Skip to comments.Ramsey girl's killer up for parole ("Conservative" Wm. F. Buckley advocated for his Release!)
Posted on 03/13/2007 9:34:42 PM PDT by Coleus
Fifty years ago Edgar Smith shattered the rural serenity of northern Bergen County when he bludgeoned a 15-year-old girl to death with a baseball bat and a rock. The March 1957 crime changed Ramsey forever and began a strange odyssey that is still taxing the judicial system today.
Smith was sentenced to death -- then won his freedom with the help of William F. Buckley. But he was soon back behind bars after he kidnapped and stabbed a California woman. Now, the 73-year-old killer is again up for parole. "I'll do anything I need to do to keep him in prison," said Ron Calissi, whose father, Guy Calissi, was the Bergen County prosecutor who tried Smith for Vickie Zielinski's murder.
An honor roll student
Zielinski, a sophomore honor roll student, was walking home after listening to a radio show at a girlfriend's house. The pretty cheerleader was the second oldest in a family of four children -- three girls and a boy -- that lived on Wyckoff Avenue. Just a few blocks away was Edgar "Eddie" Smith's childhood home on Elm Avenue. Smith's father abandoned the family when Edgar was 4; he was raised by his mother. Smith, an intelligent and arrogant high school dropout -- with a reputed IQ of 154 -- had trouble keeping a job and ran with a tough crowd. They hung around town drinking $2-a-case beers or at a luncheonette known as Robbie's Corral, owned by former Mayor Richard Muti's parents.
"[Smith] used to play the pinball machine," said Muti, who went to high school with Zielinski. "He was a handsome, well-liked kid." Ramsey was a growing town -- the population nearly doubling between 1950 and 1960 -- made up of hardworking families. "It was small-town 1950s," longtime resident Tom Dater said. "Everybody knew everybody." But after the murder, girls stayed home at night. Lovers' lane emptied. People were scared. "The Zielinski murder robbed us of our innocence," Muti said. "The notion we were insulated from the type of violent crimes that only occur in big cities was dispelled forever."
It was a chilly Tuesday morning when Vickie's parents, after a night of searching, stumbled upon her black penny loafer on Fardale Avenue, near Chapel Road. Dater, whose family owned the Ramsey Journal at the time, remembers getting the call when Vickie's crumpled body was found about 9 a.m. by her father and a police officer. Her coral sweater was pulled up to her neck. Her bra, the straps broken, was down around her waist. She had bite marks on her right breast. Her shoes, kerchief and gloves were strewn about. Her blue Ramsey Rams jacket was blood-soaked, near her body.
Town folk were shocked when police set their sights on Smith, who lived in a Mahwah trailer park with his new wife and infant daughter. "[A co-worker] and I looked at each other and said 'Eddie Smith? Impossible,' " Dater recalled. In his confession two days after the murder -- which he later refused to sign -- Smith said he picked up Vickie on Wyckoff Avenue about 8:45 p.m. and drove her to a lovers' lane, but she rebuffed his advances. Vickie, who had dated one of Smith's buddies, managed to escape from the aqua blue 1950 Mercury he was driving. But Smith ran after her, striking her in the head with a baseball bat and bashing her face with a rock. Her lifeless body was tossed down into the sand pits off Fardale Avenue, her brains spilling from her crushed skull.
"I don't think there's been a crime story like it since," Dater said. The trial was standing-room-only as spectators and lawyers turned up at the Bergen County Courthouse. "In those days you didn't have those things so people were interested in how it was handled and how it would come out," Dater said. It took the jury 22 minutes to convict Smith, Calissi said. Smith spent the next 14 years on death row at Trenton State Prison, filing 19 appeals and writing a book that won him a literary award. He also won the friendship of conservative talk show host William F. Buckley.
Buckley hired high-powered attorneys who got Smith a new trial in 1971, arguing that his confession was coerced. As part of a plea bargain Smith confessed, in court, to second-degree murder and was released for time served. Two hours after winning his freedom, Smith taped a two-episode interview with Buckley in which he recanted his confession, saying it was a way to get out of jail. He was treated like a celebrity, even embarking on an 80,000-mile lecture tour.
Less than five years after being set free Smith, living in California, kidnapped a San Diego mother at knifepoint. The woman fought with Smith inside his car and was stabbed. She opened the door and rolled away from the moving car, the knife embedded in her side. Smith was found guilty of kidnapping with the intent to rob -- despite attempting to convince the jury he meant to rape the woman. Rape carried a lesser sentence than robbery. He also admitted during that trial to sexually assaulting an 11-year-old Hasbrouck Heights girl when he was a juvenile.
"At one time he wanted to be classified as being motivated by sex," First Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor William Galda said. "With Megan's Law, he's done a 180. Now he's saying sex had nothing to do with the crimes. "He will use and twist whatever he can. He's very, very bright and he is also completely evil."
A long memory
The savageness of the crime, where it occurred and the age of the victim makes the Zielinski case hard to forget. "The town has a long memory," Calissi said. "A lot of people, even new people, know of this crime. The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office sent a letter to the California parole commission that will hear Smith's 18th bid for freedom this week. "Edgar Smith poses a risk to the public if he is ever released," said Galda, whose father was the first assistant prosecutor during Smith's first trial.
"He has performed acts of incredible violence upon women," Galda said. "He does this when he is frustrated by society and for somebody who has been incarcerated for 45 of 50 years, the chance of him becoming stressed when released is extraordinary." Today, Smith is an inmate in the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo. He relies on a hearing aid, his eyesight is poor and he suffers from hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. He is considered "medically disabled," California officials said, although he has no gross impairments.
Officials from San Diego County say Smith is an unlikely candidate for release because he doesn't have a firm parole plan. Although Smith claims to have money, his plans on where he will stay if released are vague. Officials say he wants to attend college to study history and that he will live in motels. He has also expressed an interest in moving to Colorado, the state his ex-wife, Patricia, and daughter moved to in the 1970s. "People who previously had been close to him are extremely fearful for their own safety if he is released," Galda said.
For Calissi, who wrote "Counterpoint," a book detailing the case, emotions still run deep when it comes to Edgar Smith. "He's still a danger," Calissi said. "His last breath should be behind bars."
A timeline of the events involving Edgar Smith
I'd be surprised if he gets parole.
My general rule of thumb is this: the perpetrator has to stay in jail as long as his victim is still dead.
Drunk fat ted should be his cell mate in that case.
reinforces my belief that northeastern conservatives like buckley and george will are living in a parallel universe
they are pious, naive and are completely blind to the very real existence of evil
their marquess of queensbury sensibility is unprepared and inadequate to deal with islamofascists, democrats, media, and other criminal defectives
He has had multiple heart attacks, so with luck he wont even make it until the parole hearing.
So true. Buckley was completely taken in by a high school drop-out who played him like a violin. Read Ron Calissi's Counterpoint. In it, he details every lie Smith told during his long oddysey through the criminal justice system and on Buckley's Firing Line. If Buckley had taken the time to research Smith's claims, instead of just blindly accepting them, he would have known he was dealing with a lying psychopath.
I wouldn't be - our system is broke! And our justice is perverse! Remember Terri Schiavo?
Bump for later