Lemuel Warren Smith (1 Viewer)


Lemuel Warren Smith

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Robbery - Mutilation
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: 1958 / 1976 - 1977 / 1981
Date of arrest: August 19, 1977
Date of birth: July 23, 1941
Victims profile: Dorothy Waterstreet / Robert Hedderman, 48, and Hedderman's secretary, Margaret Byron, 59 / Joan Richburg, 24 / Maralie Wilson, 30 / Donna Payant, 31 (female correctional officer)
Method of murder: Beating / Shooting / Strangulation
Location: Albany, New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to three life terms in prison in 1977. Sentenced to death on June 10, 1983. Conmmuted to life in prison in 1984

In 1976, Smith invaded a shop specializing in religious items at Albany, New York, murdering proprietor Robert Hedderman and one of his employees, Margaret Byron.

Arrested in 1977, for the abduction of 18-year-old Marianne Maggio, at Schenectady, the defendant was convicted on all counts and sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment at the maximum security prison in Dutchess County. There, on May 15, 1981, he beat and strangled to death a female correctional officer, Donna Payant, and was charged with her murder under a state law requiring the death penalty for lifers who kill an on-duty policeman or jailer.

Convicted of Payant's murder on April 21, 1983, Smith was formally sentenced to death on June 10 of that year.

Lemuel Warren Smith (born July 23, 1941), is a convicted serial killer and rapist from Upstate New York who was the first convict ever to kill an on-duty female prison officer.

Trouble from the beginning

Lemuel Smith was born in Amsterdam, New York in a very religious African-American household. During later insanity claims, Smith stated his first attempted murder occurred when he was just twelve years old when he nearly smothered a nine-year-old girl to death (a claim that was not substantiated).

On 1958-01-21, Dorothy Waterstreet was robbed and beaten to death near Lemuel Smith's neighborhood in Amsterdam. Evidence pointed towards the 16-year-old Smith but the case fell apart when the district attorney was too hasty in trying to extract a confession and Smith was not arrested.

Prison time

During the following summer, while under continuing pressure from Amsterdam police, Smith was relocated to Baltimore, Maryland where he soon took a 25-year-old woman prisoner and beat her nearly to death. This time, a witness interrupted the crime and Smith left a living victim. He was quickly arrested and, on 1959-04-12, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for assault.

After nearly ten years in custody, Smith was paroled in May 1968 and moved back to the Capital District. On 1969-05-20, he kidnapped and sexually assaulted a woman who managed to escape. Later that same day, he kidnapped and raped a 46-year-old friend of his mother's. When the woman convinced Smith to let her go, he was arrested again and eventually was in a New York prison on a four-to-fifteen year sentence.

Freedom and serial murder

Smith spent 17 out of 18 years in prison when a law passed by the New York Legislature made him a free man on 1976-10-05. On 1976-11-24 - the day before Thanksgiving - Robert Hedderman, 48, and Hedderman's secretary, Margaret Byron, 59, were found brutally murdered in the back of Hedderman's religious store in Albany. Human feces was found on evidence nearby which later proved valuable. Lemuel Smith was free and employed nearby and hair and blood evidence made him a main suspect.

On 1976-12-23, while Albany police were investigating the double-murder, Joan Richburg, 24, was raped, murdered and mutilated in her car at Colonie Center mall in Colonie. The pattern of brutality and more hair evidence made Smith the prime suspect in that murder as well but he remained free pending investigation.

Barely two weeks later, on 1977-01-10, a large black man tried to lure a 22-year-old woman out of a gift shop in Albany. When she resisted, he took her 60-year-old grandmother hostage and threatened to kill her.

When help arrived, he threw the woman down knocking her unconscious and deliberately stepped on her hand, breaking it. Only years later would the grandmother see a picture of Smith in the newspaper and identify him as her attacker.

With the three murder investigations stalled, on 1977-07-22, Maralie Wilson, 30, was found strangled and mutilated near train tracks in downtown Schenectady.

The horrendous post-mortem mutilation was worse than some veteran investigators had ever seen in the region. Smith was known to frequent the area and witnesses recalled Wilson being accosted by a large black man. Schenectady police made Smith the prime suspect in her murder.

On 1977-08-19, Marianne Maggio, 18, who worked in the same area as Maralie Wilson, was kidnapped and raped by Lemuel Smith. When he forced her to drive towards Albany afterwards, police stopped the car and arrested Smith without incident.

Ingenius experiment and confessions

A short time after Smith's last days as a free man, an investigator looking at photographs of Maralie Wilson noticed that a mark on her nose might be a bite mark. She was exhumed and the bite mark was positively matched to an imprint of Lemuel Smith's bite pattern.

Around the same time, in late October 1977, Smith was transported to Bleecker Stadium in Albany. He and four other men were randomly placed behind five screens at one end of the stadium. At the other end of the stadium, a police dog was given the scent of the feces-stained clothing from the Hedderman store murders eleven months prior.

The dog crossed the entire stadium directly to Lemuel Smith. Out of sight of the dog, the five men were randomly rearranged and the experiment was repeated with the same result. It was successful a third time as well.

On 1978-03-05, with the pressure from the dog experiment and the bite mark match, Smith confessed to five murders, including the murder of Dorothy Waterstreet nearly twenty years earlier.

Insanity defense

Along with his confessions, Smith revealed disturbing secrets about life-long mental problems including a claim that he suffered from multiple personality disorder. He attested to being controlled by the spirit of his deceased brother, John Jr., who had died from encephalitis as an infant before Lemuel was born.

One counsellor described that other personalities besides John Jr. might exist inside Smith. They also determined that he had suffered multiple head injuries as a child and teenager and that he had suffered further mental abuse as a result of overzealous religious convictions, especially from his father.

Originally, Smith's lawyers and doctors feared he might not be fit to stand trial. When it was determined to go ahead with the initial rape and kidnapping trials, two doctors testified to his delusions but stopped short of saying he was criminally insane. Smith was found guilty of rape in Saratoga County and, on 1978-03-09 was sentenced to ten-to-twenty years in prison.

On 1978-07-21, a four-day bench trial in Schenectady ended with Smith found guilty of kidnapping and he was sentenced to another twenty-five years-to-life. Soon after, Lemuel Smith unsuccessfully attempted suicide.

In Albany, Smith was indicted for the Hedderman store double-murder. He was found guilty on 1979-02-02 and sentenced to another fifty years-to-life.

When the bite mark evidence was presented in the Maralie Wilson murder case, Smith was indicted for her murder. He was also indicted for the murder of Joan Richburg after confessing. Since there was already no chance of him ever leaving prison, the indictments were dismissed.

Prison murder

In 1981, Lemuel Smith was in the maximum-security Green Haven Correctional Facility. On 1981-05-15, Green Haven Corrections Officer Donna Payant was on duty when she received a phone call and told her co-worker she needed to take care of a problem. When she missed roll-call, hundreds of corrections officers combed the entire prison grounds throughout the night and into the following morning.

Trash dumpsters were emptied into a truck which police escorted to a dumpsite twenty miles away. When the garbage was spread out, officers finally found Payant's mutilated body.

It was the first time in the United States that a female corrections officer had ever been killed inside a prison. More than five thousand officers attended Payant's funeral and New York governor Hugh Carey officially vowed "a swift response".

The same examiner that observed bite marks on Maralie Wilson was coincidentally called to examine bite marks on Payant's body. He quickly recognized the bite marks and Lemuel Smith was charged with Payant's murder on 1981-06-01. The charge carried a mandatory death sentence.

Big guns on defense - to no avail

The high-profile nature of Donna Payant's murder brought high-profile lawyers William Kunstler and C. Vernon Mason (Mason was later a main player in the alleged Tawana Brawley hoax). The team alleged everything from promiscuity by Payant to guards dealing drugs inside and outside the prison. They were unable to evade the bite mark evidence, however, and even their own expert witness agreed that the bite marks on Payant matched those on Maralie Wilson.

The capital murder trial finally began on 1983-01-20, more than eighteen months after Smith's arrest. The defense impugned testimony of inmates and other corrections officers and proposed conspiracy theories but, with no answer to the bite mark evidence, Smith was found guilty on 1983-04-21.

Considered the only deterrant for prisoners already serving life sentences, a New York law at the time mandated that Smith automatically be sentenced to death. He was sentenced on 1983-06-10. On 1984-07-02, an appeal by Smith called that law's constitutionality into question and was successful in commuting his death sentence to another term of life.

As punishment for the Payant murder and due to the threat he posed even while in prison, Lemuel Smith spent the next twenty years of his life in near-isolation, the longest such span in the nation at the time.

Tooth marks of suspect key in murder of guard

August 13, 1981

A prisoner's teeth may be a vital factor in whether he is indicted for murder in the death of a prison guard and whether he is the first person in four years to face the death penalty in New York State.

A Dutchess County grand jury in Poughkeepsie began hearing evidence yesterday on a charge by the state police that the prisoner, Lemuel Smith, strangled and sexually molested a prison guard, Donna Payant, last May at the Green Haven State Correctional Facility.

If Mr. Smith were indicted and convicted of first-degree murder, he would face a mandatory death penalty. State law requires such a penalty for anyone who commits a homicide while serving a life sentence in prison.

This provision is the only part of the state's capital-punishment statute that has never been tested in the courts or declared unconstitutional.

2 Provisions Thrown Out

In 1977, the Court of Appeals, the state's highest, threw out the two other key provisions, which mandated the death penalty for the intentional killing of a police officer or a prison employee. But in that ruling, the court did not address the provision applying to prisoners serving life sentences.

A major piece of evidence in the murder of Mrs. Payant - the first female prison guard in the state to be killed on duty - are tooth marks found on her chest. A forensic dentist, Dr. Lowell J. Levine, of Huntington Station, L.I., said the marks matched impressions of Mr. Smith's teeth.

''In certain cases, teeth marks can be as good as fingerprints,'' Dr. Levine said in an interview. Mrs. Payant, who was 31 years old and the mother of three, had been a correction officer for one month. She disappeared last May 15 at the maximum-security prison in Stormville, about 40 miles north of New York City. Her mutilated body, wrapped in a plastic bag, was found the next day in a landfill dump in Amenia, N.Y., 10 miles from the prison.

Not Guilty Plea Entered

Mr. Smith, who is 40 years old, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on June 6. His chief counsel, C. Vernon Mason, asserted that Mr. Smith, who is black, was framed because of his criminal record and said that he might be a ''victim of racial prejudice.''

The lawyer, in an interview, also accused the state police and the Dutchess County District Attorney's office of ignoring evidence that he said implicated a correction officer in the slaying.

Officers in the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation said Mr. Smith became a suspect largely because of forensic evidence and similarities between the murder of Mrs. Payant and other crimes for which Mr. Smith had been indicted or convicted.

Mr. Smith was serving two terms of 25 years to life for two murders in Albany in 1976. He also had been indicted for the strangulation of two women and the rape and kidnapping of another woman in the Albany area between 1976 and 1978.

Other Charges Dropped

After he was convicted in 1979 of the double murder in Albany and sentenced to a minimum of 50 years in prison, the other homicide charges were dropped.

At the Green Haven prison, Mr. Smith was a clerk in the Roman Catholic chaplain's office. Investigators said they believed that Mr. Smith, pretending to be a correction officer, called Mrs. Payant on the prison telephone and asked her to go to the chaplain's office.

After the murder, according to the investigators, Mr. Smith placed Mrs. Payant's body in a large trash container inside the prison, and the receptacle was later taken to the dump.

The tooth marks on Mrs. Payant and the manner in which she was sexually abused and bound were noticed by Dr. Michael M. Baden, a deputy chief medical examiner in New York City, in an autopsy review.

Evidence Called Similar

Lieut. Thomas R. Neilen of the state police said Dr. Baden indicated that some of the evidence was similar to that in the 1977 slaying in Schenectady of Maralie Wilson, 30 - a case in which Dr. Baden was used as a forensic expert and Mr. Smith was indicted.

Dr. Levine, the dentist who had identified Mr. Smith's teeth from a cast made in 1978 as the same as those that had caused the bite marks on Miss Wilson, was called into the Payant case. After examining photographs of the bite marks on Mrs. Payant, he said they appeared to be the same as the marks found on Miss Wilson and matched a cast of Mr. Smith's teeth.

Mr. Smith's lawyer, Mr. Mason, questioned the use of photographs to compare the bite marks. But Dr. Levine, who said he had testified as a forensic dentist in more than 200 cases, maintained this was the usual procedure.

Mr. Mason, who is general counsel to the National Conference of Black Lawyers, has urged that the witnesses who he said had implicated a correction officer in the slaying be called before the grand jury. ''Justice demands it,'' he said.


MO: Shot two holdup victims; beat/strangled female prison guard

DISPOSITION: three life terms, 1977; condemned 1983; sentence commuted.

Lemuel Smith

Lemuel Smith

Lemuel Smith

Newspaper headline after the trial.


In July 1977 Marilee Wilson, 30, was abducted from downtown Schenectady. Smith
confessed this crime in 1978 to state police when he was in custody for the
Albany murders.

Correction Officer Donna Payant, 31. Her killing reverberated throughout the
entire penal system of New York and beyond.

Dr. Michael Baden, then a Deputy Medical Examiner for the City of New York, was called in.
He performed the second autopsy on Payant on May 19 and discovered several
additional facts about her injuries.

Dr. Baden concluded that the victim's nipples had been partially amputated by human bites,
she also had several bite marks on her breast and face.

Overlay of Smith's teeth on Donna Payant's breast.

1977 and 1981 casts of Smith's teeth. The bite marks on the body of Donna Payant
matched the bite marks on the body of Marilee Wilson. There could be only
one inescapable conclusion. Lemuel Smith had killed both women.

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