Never Grow Up: A Saint Bernard in the Yard and a Bullet in the Head

Posted: May 13, 2019 in Uncategorized

Consider This Your Trigger Warning

This story begins at the midpoint of disgust and despair.

I had just finished watching Leaving Neverland, the Michael Jackson exposé-cum-negligent parenting how-to manual.
If you haven’t watched it, don’t—let me summarize it for you.
Terrible women pimp out their underage sons for fame, reap no legal or financial consequences. The end.

In lieu of brain bleach I then decided to finish off the evening with a viewing of Disney’s Peter Pan (in full at link)—still in keeping with a Neverland theme
but oh-so-anodyne even my carnage-obsessed brain couldn’t finagle any sinister implications from it.
Or so I thought.

And then I saw this image:

Something about a Saint Bernard tied in the yard sparked a memory—a memory of murder.

The Saint Bernard’s name was Kelly.

The date was June 11th, 1973 and she belonged to the Smith family of Wilton Manors, Florida—mother Linda, age thirty-one, and children Billy, fourteen, Christopher, eleven, Robin, nine, and Susan, seven.

It was 12:30am when Billy Smith arrived home from his girlfriend’s house and walked past Kelly tied in the yard of the modest pink bungalow at 1 NE 26th Court.
Seconds later he came barreling out of the residence, sprinting, he will later say, with no particular destination in mind.
Two blocks away, as if by fate, he spotted a police car.

“I’m glad to find a policeman when I really need one.” Billy Smith to the Wilton Manors patrolman, Fort Lauderdale News, June 11th, 1974

Inside the Smith residence Billy’s mother and three siblings had been slaughtered.
Linda lay crumpled in a pool of blood at the foot of a black leather sofa, Christopher sprawled a few feet away on the living room carpet.
Robin was found in his bedroom, lower body on the bed, upper torso off, dangling near the floor.
Karen, struck down mid-flight, reposed in a crimson puddle in her bedroom doorway.

Photos of Christopher and Kelly are unavailable in the archives

Only one gun, a .38 caliber revolver, had been used in the murder. Autopsies will later reveal the deceased family members, with one exception, had been shot in the head once;
Christopher had been shot in the head twice.
All four victims had been repeatedly stabbed with four separate steak knives, the family’s own, left behind at the scene.
All four victims’ throats had been slashed and all were fully clothed,
with no indication of sexual assault. Linda had sustained the most brutal attack—the medical examiner detected nineteen separate stab wounds—and she alone had been beaten,
her upper lip split, contusions abounding.

“In the case of the mother and Robin it’s impossible to determine which caused death—the throats being cut or the gunshot wounds. But Christopher and Karen were definitely killed by the gunshot wounds.” Dr. G K. Mann, Broward County Medical Examiner, Fort Lauderdale News, June 13th, 1973

Detectives attempted to reconstruct the crime using the blood spatter as a blueprint. Linda had been attacked while sitting on the sofa, investigators surmised,
with Christopher seated nearby snacking on two food containers—coleslaw and chocolate ice cream—which remained open on the coffee table.
Investigators believed Karen had emerged from her room during the initial assault and was spinning around to flee when the assailant gunned her down mid-pivot.
The position of Robin’s body indicated he had been attacked while sleeping and never regained consciousness.

“The facts in this case are strange, very strange.” Wilton Manors Police Chief Ray Saxon, Fort Lauderdale News, June 14th, 1973

Nothing had been stolen during the crime and none of the doors or windows exhibited evidence of forced entry.
Upon arriving at the scene Wilton Manor detectives noted a circumstance which greatly narrowed the suspect list:
Kelly the Saint Bernard, a gift from Linda’s ex-boyfriend Larry Bland, was protective of the family.
To gain access to the residence the killer or killers had almost certainly been escorted by a family member past the 130lb Cujo-doppelgänger.
The Smith family had been murdered by someone they knew.

“I can’t understand it; that dog would attack a stranger if he tried to get in the house.” Ex-boyfriend Larry Bland, Fort Lauderdale News, June 12th, 1973

Attractive, free-wheeling, friendly, outgoing; these are the adjectives her friends will use when describing Linda Smith in the Florida press.
Wilton Manors law enforcement had a more pejorative take: they called the recent murder victim, a single mother supporting four children, a party girl.
Admittedly, the forty-eight hours before Linda’s death had been somewhat of a whirlwind.
The festivities began, inauspiciously enough, when she offered a ride to a pair of hitchhiking British soldiers.

“Linda trusted everyone. She would pick up a hitchhiker and give him a ride and not think anything of it.” Rita Crippen, former Smith family neighbor, Orlando Sentinel, June 13th, 1974

Servicemen on leave are always a festive bunch and the Brits and Linda apparently hit it off;
she brought the pair directly home to meet her three youngest children and then bundled everyone into the car for a day of sun and fun at the beach.
A full-service hostess, that evening she served everyone frozen dinners and then took the soldiers out partying ‘til dawn.
On the following day—the family’s last—she blew off her part-time job at Johnson’s florist,
telling her boss she was “too tired” to work.
Linda subsequently spent the afternoon with ex-boyfriend Larry Bland, whose new wife—married on the rebound after Linda dumped him—had recently filed for divorce.
Wilton Manors detectives will later report they’d located two men who’d had sex with Linda within twenty-four hours of her death but the identity of these paramours has never been publicized.

“It had to be somebody who wanted to kill the whole family—if somebody wanted to kill her all they had to do was take her out on a date.” Larry Bland, Fort Lauderdale News, June 12th 1973

Neighbors on NE 26th Court will later report the Smith residence, usually a cacophony of merrymaking and basso-profundo dog barking, was unusually quiet the night of June 11th.
Larry Bland told detectives he’d dropped Linda home by 4pm and the coroner will later determine the Smiths died between 6 and 8pm.
Marie Seneca, living directly across the street, saw only two unfamiliar vehicles in the hours before the Smith family was slain; a brown sedan in the late afternoon, presumably driven by Larry Bland,
and a green Mustang a few hours later.
Although the Smith home was eerily silent she did recall one out-of-the-usual disturbance that night:
a series of irregularly timed explosions which began shortly after 8pm.

“We were barbecuing our dinner when we heard the noise; we didn’t hear any screams but I remarked to my husband that it was a terrible thing to shoot firecrackers off in the house.” Neighbor Marie Seneca, Pensacola New Journal, June 13th, 1973

Christopher’s Scoutmaster looks like modern day child-catcher / shanda for the goyim Stephen Miller

The investigation into the Smith family murders was flawed from the start. Crime scene protocol was laissez-faire in the 1970s and the Wilton Manors Police Department lacked experience in homicide investigations.
Detectives allowed a local ambulance crew to remove the Smiths’ bodies before photos were taken or the scene properly processed.
Twelve hours passed before the Wilton Manors brass, realizing they were out of their depth,
called in the Broward County Sherriff’s Office—only then were evidence technicians dispatched to the (now badly-compromised) crime scene.

[Fun fact: The Wilton Manors Police Department is famous not for its investigatory prowess but for its hiring practices—serial killer Gerard Schaeffer had been a patrolman, his high-profile arrest occurring just months before the Smith family was slain.]

The process of elimination began. Billy Smith, Larry Bland and the British soldiers all had reliable witnesses placing them elsewhere at the time of the crime.
Swiftly dismissed from suspicion was Linda’s ex-husband William Smith,
a seaman stationed in San Diego; biological father of the three younger children and adoptive father of Billy,
Smith traveled to Florida to assume custody of his surviving son—no word on whether he also assumed custody of Kelly the Saint Bernard but I like to believe.
One by one the men in Linda Smith’s life were crossed off the suspect list until only one name remained: Robert Kerwin Nash.

Linda’s ex-Husband at left, Robert Kerwin Nash at right

The very first mention of Robert Nash in the newspaper archives appears on March 8th, 1950: thirty-four-year-old Robert Kerwin Nash, transient,
was arrested for shooting Mary Ann Nelson in the arm during a Chicago robbery.
During interrogation Nash further confessed to knocking over a candy store, telegraph office, and several doctors’ and dentists’ offices in Los Angeles.
Armed robbery, felonious assault, aggravated grand theft:
throughout his life Nash racked up over forty arrests and spent more than fifteen years in such infamous correctional institutions as Joliet, Folsom and Sing Sing.
Crime was the driving force in Nash’s existence; he’d been married five times but his wives were just bit players—crime was and ever would be the name in lights on the marquee.

At the time of the Smith murders Robert Nash was fifty-eight years old; he sported a thick toupée which made him look younger but also ridiculous.
After his latest release from prison he’d reinvented himself as a sea captain, chartering pleasure cruises for down-at-the-heels tourists. Linda occasionally worked on Nash’s boat, described by investigators as a “floating bordello.”
The Smith children knew Nash tangentially as Captain Bob, their mother’s boss,
but the length and familiarity of the relationship between Robert Nash and Linda Smith has never been specified by law enforcement.

“We are missing one vital element in the case. Without it (the murder weapon) we have no case even though we have narrowed it down to this one suspect. We are convinced based on the proof we have, but the state attorney can’t effect the arrest as long as one element is missing.” Broward County Sherriff Edward Stack, Fort Lauderdale News, June 11th, 1974

Investigators could find no direct evidence tying Nash to the Smith murders but circumstantial evidence was plentiful:

  • He drove a green Mustang, a vehicle of the same color and model witnessed by neighbor Marie Seneca at the Smith home the night of the crime
  • He claimed he’d spent the evening of the murders drinking at Big Daddy’s Lounge—located within walking distance of the Smith residence—but no witnesses recalled seeing him there
  • He told detectives he hadn’t seen Linda for months but technicians found his fingerprint on the Smiths’ bathroom sink
  • According to his wife, Captain Bob arrived home the night of the murders with a large bloody gash across his hand
  • A convicted felon, Nash was barred from owning firearms but investigators were able to confirm he took possession of a .38 revolver—the caliber of weapon used in the slayings—in the late 1960s
    “This man is no amateur. He’s got a long record and he’s smart—he’s got that weapon stashed in a place we’ll never find it. And even though we have his fingerprint in the house we have no witness putting him there at the time of the murders.” Broward County Sherriff Edward Stack, Fort Lauderdale News, June 11th, 1974

    Captain Bob could read the writing on the interrogation room wall—after a single police interview he hotfooted out of Florida leaving no forwarding address.
    His wife Eileen, witness to the bloody gash, could read the writing as well (it spelled out G-U-I-L-T-Y)—and she immediately filed for divorce.
    Eventually investigators were able to track Nash to Washington DC where he was working as a barber near the Pentagon.
    With no new evidence forthcoming the Smith murder investigation stalled, four years passed, and Nash kept his head down but the lull couldn’t last.
    There was one constant in Captain Bob’s life, as reliable as the tide: his criminality always outweighed his good judgment.

    Queens, New York, 1977. Thirty-three-year-old Patricia Nash Danahy couldn’t believe her eyes; there on her doorstep stood Robert Kerwin Nash, the deadbeat dad who’d abandoned her at the age of four.
    Although they had shared only a handful of interactions over the decades Patricia, a waitress with a ten-year old daughter, invited Nash into her home;
    it was a decision she would live—just barely—to regret.
    Once inside Captain Bob spun a well-practiced tale of woe, citing an urgent need of capital to purchase a Fort Lauderdale condominium; he requested a small favor—could he insure her life for 100K and use the policy as mortgage collateral?
    Patricia Nash Danahy was not a financial adviser;
    she was a restaurant server and single mother hungry for paternal love and attention—the plan seemed reasonable to her and she agreed.

    Like human decency, an affinity for delayed gratification was entirely absent from Captain Bob’s wheelhouse.
    Just a few months later, on May 22nd, 1978 Patricia Danahy was found slumped in her car in a parking lot in Glen Oaks NY, two .38 caliber bullets in her skull.
    Miraculously, Patricia survived; after waking up from a week-long coma, permanently paralyzed on her left side, Patricia told investigators Captain Bob was the triggerman—he’d shown up in NY unexpectedly,
    she said, and asked for a loan.
    When she could muster only a few hundred dollars Nash pulled out a gun and attempted to cash in the 100K policy on an expedited schedule.

    A nationwide manhunt, ironically, found Captain Bob already behind bars—after shooting his daughter Nash hopped a flight to Miami where poorly-made luggage led to his undoing.
    As airline employees loaded Nash’s bags into the cargo hold his suitcase popped open and out tumbled two firearms: a shotgun and a .38 caliber handgun.
    Upon deplaning Captain Bob was arrested and held on weapons possession charges;
    the revolver in Nash’s suitcase was quickly linked to Patricia Danahy’s shooting and Florida detectives soon managed to link the weapon to an additional crime—but it wasn’t the Smith family murders.

    “It’s a damn shame to live that long and be that nice and die like that. He should’ve been able to die in peace.” Captain Gypsy Rhule on his friend Ray Hitchcock, Fort Lauderdale News, March 14th, 1978

    Seven months earlier, March 7th, 1978. Ray Hitchcock, age seventy-two, was found hogtied with jumper cables and viciously stabbed in his Fort Lauderdale apartment.
    A sea captain and onetime Robert Nash business partner, Captain Ray’s knife wounds followed a familiar pattern;
    like Linda Smith, murdered four years before,
    his throat had been slashed and he’d been stabbed nineteen times.
    Ray Hitchcock had been a man of modest means; his assailant ransacked his small apartment but only one item appeared to be missing—a .38 caliber revolver, later identified as the gun used in Patricia Danahy’s shooting.

    OVERLAPPING MURDER: Back in Wilton Manors the Smith murder house had become an infamous local landmark, dubbed 666 Andrews Avenue by local teens, AKA Satan’s winter residence.
    Although aware of the murders the Summerhill-Childers family moved into 1 NE 26th Court, convinced the home’s extensive interior remodeling had banished any miasma.
    Pray their rental deposit was refundable; five years after the Smith murders Joyce Summerhill, age twenty-seven, vanished while walking to Big Daddy’s Lounge,
    the same establishment Captain Bob—now safely behind bars—had claimed to be visiting while Linda and her children were murdered.
    One week later, on July 6th, 1978 Joyce’s body was found in underbrush behind an abandoned house approximately six blocks from Satan’s winter residence. Her slaying remains unsolved.

    “I wouldn’t have lived there if you paid me.” Joyce Summerhill’s ex-boyfriend Darrell Lapointe on the murder house, Fort Lauderdale News, July 8th, 1978

    Joyce Summerhill isn’t the only 666 Andrews Avenue resident denied justice; despite compelling evidence of his guilt Robert Kerwin Nash was never tried for murdering Ray Hitchcock or the Smith family.
    The gun used in the Smith murders has never been located and although investigators could place Nash in Florida at the time of the Hitchcock slaying
    they were confident his sentence in the Patricia Danahy shooting would be a de facto life sentence.
    They were right: on December 6th, 1979 Robert Nash was convicted of attempted murder and weapons possession in a New York courtroom; citing his “forty-year life of crime,”
    Judge George Balbach doled out eight and twenty-five year sentences, the terms to be served concurrently.
    Seven years later, on November 22nd, 1986 Captain Bob Nash died in a New York prison, forever evading punishment for his worst misdeeds.

    The address of 1 NE 26th Court has been changed but Satan’s winter residence abides.

    Joyce Summerhill’s brother looks like Angry Patton Oswalt

    Leaving Neverland, Peter Pan and a forty-year-old family murder—it was a circuitous journey but the theme of parental responsibility resonates.
    Wilton Manors detectives blamed Linda Smith for the choices which led to the deaths of her children and I was enraged—nay, apoplectic—at the Leaving Neverland  mothers for failing to protect their sons.
    Four decades after the Smith murders the appropriate amount of assigned maternal blame for victimized offspring is still a topic of debate, regardless of whether it should be.
    I’m not here to judge Linda Smith’s parenting choices, regardless of whether I agree with them.
    I’m just grateful for the chance to memorialize a murdered family, especially Christopher Jay, Robin Timothy and Karen Smith. Just like Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, they never got a chance to grow up.

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