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Judy Smith

Judy Smith

Judy Smith

A woman is found dead in North Carolina after vanishing in Philadelphia.

In 1997, Judy Smith decided to accompany her husband, Jeff, to a work conference in Philadelphia. Before their flight was to depart, Judy realized she had forgotten her driver’s license and was forced to take a later flight. Jeff reluctantly agreed and the two met up in Philadelphia later that night. The next day Judy went sightseeing while Jeff attended his conference.  According to Jeff, Judy was to meet him at their hotel at 5:00 PM:

“So I got back to the hotel room about 5:30, and she wasn’t there. And by about 6:30, I was starting to get worried.”

Jeff contacted the local hospitals and police.  When nothing turned up, he searched Philadelphia by taxi.  According to Jeff, he traced the path of the tour bus Judy had planned to ride that day:

“I was fearful that something had happened to her, but I actually believed that I would be able to find her.  It was mind-boggling.  I just couldn’t figure out what could’ve happened to her.”

Months went by, but there was no trace of Judy Smith.  The Philadelphia police were just as perplexed as her husband. They could find no evidence she had been murdered or abducted.  But Judy’ daughter, Amy Hartford, was convinced her mother had an accident or worse, developed amnesia:

“I thought that my mom didn’t know who she was and was lost in the city, and that was horrible to think.”

On the day she vanished, Judy set out for her day of sightseeing at 9:00 AM.  As always, she carried her belongings in her trademark red backpack.  She had told Jeff she planned to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.  Whatever caused Judy to vanish occurred during the next eight hours.  After the Philadelphia police turned up no trace of Judy, Jeff had no choice but to return home to Boston.  From his office, he faxed and mailed 9,000 flyers about Judy up and down the Eastern seaboard.  He also hired three private investigators.  But according to Jeff, they uncovered no significant clues.

After arriving in Philadelphia, she vanished

After arriving in Philadelphia, she vanished

Then, five months after Judy had vanished,  a father and son noticed something strange while hiking near Asheville, North Carolina.  According to Lieutenant Sam Constance of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, they found a partially buried skeleton which animals had strewn over a 100 yard area:

“Our victim was a white female, probably in her late forties to mid-fifties.  The pathologist report indicates that there were puncture wounds and cuts on the bra which could be consistent with stab wounds.”

Police requested Judy’s dental records after seeing Jeff’s “missing” flyers in the area.  Forensics confirmed that they were the remains of Judy Smith. Judy’s daughter Amy was in a state of disbelief:

“I was shocked.  I guess you always anticipate that your parent will die, but not early.  We always talked about when I would have kids and looking forward to that day and I guess I just never thought that she wouldn’t be there for that.”

No one could understand how Judy ended up so far away from Philadelphia.  Authorities found Judy’s diamond wedding ring and $167 in cash at the crime scene.  They concluded that robbery was not the motive.  But police had another clue.  Four eyewitnesses in Asheville claimed to have seen Judy just days after she vanished. One of them was retail clerk, Joanne Stucker:

“She seemed very alert to me.  She was very pleasant. I didn’t see anything about her that would indicate that she wasn’t right in any way.  She told me her husband was an attorney and that they were from Boston.  And that they had been in Pennsylvania and he was at a convention.  And she had decided to come down here.”

But if Judy left Philadelphia of her own free will, the question was why.  Judy’s friend, Carolyn Dickey, had her own theory for Judy’s disappearance:

“At the time this happened, Jeff and Judy’s marriage was very tenuous.  I believe that something did happen that triggered her to want to have some time away from Jeff.”

According to Lieutenant Constance, investigators found two clues suggesting what might have happened to Judy:

“We found a blue and black backpack at the crime scene.  I believe that it potentially belongs to our suspect.  There was a pair of sunglasses there. We believe that these glasses did not belong to Judith and that they potentially belong to our suspect.”

What scenario resulted in Judy’s murder in an isolated area of North Carolina?  Who stabbed her, then left her in a shallow grave?  Was it a stranger, or someone she may have schemed to meet in Asheville? Unfortunately, North Carolina investigators still have no idea why Judy Smith was killed.