family member and friend.

Jason Shephard was 23 years old. A kid, really, who had traveled to Pennsylvania as part of an internship with the South Dakota-based company he worked for. That’s where he met Smithson, a sales manager for the firm.

As much as we rely on police for the details in these cases, it does not come close to telling the whole story. That’s why we seek out others, including family members and friends of both the suspect and victim. In most instances they politely decline. Sometimes not so politely. I can’t say that I blame them.

In this case, the first thing we wanted to do was paint a picture of the victim. We did that on Sunday. It’s an image that I can’t shake. Jason Shephard was described as "one of the nicest and most genuine people."

And one other thing. Another acquaintance said things like this did not happen in Cavalier, N.D., the town where Shephard grew up. They don’t happen all that often in Delaware County either.

Maybe that’s why people who knew Smithson were willing to talk about it - on the record. They were trying to come to grips with the charges filed against the person they knew.

Through the magic of the Internet, our Monday story on Smithson was available to those who knew and loved Shephard in North and South Dakota. Several readers questioned why we took so much time talking about the suspect in the case, and urged us not to forget the victim.

It is something I have been trying to do since I first got word that a body had been found inside a home on Tanguy Road. It’s not getting any easier.

Philip E. Heron is the editor of the Daily Times. Call him at (610) 622-8818. E-mail him at

©DelcoTimes 2007
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Murder suspect's friends search for answers
Rose Quinn, Of the Times Staff
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For all the local news, be sure to pick up a copy of the print edition of today's Daily Times.
Close friends are struggling to reconcile images of the fun-loving, easy-going William Smithson they know and continue to support with those of a person authorities said drugged and strangled a male co-worker who spurned his sexual advances.

"This isn’t the guy I’ve known since high school, who was in my wedding, who played with my kids," Joseph DiCioccio of Middletown said Sunday.

"After I got married and had kids we kind of drifted apart, but he is the kind of friend I could call and he was here," DiCioccio said. "That’s the kind of friend he is to me. That’s the kind of friend he is to everyone."

Like DiCioccio, Dave Rufo, of Audubon, Pa., knew Smithson since their days at Monsignor Bonner High School. They graduated in 1983 and have remained friends.

"Billy was the driving force around our group of core friends. Billy attracted people, men and women. People liked to be around Billy," Rufo said. "I can’t get my mind around the whole circumstance. It’s a complete shock."

Smithson, 41, is charged with first-degree murder and related offenses involving the death of Jason Shephard, a 23-year-old intern from South Dakota in town on business with Daktronics, the company for which both men worked.

Pennsylvania State Police said Smithson, a sales manager for the Edgmont office of the South Dakota-based company, slipped Shephard a date-rape drug at dinner last Monday and then strangled him when Shephard fought off his sexual advances. Shephard’s online profile at described him as a single male interested in women and friendship.

Smithson allegedly went on to create and perpetuate a bogus missing-person scenario involving Shephard for more than two days. Smithson allegedly admitted his actions to an ex-lover on Tuesday -- two days before authorities found Shephard’s body in the basement of Smithson’s home on Tanguy Road.

In addition to first-, second- and third-degree murder, Smithson is charged with attempted rape, abuse of corpse, aggravated assault, unauthorized administration of an intoxicant and tampering with evidence.

He is being held without bail at the county prison pending a preliminary hearing Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Richard Cappelli in Concord.

"If this was some kind of freak accident ..or whatever. But premeditated? No. I will never believe that, never," said DiCioccio, who worked with Smithson in advertising sales at the Delaware County Daily Times in the 1990s.

DiCioccio and Rufo said they consider Smithson to be "like a brother."

Said Rufo, "If you knew him, he was such a free spirit. He wanted to make sure that everyone was happy."

Smithson came out about his homosexuality to his friends after his grandmother’s death in 2001. When Smithson was taken into police custody for questioning Thursday, he was found at the Marple cemetery where she is buried.

Rufo said Smithson’s disclosure was one he made on his own terms -- and one he seemed comfortable with. One of Smithson’s gifts was his ability to adapt, he added.

"Billy was so level-headed, he dealt with things head on," Rufo said.

DiCioccio said he was surprised to read in newspaper accounts about an "alternate life" Smithson may have had. He was referring to a couch, mirrored ceiling and video equipment police found in a section of the basement near where Shephard’s body was found, according to a court document.

"But then that’s not something we would have talked about," DiCioccio said. DiCioccio, Rufo, and several others who have known Smithson for years, said his homosexuality made no difference in their friendship.

Rufo last saw Smithson this summer. Smithson made homemade meatballs and they had sandwiches at Smithson’s house. It was two old friends catching up after not seeing other for a while, he said.

DiCioccio said he’s been "numb" since Smithson’s arrest Thursday night made headline news. He’s been in active contact with Smithson’s family and plans to visit him at the county prison.

"I realize that for now, I can only be here for him and be ready when he needs me," DiCioccio said.

See ‘THIS ISN’T’: Page 12

A Haverford resident named Martin who asked that his last name be withheld said he spent five or six summers at a beach house with Smithson in the mid-1990s. The Smithson he knew was "a good guy" who liked to party. Though he saw Smithson lose his temper a "few" times, he said the incidents were always alcohol-fueled.

"The guy could drink, I’ll give you that," Martin said. "Bill was not a mean guy. I’ve known some bad people and Bill Smithson wasn’t one of them."

DiCioccio agreed Smithson was never mean.

"If we got into trouble, it’s not that we went looking for it," he said. "We didn’t start it. When we did get into fights, it was because it was the only way out."

Added DiCioccio, "Someone would really have to push Smithson for his temper to come out."

Despite the horrific charges, Martin, a married father of two children ages 4 and 8, said he would welcome Smithson into his home, even today.

"I knew this guy as much as you can know somebody," Martin said.

Martin said Smithson was a vain guy who kept himself in good shape and was the life of every party.

"The ladies chased him more than he chased them," Martin said. Smithson’s appeal with women sometimes ticked off the guys in the house.

Martin was unaware that Smithson was gay when they were at the shore, but it would not have made any difference to him or diminished their friendship, he said.

Martin said he and Smithson would have long talks on "guy" topics. They also talked a lot about cartoons like "Underdog," a favorite they had in common.

"I just feel so bad," Martin said. He said it’s all he and mutual friends of Smithson have been talking about since his arrest.

"We’re all still in disbelief. I don’t think it’s sunk in," he said. "I feel really bad."

Martin said his wife, Renee, whom he met during his shore days, also considers herself Smithson’s friend.

"She cried."

Martin said he feels equally bad for the family of Jason Shephard.

"It’s awful," he said. "I am not pretending to know what happened, I’m just saying that this isn’t the Bill Smithson I remember.

"People change, I know. But the Bill I know has such a big, good heart."

Said Martin, "In this country, you’re innocent until proven guilty."

Like DiCioccio and Rufo, Martin said he intends to visit Smithson at the county prison.

"I want him to know I am sorry that this happened," Martin said. "I want him to know I’m his friend and I always will be his friend.

"We shared a lot of good times together," Martin said. "That doesn’t go away."

Some who knew Smithson recalled an arrogant person who was out only for himself. Though they aren’t surprised that he’s in trouble with the law, they conceded they would never have predicted murder charges.

DiCioccio said the times Smithson might have come off "as being out for only Smithson," it was never intended as offensive.

"It was part of his charm," DiCioccio said.

Smithson has been in trouble with the law before. He was charged with simple assault and harassment last year, but those charges were dropped when he completed anger management.

©DelcoTimes 2007

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Pennsylvania man ordered to stand trial watch the video
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(0) comments on this article (add yours ->)Nov 17 2006 1:04PM
KXMBTV Bismarck
A Pennsylvania man accused of strangling a Daktronics company intern from North Dakota has been ordered to stand trial.

Authorities say 41-year-old William Smithson of Glen Mills first spiked intern Jason Shephard's drink with a "date-rape" drug, then strangled Shephard when he spurned his sexual advances.

Court papers indicate that the body of the 23-year-old man from Cavalier was found in the basement of Smithson's home three days later. It was wrapped in bed sheets and belts.

Smithson was ordered to stand trial yesterday. Smithson was also charged today with sexual abuse of children in a separate case. That's because authorities say while they were investigating the murder, they found photos and movies on Smithson's computer depicting boys and girls engaged in sexual acts.
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When is this trial going to begin? It's been over a year since he's been arrested :twisted:
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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Posted on Tue, Nov 20, 2007 Zoom + | Zoom -
Missing documents delay Thornbury murder trial
By Rose Quinn,

MEDIA COURTHOUSE — Four missing original documents involving the search of accused killer William Smithson, his home, van and cell phone were the focus of a nearly three-hour pretrial hearing Tuesday.

After listening to testimony from four witnesses who retraced the supposed custody trail of the documents, Judge Barry Dozor said he would take the information under review, along with other outstanding suppression issues surrounding the potential death-penalty case.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas Lawrie assured the court with the exceptions of minor office-keeping notations, copies of all the original paperwork he has petitioned for the court to accept into evidence are identical both in form and content.

“There was a mistake by somebody,” Lawrie said, quickly adding at no time was the action intentional. The prosecutor said he does not believe the defendant is at all handicapped as a result.

Shackled and wearing red prison garb indicative of maximum security, Smithson, 42, smiled and winked at a small group of supporters as he was led into the courtroom. He joined attorney G. Guy Smith at the defense table.

Before that, Smith and Lawrie met with Dozor privately for about 20 minutes.

The Thornbury man is facing first-degree murder charges in the September 2006 killing of 23-year-old Jason Shephard, an intern who was visiting from South Dakota at the company where Smithson was working as a sales manager.

Authorities contend Shephard was drugged and strangled in Smithson’s home on Tanguy Road. Shephard’s naked body was found Sept. 19, 2006, rolled up in a rug in the basement.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Joseph R. McCunney, a criminal investigator at the Middletown barracks, was first on the stand.

Page by page, McCunney verified copies of search warrant applications and affidavits he completed as lead investigator on the Smithson case, and then later signed before Deputy District Attorney James Mattera and Judge Chad Kenney, were identical to his originals sought on either Sept. 21 or Sept. 22, 2006. Trooper Robert Levan signed the paperwork as well, McCunney said.

Apparently at issue is what happened to the documents once McCunney turned them over to the district attorney’s office, as is office protocol. But Smith appeared particularly interested that the affidavits of probable cause supporting the applications were the same for all four search warrants.

Mattera testified receiving and then packaging the authorized documents. His secretary, Leona DiEnna, subsequently testified she typically delivered such sensitive documents to the Office of Judicial Support within 24 hours.

Though DiEnna could not remember her exact actions from over a year ago, she testified she had no reason to think she would have deviated from her routine. She hadn’t subsequently come across the documents in question, she testified.

Deborah Gaston, the Office of Judicial Support director, testified a numerical log she keeps in a locked room does not reflect having ever received the warrant package in question. Gaston said the office was being revamped at the time and her office was moved several times.

Gaston said she and a co-worker recently conducted an exhaustive search of the office for the documents, but it was unsuccessful.

Dozor gave Smith until Dec. 14 to file a memorandum involving all suppression issues, including the search warrants.

Previously, Smith asked Dozor to grant immunity to a Montgomery County man he suspects has information that might help his client.

Smith said the man brought drugs to the house and was with Smithson and Shephard the night of the killing. Smith has tried to question the man, but he invoked his right not to incriminate himself.

Another hearing is scheduled Dec. 14. Dozor will address the search warrants and immunity question, as well as death penalty issues.

© 2007 Journal Register Company. All Rights Reserved.