Former Principal Charged in Three Murders
MAUD S. BEELMAN
Jun. 26, 1985
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ A former high school principal told a fellow inmate he killed one of his teachers and that her two children were murdered because they witnessed the crime, according to a grand jury report.
Jay C. Smith, 56, former principal of Upper Merion High School in a Philadelphia suburb, was charged Tuesday with three counts of criminal homicide - six years to the day after the nude and battered body of Susan Reinert was found in the back of her car at a suburban Harrisburg motel.
The bodies of Mrs. Reinert's daughter, Karen, 11, and son, Michael, 10, were never found. The three were last seen alive June 22, 1979, as they left their Ardmore home.
Another teacher at the school, William Bradfield, was convicted in 1984 in the three deaths.
The grand jury said Tuesday it had concluded that ''Bradfield was responsible for the murder of Susan Reinert.'' It also said it was obvious Bradfield ''could not have acted alone in this matter and that some other person, at Bradfield's request, killed Susan Reinert and her two children.''
Smith denied the allegations Tuesday as he was being led into state police headquarters for processing.
''I had nothing to do with the murders of Susan Reinert and her two children,'' said Smith. The former school official was brought to Harrisburg from the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, where he had been serving time on theft, drug possession and weapons charges.
Smith was principal of Upper Merion from 1966 until August 1978, when he was arrested for posing as a security guard and stealing $53,000 in cash from a department store in St. David's, Pa., in 1977.
Despite testimony from Bradfield establishing an alibi for Smith at the time of the theft, Smith was convicted.
In a news conference announcing the arrest, state Attorney General Leroy Zimmerman said it was the theft and alibi which began ''the fabric of the conspiracy between these two men.''
The grand jury said the murders were committed for the ''partial purpose of obtaining Susan Reinert's estate and the $730,000 in proceeds from her life insurance policies.''
Ms. Reinert had named Bradfield as the sole beneficiary of the policies.
Deputy Attorney General Richard Guida said part of the motive was also concern that Mrs. Reinert was going to destroy Smith's alibi.
According to a prisoner at Dallas, Smith said Bradfield ''asked him to 'take care of' Susan Reinert because Susan Reinert was planning on informing authorities about Bradfield's false alibi testimony for Smith,'' the grand jury said. When the inmate asked about the children, Smith allegedly said, ''What would you do if there were witnesses?''
The grand jury said some of the conversations in prison were tape recorded.
A preliminary hearing for Smith was scheduled for Tuesday.