A man on a road trip is found bludgeoned to death near Twin Falls, Idaho.
On May 16, 1987, at two in the morning, two vehicles collided on a downtown street in Denver, Colorado. One driver fled the scene, leaving his pickup truck. A few minutes later, police arrived. When they searched the truck, they found a room key from a local motel and a bloody jack handle. At the motel, police discovered the room was registered to Larry Monroe. In his room, they found a pair of pants and a sweatshirt, both covered in blood.
It turned out the truck belonged to a man named Donald Smith, from Hemet, California. Donald’s wife had not heard from him for 12 days. What started out as a simple accident then turned into a bizarre case of murder.
On May 11, 1987, Don left Hemet towing a trailer. He was headed to Idaho to visit his daughter, Brenda Walker. Except for his two dogs, Don was traveling alone. Brenda was the only child from Don’s first marriage. For most of her life, she and her father had been kept apart:
When Brenda was 26 years-old, she and her father were finally reunited:
The day after Don Smith left home, he and another man pulled up in front of the hospital where Brenda worked as a nurse. Don stayed in the truck while his companion went in.
Fifteen miles away, Brenda and her two friends had given up fishing and stopped by a tavern near the lake. According to Brenda:
When Brenda returned, her father broke down:
When her father became belligerent, Brenda walked out of the saloon. After a few minutes, Don followed Brenda outside, but she left without speaking to him:
Two weeks later, in the high desert outside Twin Falls, a couple out for their morning walk made a horrifying discovery. Twin Falls Sheriff’s Department Corporal Bill Tilson was first on the scene:
The Twin Falls Sheriff’s Department had no idea who the body was until they heard about a truck that had been abandoned about 700 miles away in Denver. Corporal Tilson thought there might be a connection:
Fingerprints positively identified the dead man as Donald Smith. Police began to piece together the events that led up to Don’s murder.
On May 11, the day Smith left home, he ran into trouble with the trailer he was towing. Just outside Las Vegas, he arranged to leave it with a local man. One theory is that soon after Don left Las Vegas, he picked up a hitchhiker. At some point along the way, they started drinking. The day after he saw his daughter, Don turned up in Park City, Utah. He called his sister in Vancouver, asking her to wire him $200. When Don picked up the money, he was with someone who looked exactly like the man Brenda had seen with her father in the bar.
Police believe that the hitchhiker murdered Don for the money when he stopped to let his dogs out for a run. The murder weapon was probably the jack handle, grabbed from the rear of the truck. Brenda hopes someone will come forward with information:
The composite of Don Smith’s mysterious companion was made from various eyewitness accounts. He is black, but with relatively light skin. He’s about six feet tall and weighs around 180 pounds. Today he would probably be in his fifties. He may use the name Larry Monroe and might have once lived in Blackfoot, Idaho.
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