Saturday, May 18, 2013

What Would Susan Say: The Murder of Susann Smith

Susann Smith of Bothell, WA
The state of Washington was reeling just over a year ago when Josh Powell incinerated his children and himself shortly after a social worker dropped off the children for a unsupervised visit. Who can forget that Josh Powell was the husband of still missing Susan Powell, and the person of interest in her disappearance?

Susann Smith of Bothell, Washington, also a mother of two young children, was brutally murdered, in fact beaten to death, found in the bathtub of her home on February 12, 2013. Police have named her husband, Alan Smith, as the "person of interest."

Married for 8 years the couple was in the midst of a contentious divorce, separating in 2011, and, as often happens, arrows and accusations were being flung by both sides as court documents report neither side was happy with parenting arrangements. Each had a restraining order against the other when the divorce was originally filed, leading one to believe there was evidence of abuse in the relationship.

Matt Phelps, Regional Assistant Editor for the Bothell Reporter has been following the story extensively and reveals much of what's contained in court documents concerning the divorce proceedings, a large part documenting each side stating their displeasure with the other and witnesses testifying about each person's parenting skills and attitudes. But, what really went on behind the closed doors of the home in the 200 block of 240th St. S.W. in Bothell?

I don't have the resources that Susan Murphy Milano did to dig deep and find hidden evidence, nor to get opinions from high profile people, but, after working side by side with her for several years, I did learn many things about how to see what's in plain sight.

Several things are evident:

  • There was definitely abusive behavior in the home, possibly from both sides and witnessed in front of the children.
  • Susann Smith was a native of Germany, her family was there, and she made it known that her family had requested she bring the children to Germany to be near them for support, according to court records, she told her mother that she wanted the children to be near their father. However, according to Alan Smith, Susann had used taking the children to Germany as a threat.
  • As a couple they were utilizing all of the personnel available, therapists, mediators, and attorneys to settle the differences within the divorce.
  • Alan Smith was seeing a psychiatrist, although the nature of why is not revealed, it's stated that Alan was "fearful" she would take the children to Germany, and that he felt Susann had her own "mental issues."
  • The court was petitioned numerous times, at first over monitary issues and then escalating into the parenting as being the matter in question with witnesses from both sides testifying to the natures and characters of each parties.
Pattern of Conduct

One thing that Susan Murphy Milano would often say is, "look for the pattern of conduct before and after the event, whether it be an instance of abuse, or intimate partner homicide, there will be clues in the way those close to the victim behave."

  • Since the murder of their mother, the two young children of Susann and Alan Smith, have been in the care of Child Protection Services. It's reported they were not in the home at the time of the murder, but where were they? Were they in school or daycare as would be their normal routine, or were they somewhere that was planned ahead of time so that they would not be witness to the murder of their mother? If the latter, who made that plan?
  • Alan Smith was named a "person of interest" shortly after the murder, as most husbands are, especially when there is a quarrelsome relationship. Search warrants were carried out and investigators moved in to do their job and make their reports. Considerable amounts of possible evidence were taken from the house, including Alan's motorcycle.
  • It's reported by an anonymous co-worker that Alan Smith was at work the days following the murder of the mother of his children until his employer, Boeing, put him on administrative leave. He had often spoken about Susann negatively to co-workers saying that he was emotionally abused and apparently felt no reason to keep the disputes of his divorce private. Was this an act of reaching out to others for support, or was he setting the stage?
  • He attended the memorial service for his estranged wife and, according to neighbors in attendance, showed little emotion (ala Scott Peterson). Alan Smith seems to have emotionally "moved on" from his troubled marriage and the death of his wife, although this could be a normal shift being separated for some time, and he possibly began forging new relationships, one would expect that even with all the problems under the bridge he would still grieve for the mother of his children. 
  • Alan Smith was the owner of the home in which his wife and children lived, and where Susann was ultimately murdered. He has since had the home cleaned of all signs of death and moved back into it, to the discontent of some neighbors who have witnessed him carrying on his life as if nothing happened and playing host to a new girlfriend.
  • It's been reported that Alan Smith is seeking to gain custody of his two children, taking them back from CPS, and this is where things get alarming.
Susan Murphy Milano wrote about a lot of cases, including the Susan Powell case, where she was adamant that when a mother is murdered custody of the remaining children should not automatically go to the father. So, in this instance, CPS did the right thing in taking protective custody right away. Until such a time when the remaining father is no longer the person of interest, suspect, or that he has been thoroughly investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing, should the children be returned.

Yes, realizing that we have innocent until proven guilty in our democratic society, she was often criticized for her stand on this issue. But, isn't it better to err on the side of caution and protection of the children than the rights of an innocent father? An innocent father would welcome such scrutiny, get it out of the way, and seek justice and resolution for his children.

Alan Smith

Circumstantial evidence not looking good for Alan Smith

  • The bicycle. When questioned intially about his modes of transportation, Alan Smith denied he owned a bicycle. However, during the investigation it was found that he indeed had purchased a bicycle using a credit card in late November. Was this misleading, or was it a lie?
  • In March an abandoned bicycle was found which was the same make and serial number as the bicycle purchased in Seattle by Alan Smith. Investigators are processing it for any latent evidence connecting it to the murder of Susann Smith.
  • Another lie? Days after the murder Alan Smith lied to investigators about cuts on his hands.
  • Purchases. Alan Smith was buying some odd staples in the time before the murder, such as coveralls, latex gloves, shoe covers, a still missing rubber mallet and, duct tape, of course. And don't forget the bicycle.
  • Computer searches. It's not unusual to search the internet for tickets to South America for 1 adult and 2 children, or is it, especially just before notification of the childrens' mother's murder. After the children were taken into protective custody, tickets for 1 adult were included in the search records of Alan Smith's computer, along with the term, “does Venezeula extradite to the United States." Is Smith a flight risk? (more shades of Scott Peterson)
  • Blood evidence. Traces of blood found in Alan Smith's car: the steering wheel, center console, and a floor mat. Blood traces were also found on his backpack. A pattern from the coveralls he purchased was found at the crime scene.

Sgt. Cedric Collins. "… No arrests have been made and anyone who may have information they feel may be helpful in this investigation is encouraged to call the Bothell Police Department tip line."

That number is 425-487-5551.

So, what would Susan say? 

"The dangers should be carefully considered when ending a dating relationship or marriage. The reaction to rejection is costing lives. In cases where the victim has died, her fears during the relationship or marriage remain silent, telling family or friends is considered "hearsay" and it's not enough when the person responsible is finally brought to trial. As a precaution, victims are encouraged to prepare the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit and video, also known as the "EAA." This removes hearsay and in a victim's own words provides historical abuse documentation, gives law enforecment and prosecutors a profile of the offender and shows his pattern of conduct prior to the crime should the victim vanish or be killed."   DocumentTheAbuse.Com

Had Susann Smith known about and created an EAA, King County investigators and the state of Washington would be saving taxpayer dollars spent on the investigation that has now lasted almost 4 months with no arrest. Her documentation would have spelled out enough evidence to make a quick arrest, if indeed Alan Smith is the suspect, and help lead investigators to build a stronger case for prosecution.


Help keep Susan Murphy Milano's legacy moving forward into the future, a future where there is absolute help for victims of violence, female and male.

If you're a victim, read Holding My Hand Through Hell, you will find yourself and your story somewhere in this book,  Susan's true crime memoir is a must. 

If you are thinking about ending a relationship, before you make any announcements or plans, read Time's Up, prepare your personal Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit and individualized safety plan to insure that you've done all you can.

Click on the book covers to purchase.

*Susan Murphy Milano lost her battle with cancer on October 28, 2013. To keep her work and her memory alive, I will be writing entries to her blog hoping to keep her many loyal readers and keep attention on the cases which she herself wrote about. Sometimes a case screams to be heard, a case that Susan herself would want to write about, those are the ones I will occasionally attempt to present as "What Would Susan Say."......Delilah (ImaginePublicity)

Disclaimer: I am not a trained or certified advocate, only a close friend and colleague of Susan Murphy Milano and was appointed administrator of her online sites. The opinions and case speculations do not necessarily mean that I'm an expert in domestic violence, only in the sense that I had the privilege of working with Susan on a daily basis, editing her blogs and books and sharing in her vast knowledge.


Heidi Hiatt said...

Great to see this story getting this kind of attention! Considering there are two children whose lives have been forever altered by this crime-- and whose father might regain custody of them despite being suspected of murdering their mother-- the more exposure this gets, the better.

Since I posted my take on this case a few days ago I've gotten several interesting comments from people who claim to be close to it. They're at the end of my blog post at

Anonymous said...

Being a neighbor of Alan J. Smith's, it is infuriating to have to see him on a daily bases carrying on with life as if nothing has happened. His ex wife has had her life ripped from her brutally and he sits in his back yard singing and playing his guitar, taking weekend trips, and having his new female "friend" over for stays.
As for the female friend, I had to call the police on him just yesterday because I witnessed Alan J. Smith in his back yard with this female and she was naked! Someone also posted a flyer on a telephone pole close to his home with Susann Smiths picture on it and info about her murder. It also had a phone number posted for anyone who had information to call. Curiously, it was removed. How can an arrest take this long with all the evidence that has been released? I feel her murder is going unnoticed by many, but in our household it is a daily topic and we can not wait to see the person put away.

Anonymous said...

I think I might be the "anonymous co- worker" referenced in your article above, since the comments you refer to almost exactly match mine on another site.

Just to clarify a tiny bit - I had a couple conversations with Alan at work about his wife, divorce and moving on. These convos didnt occur immediately prior to the murder, but rather were sporadic and months prior to. He never seemed particularly angry at her; he appeared (to me) to feel damaged / abused. My impression at the time was that he was insecure and talked about the situation often as a way to deal with it. He freely admitted that he was in therapy and that he had been working very hard to recover his sense of self-worth. I do know from first-hand concos with other co-workers that they perceived him as a little odd (overly intense) and I know some of them were bothered by his talking about his divorce a lot.

Ive been trying to decide how I feel about this case, given that Ive interacted with Alan. I am having a hard time reconciling the guy I worked with and spoke to, with what was done to Susann Smith. On the other hand, I personally saw him at work the day of, and the day immediately following the discovery of his wife's body. He appeared very stressed (to me), not smiling as he usually would, etc. After I heard about his ex-wife, I thought about having seen and spoken to him and I did think it was odd he would have come in to work and told no-one what was up in the couple days he came in after the body was discovered. He took time off after that and then was planning to come back but Boeing placed him on Leave bc co-workers were not happy at his coming back - especially given that some of them had by then been interviewed by the police. It would have been awkward to say the very least.

His behavior in the weeks since (moving back in, having a woman over etc) seems very inappropriate to me just from a PR standpoint alone. He is a smart guy for sure, it seems like he would be aware of how things look.

Given that the police sent off DNA tests many weeks ago and still no arrest - my personal opinion is that they didn't get conclusive results from them and are hesitant to make an arrest on circumstantial evidence - which everything we are discussing, even tho it looks bad, undoubtedly is.

Delilah said...

Anonymous #2.....Thank you for your comment clarifying your personal experiences at work. One of the things that should have been in the pattern of conduct section is how often these people are able to show one face in public and another at home. Unfortunately, only Susann knows what went on behind closed doors, and she's been silenced. A very good reason why she should have created an EAA, these behaviors would have been quite clear in the documentation.

I know that in some jurisdictions DNA testing results take time depending on backlog at the labs. So, until results are announced, we won't know conclusively. It will also depend on what prosecutors can do with the evidence that seems to be mounting to bring a "winnable" case to trial.

I hope that by writing about and discussing this case that, at the very least, investigators are keeping him very close on the radar. As stated above, it doesn't look good for Alan Smith, and circumstantial evidence can be used to build a strong case. Remember Scott Peterson's case was built on very similar circumstances.

Heidi Hiatt said...

Delilah, I'm preaching to the choir but that's something that, in my experience, people often don't realize about domestic abusers. They can be the "oh, what a nice man" guy at work or with their friends and be an abusive demon at home. As so many of the talents you work with say, this two-faced charade is deliberate and such people purposely cultivate these personas.

As an aside, last I knew the Washington State crime lab always has a backlog, so DNA analysis in our state can take months, I think.

Readers are probably aware of this, but today it came to light that Susan Cox Powell had made a video and secret will and testament as early as 2008. The link's on my site and it was a good reason to bring up the EAA.

Anonymous said...

There has again been police activity at Alan Smiths residence. Again we have had to call the police on him, this time for a domestic disturbance. Friday morning around 6:45am Alan Smith was in his front yard fighting with his new girlfriend Love Thai (look her up its quite interesting). I repeatedly heard his girlfriend saying loudly "stop, stop!..." and "I need to leave!" When Alan and Thai heard us in our front yard they decided to take the argument inside the home. We called the police and two officers responded to our call. They were at Alan Smiths for approximately a half hour. I was told by a neighbor that at around 7:30 the police had taken Thai away in a police car to separate the couple. Later on friday afternoon I had been talking to a few of the neighbors and I was informed that early Friday morning at around 1:20am there was another call to Alan Smiths home. This time by Love Thai herself. I am not sure what all details are involved in that call but I do know that it was said to have been a welfare check, scary considering thats what was called for when Susann Smith was found in her home brutally murdered. I was told the police were there for approximately one hour.

Anonymous said...

I met Allen recently. That guy is seriously disturbed.

Anonymous said...

Both Alan and Susann had restraining orders, which is customary in divorce cases. It was not an order of protection, though. Susann's divorce attorney stated that Susann denied a history of physical violence by Alan. Surely, she would have reported a history of abuse if it had been applicable, since it likely would have helped her in her battle for custody of the children. The evidence, although circumstantial, points to Alan. While this murder was brutal and abhorrent, I hope that Washington closely examines how its bias against men in divorce/child custody cases frequently contributes to men feeling trapped and desperate. Some kill themselves; some their estranged spouses; some their children; some all of the above. Alan, if proven guilty, needs to be held accountable for this heinous murder. But it doesn't need to stop there. Washington needs to take a look at its anti-male bias in divorce/child custody cases.

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