A Murder, A Suspect, and a Blizzard

By December 20, 2019May 8th, 2020No Comments

This story was relayed to us from a lawyer friend in New England:

“A good friend of our family was murdered in November 2014. She was running at dusk on a bike trail – not a remote area by any means – and was stabbed. Once in the chest. She was found lying in the road next to the trial and died on her way to the hospital.

She was a triathlete, mother of two, very successful, from a prominent family . . . and divorced. Her ex-husband, we’ll call him Alex, is not successful. Backed by our friend’s family, he ran through several business ventures, none of them successful. A nice enough guy, but none of her friends ever warmed to him.

Their divorce was contentious Very. It ended with her paying him support, but only for a few years. The clock was very much ticking on those, substantial, monthly payments when she died.

The town she lived and died in had three – three! – murder for hire crimes over the three or four years preceding her death. Each of the arrest was for a husband hiring someone to kill his wife. Two of the three hired undercover cops, the third had his money taken by someone who them started to extort him.

It was, then, a somewhat natural reaction to such a shocking event that people immediately began to speculate that Alex had something to do with her death. To be fair, with any murder of this type the husband or ex-husband is usually an immediate ‘person of interest.’ It was exacerbated by the fact our friend was well-know and well thought of and those who didn’t know her divorce story were soon filled in on the gory details by those who did.

There was a media frenzy for a few weeks, of course. A big article early on centered on Alex and his trip to our state’s major crime investigation unit. His first trip. Alex had a law degree but had never practiced. Yet, he felt comfortable waking in alone to ‘chat’ with investigators who had no evidence whatever. No knife, no forensics, no gloves (it was a bitterly cold mid-November night), no witnesses, no neighborhood cameras. Nothing – except an ex-husband and a contentious divorce.

Alex went back several days later, there were reporters waiting outside the cavernous state office building This time Alex went with a lawyer. His estate planning/real estate lawyer. They brushed by the reporters without a word.

According to the papers they were interviewed for at least three hours. When they left, they brushed past reporters again without a word. A day or two later, the major crime unit – responding to a question about the case – said that Alex was not a suspect. At present. That was at the end of the stories, deep down, the place few people read.

And that’s how it stood for the next four years. The case was unsolved, was resurrected every so often as a baffling cold case, sometimes Alex was mentioned as ‘not a suspect at this time,’ sometimes not.

February 2017, we now live a town over from where our friend died. A fifteen, twenty-minute drive, almost all on back roads. A blizzard moved in just before dawn, travel bans were posted for the entire state, it was really whipping by 9 am or so – the time I realized my wife and high school aged son were sick. We live – if I walk through a couple of paths in the woods – just over a mile from the grocery store. They needed me to get there and buy out the medicine aisle.

I tromped through the storm and the woods – it was actually kind of fun – to the store, walked in, they had three people working (it’s a very big store), all of whom, I was quickly told, lived nearby and had been picked up by the manager in his plow truck.

I grabbed a ton of medicines, milk (I think it’s a law that you have to buy milk during a blizzard), went up to the only lane open to pay . . . and there was a half-full basket on the conveyor belt. I chatted with the cashier – a friend of my ailing son – while we waited for the one other shopper that morning to grab whatever they had forgotten way in the back of the store.

It took a while but then down the aisle, arms full of stuff, came Alex.

A hesitation from both of us before we shook hands and talked a bit before he checked out. Talked about our kids, mostly. Asked each other how it went. His answer, “It’s been a really bad few years, but what are you going to do?”

He left, never looked back, was basically jogging to the doors. I pushed my stuff into my backpack, zipped up tight and stepped out into a full-scale white-out. There was one car in the parking lot with it’s lights on. A Jeep parked under a light, it was already having problems in the ankle deep and growing, blowing snow. I could make out Alex in the driver’s seat

And then it hit me. Hard. There were five grocery stores with 3 miles of Alex’s house. There was a travel ban. There was, as expected, a white-out. Alex was shopping here, now, because he was avoiding public places near his house. Because for anyone who didn’t read fifteen paragraphs in, Alex probably had something to do with his ex-wife’s death.

That theory was confirmed – at least to me – three months later when I was coming home late from a business meeting and had to stop for something or other just before the store closed at 10 pm. Half the lights were already off, sections were being closed off, and Alex had a full cart and was headed to the lone register still opened. I raised my hand in hello, he either didn’t see me or chose not to. A half-mile from his house is a super-grocery store open until midnight. I would have had to head there if my store had been closed when I got there – but then again, I might have just put it ff until the next morning, it’s a haul.

A year later a man walked into a state police barracks and said his local pastor had urged him to come forward and confess: he killed our friend in an impulsive, completely random act. He led the major crime unit to the place where he had hidden the knife and his bloody gloves. He’s awaiting trial in a psychiatric hospital.”

We at Smith Blythe were really struck by this story. Moved, actually. Alex lived in purgatory for over four years and it was probably completely unnecessary. Law degree or no law degree, no one should agree to be interviewed without an attorney present.

Yes, we know because we’ve heard it a hundred times, “But I have nothing to hide.” That may be true but the investigators ‘have everything to find.’

Most importantly, it’s clear Alex didn’t have an advocate. No one to stand up for him. To let the world know he had nothing to do with the tragic, horrible death of his ex-wife, mother of his children.

A strong, experienced, aggressive criminal law attorney – like us – would have greatly benefitted Alex. The major crime unit and the public would have, clearly, strongly, known he was not a suspect much – much – earlier. He most likely would never have had to go back for that publicly damning second interview. He most certainly would not have ‘blown by’ the assembled media.

There’s a very solid chance he wouldn’t have been reduced to shopping miles away from his house in the middle of a blizzard or the dead of night.

The moral of the story is if you think you may in any way be the subject of a criminal investigation, call us. The earlier the better.

Author Shannon Smith

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