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Father’s Body Found Buried in Back Yard; Son Charged

June 17, 1996

BALTIMORE (AP) _ For six months, there was no sign of Thomas Randolph Smith Jr. _ until a police officer noticed the 6-by-5-foot patch of dirt in the middle of his back yard.

Smith, 44, was found buried under the tomato plants Friday. His son, Thomas Randolph Smith III, 21, was charged with murder Saturday. The two lived together.

Investigators believe Smith was killed with an ax Dec. 6 during an argument about money, police spokeswoman Ragina Cooper said.

``This is the kind of stuff you read about that happens to somebody else,″ said Carol Ann Kraker of Annapolis, the victim’s sister. She reported him missing April 17.

Kraker said her nephew kept changing his story when she questioned him about Smith’s whereabouts. When she contacted Smith’s workplace, she was told the last time anyone had seen him was Dec. 4. He had left in good spirits and said, ``I’ll see you tomorrow,″ Kraker said.

The son had tried to pick up his father’s last paycheck, but the company wouldn’t release it, she was told.

Police had been investigating reports of bad checks written on the father’s bank accounts. They issued an arrest warrant for the father on April 30 and one for the son on May 9.

On Wednesday, an officer from the missing persons department visited the house and interviewed the victim’s mother-in-law, who also lives there. The officer noticed a patch of dirt in the middle of the yard.

``It was the only patch without any grass on it,″ Cooper said.

The officer also saw a pile of dirt next to the house and learned from several witnesses that the son had dug a 4-foot-deep hole in January.

That led to a search warrant and the discovery of the elder Smith.

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