Skip to comments.Victim's son fights killers release
Posted on 11/28/2002 6:33:59 PM PST by Rocksalt
Victim's son fights killer's release By REBECCA NOLAN The Register-Guard
Randy Smith was 6 years old when his father, a Lane County sheriff's deputy, was gunned down during a traffic stop on Delta Highway.
Now 43 and a police officer himself, Smith is fighting to keep one of his father's killers in prison.
The Oregon Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision is considering whether to release Wilfred Marion Gray, now 68, from the state prison in Salem.
He has lived within the confines of those stark walls since Dec. 16, 1965, the day he was sentenced in Lane County Circuit Court, along with Carl Cletus Bowles, to life in prison for the murder of Deputy Carlton Smith.
Carlton Smith was just 33 when he was shot seven times on July 6, 1965, and left to die slumped against his patrol car. Although he had two years of experience as a Springfield police officer, that night was his first on patrol with the sheriff's office.
Randy Smith, recently promoted to sergeant with Eugene police, testified Wednesday by telephone at a parole hearing in Salem. He could hear Gray answering board members' questions.
"It was kind of tough," he said after the hearing. "It was emotional listening to him, but I'm glad I did it.
"I was hoping that we would maybe hear that he was remorseful," he said. "I don't think there was any remorse."
Smith's plan to appear in person was thwarted when he was subpoenaed to testify in an unrelated case in Circuit Court here at the same time. Gray appeared via closed circuit television from the Oregon State Penitentiary.
"I understand that someday he might be released," Smith said. "If they release him, life will still go on, but I think they owe it to society to not let him out."
The three-member parole board will decide Gray's fate within the next three weeks, said hearings assistant Kim Gonzales. One of the members couldn't attend the hearing and must review the tapes before the board can decide.
Less than an hour before his shift was to end, Carlton Smith pulled over a red 1958 Triumph convertible that was speeding on Delta Highway - at the time, a rural road north of Eugene.
He radioed the car's make and license plate to the sheriff's office about 11:15 p.m. A few minutes later he contacted his sergeant and asked him to join him on the traffic stop.
Then came his last transmission: "Oh, my God! I'm shot."
By the time his sergeant arrived, Carlton was dead of six pistol shots and a single shotgun blast.
In that instant, his 25-year-old wife, Margaret, became a widow, and his six children would grow up without their father. Margaret Smith had given birth just 39 days earlier to the youngest of the couple's four children. Carlton Smith also had two children by a previous marriage.
Gray's and Bowles' crime spree didn't end with the death of Carlton Smith.
Two days earlier, the pair robbed a Tigard motel and raped the owner, according to newspaper accounts at the time. The next day, they held up a Portland bank and stole $14,000. They bought the Triumph that afternoon, putting the temporary registration in Gray's name.
They then drove down to Eugene, where Carlton Smith pulled them over.
After the shooting, they abandoned the Triumph and forced a Springfield woman and her 12-year-old son to drive them north toward Marion Forks. There, they commandeered a camper truck and took the four people inside hostage.
The men drove to Sacramento, where they released all six people unharmed.
Early the next morning, they walked into the Sacramento home of California Finance Director Hale Champion and forced him, his wife and 19-month-old daughter into Champion's car. They ordered Champion to drive to Nevada.
They released Hale Champion after he was grazed by a bullet during a shootout with a casino employee. They later released his wife and child unharmed and surrendered to police.
The men were sentenced to two life prison terms, one for the kidnapping of Champion, the other for the murder of Carlton Smith.
In 1974, Bowles escaped while on a conjugal visit with his girlfriend, who was also his niece. He ended up in Eugene, where he got in a gunfight with FBI agents that led to one of the most intensive manhunts in Eugene history.
Bowles escaped to Washington with a pair of elderly hostages whom he killed near Spokane. He was shot in the stomach and captured near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, after a standoff with police. He received two life sentences for the killings and a 75-year term for kidnapping.
Gray, a native of Brunswick, Ga., was first eligible for parole in 1997. His request was denied. When he reapplied two years later, the board approved his release. But when living arrangements he made in California fell through, the board withdrew its approval. Gray had to wait two more years, and was denied again.
Wednesday's hearing was to decide whether he will be freed next May. If the board decides against it, he can reapply for release in May 2005.
"I don't want him out," Randy Smith said. "I think they owe it to society not to let him out."
The board members didn't give any indication about what they intend to do, he said.
The killing of Carlton Smith and his widow's plight galvanized the community, which helped raise more than $17,000 to assist the family. Margaret Smith eventually married sheriff's Deputy Bob Purdue, who recently retired from the force.
Both Randy Smith and his brother, Donny, chose to follow in their father's footsteps. Donny Smith's life was cut short when he died of viral encephalitis in 1998. Family and friends believe he contracted it while on duty at a 1990 Grateful Dead show at Autzen Stadium.
For most people, the death of a father and brother would turn them away from police work, but not for Randy Smith, whose wife is also a Eugene police officer.
"It's sad to think about Donny, and it's sad to think about Dad, but I still believe in what I do," he said.
When he was promoted two months ago, he requested Badge No. 15, the number his father wore on his chest the day he died.
Being "remorseful" is a gambit used to win brownie points with the parole board, just like grabbing programs are. It sounds good. But AIN'T worth WARM SPIT.