The Smith Family Murder -Suicide Saco, Maine

The afternoon of July 26, 2014 was reportedly nothing special or out of the ordinary for the Smith family of 5. They were barbequeing outside their complex at Riverview apartments in beautiful Saco, Maine. No one knew hours later that they would all be gone – dead, and that the threat was to come from within their own family.

Joel Smith, 33 and his wife, Heather 36 moved to Maine from Phoenix Arizona just 2-3 years before, after a vacation to visit Joel’s father. Joel was the Superintendent of the Riverview complex and helped with other complexes owned by Phoenix Management. Heather was a Medical Assistant at Portland Gastroentrology. They had 3 children, Jason who was 12 was from a previous relationship of Heather’s, Noah 7 and Lily, 4.

There is no indication what precipitated the violence in Unit B201, however, there are reports that Joel was angry that his wife stayed outside talking to neighbors until 10:30 pm. Police believe that Joel stopped first in Jason’s bedroom around 11:30 pm and shot the boys each in their own rooms while they slept, before continuing on to the Master bedroom and shooting Heather and Lily who were asleep in the bed. The children were each shot twice. Heather and Joel both were shot once in the head. The weapon was a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with birdshot and slugs.

Family members discussed that the family was having issues with drinking and addiction, as well as financial problems. Additionally, Joel had sought medical help for issues with panic, anxiety in depression four separate times in the 9 months before the killings. A report indicated that Joel had stopped taking the antidepressant Zoloft after losing his insurance.

The extended family members reported that Heather had spent time in a rehab to detox off opiates but there were no signs of any illegal drugs in the home at the time of the murders, and her autopsy report indicated only a therapeutic level of hydrocodone in her system along with a blood alcohol level of .23. Joel did not appear to be inebriated at the time of the killings as his toxicology showed no alcohol or drugs in his system.

Heather shared with a family member that about a week before the murder, Joel has threatened to commit suicide due to depression. Her sister in law discussed that Heather felt controlled and there were calls where she expressed fear to family members but there were no police calls or records for domestic violence. No neighbors reported any signs of any violence in the home.

Heather is laid to rest in Phoenix, AZ with the children.

The Riley Murder Suicide

Lakeville is small town, MA. There is barely even a center to the town. Blink, and you will surely miss it. Violent crime is almost non-existent in this town but tragedy still struck  51 Hill Street on a quiet Saturday. In this case, there seem to be more questions than answers…mainly, why?

The family home was locked with the deadbolts from the inside when the authorities arrived to the home in order to do a wellness check. The last confirmed sighting of the family was Friday, when the family returned from vacation. Once the authorities entered the home what they discovered was a terrible tragedy.

Paul Riley was a 52 year old Lt firefighter who worked out of Brockton, Ma. He was married to his second wife, Alicia (Frawley) Riley, who hailed from Brockton. He was said to have a good relationship with his first wife, with whom he also had a son.

Paul was known to be a good guy to family, friends and coworkers. There was no evidence of stress or domestic strife that any friends or family were aware of. There were no records that the police were ever called to the home for any issues other than false alarms from the home security system.

Alicia (Frawley)  Riley, was just 37 years old. Alicia was formerly of Brockton, and  was a volunteer at the Lakeville Animal Shelter. Alicia came from a big family, with 4 brothers and three sisters. Alicia and Paul had lived in the home at 51 Hill Street for 8 years, and were in the process of building a large, new home on Calthrop Drive in Bridgewater, MA, in a small subdivision of about 10 homes. The couple were their own contractors on the project.  This project was reportedly running over budget – but the couple did not show the normal signs of financial hardship. Could this have really been the cause?

The Riley family had just returned from a vacation in Disney World on Friday, which was the last day they were seen alive. Relatives did not hear from them, and called the police Monday night to check up on the family. The police arrived at approximately 6 pm and made the discovery of the tragedy after breaking into the house through a window. The house was secured from inside with the deadbolt. Alicia was found fully clothed, and deceased in the bathtub, and investigators stated it was unclear if she was shot there, or moved there afterwards but there was never any indication they found a secondary site in the house where she would have been shot.

The children, Matthew, 6, & Erin, just 2 years old were found in bed. The children were wearing their pajamas.  Autopsies for all 4 individuals in the home showed that each of the victims was shot just once, and that they had likely been dead for 48 hours, putting their deaths at sometime Saturday.  Police indicated there were no signs of a struggle in the home. Authorities believe Paul killed his wife and two small children before killing himself.

Paul’s body was found in his son’s bedroom with a .380 semiautomatic pistol underneath his body. Authorities said he purchased the gun in 1989, but that his firearms license expired in 1992. All indications were that his gun shot wound was self-inflicted.

There were no answers I could find on this case. No definitive reason, only a theory that the house they were building being over budget was just too much stress for him. Is that enough to drive a family man to become a family annihilator? Did something happen between the couple on vacation that caused a rift ? What drives a man to shoot his small children? In this case, they didn’t seem to find anything in the investigation that made sense, and I don’t think we will ever truly know.

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