John D. Smith III
(born 1951) is a murderer convicted of killing his first wife and
also believed to have murdered his second, although her body has
never been located. Additionally skull fragments were found in a
locker owned by him that belonged to a third, unidentified, woman.
Photographs of two unidentified women were also found in his
possession and form the basis for ongoing "Jane Doe" enquiries.
Smith's case was documented in a Lifetime
movie titled "Murder on Pleasant Drive", an episode of Cold
Case Files and the books Stranger in my Bed by Michael
Fleeman and My Sister Is Missing: Bringing a Killer to Justice"
by Sherrie Gladden-Davis.
Relationship with Janice Hartman
Smith married Janice Hartman around June 30,
1970 when they were both 19. A troubled marriage ensued; Gary
Hartman, Janice's brother, said that Smith was abusive when he
visited the couple for the first time. Hartman left Smith in 1974
and headed back to Ohio intending to divorce him. A few days later,
after filing for divorce, she disappeared.
Soon after Hartman went missing, Smith's
brother Michael observed him building a narrow box at their
grandfather's house which John claimed was to contain some of
Janice's belongings. In 1979 their grandfather discovered the box
and called Michael. He opened the box to find a dismembered corpse
with rainbow hair which he believed to be Janice Hartman's body.
He notified his brother of the discovery. John stopped by the
residence, picked up the box and headed to Indiana to dispose of
Smith's second wife Betty Fran Gladden-Smith
disappeared from West Windsor Township, New Jersey on October 4,
1991. Prior to her disappearance, she had been unable to leave her
home due to a broken hip.
Investigation and prosecution
Michael Smith, guilt-ridden from the knowledge
of what his brother had done, turned to drinking, but kept his
secret until 1999. That year he revealed the facts of his gruesome
discovery to an FBI agent investigating the disappearances of John
Smith's wives. Police in Ohio and Indiana were issued a notice to
be on the lookout for such a box. It was subsequently discovered
that the box was found in 1980 in an Indiana cornfield.
Smith was tried and convicted for the murder of
Janice Hartman in 2000 and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.
He unsuccessfully appealed his conviction in 2002. The family of
Janice Hartman sought civil damages against Smith's grandmother
and brother for their alleged involvement in covering up Smith's
crime for over twenty years, but were unsuccessful.
Betty Fran Smith
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: October 4, 1991 from West
Windsor Township, New Jersey
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: August 4, 1942
Age: 49 years old
Height and Weight: 5'2, 100 - 115 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Blonde
hair, blue eyes. Betty has a scar on her left knee and a
hysterectomy scar on her abdomen. Betty's upper front teeth had
been replaced by temporary caps, which were slightly yellowed at
the time of her 1991 disappearance. She broke her right hip in
1990 and has a pin implanted there a result. She does not have a
bone in her right foot's little toe. Betty goes by her middle name,
Fran. Her last name prior to her 1990 marriage was Gladden. Betty
has breast implants.
Medical Conditions: Betty was recovering from a broken
right hip at the time of her October 1991 disappearance. A pin had
been surgically inserted to repair the bone.
Betty was married to John David
Smith III at the time of her 1991 disappearance. The couple met in
Betty's native Niceville, Florida in 1990 and married that same
year. A photo of John is posted below this case summary. He filed
for divorce from Betty in January 1991, but the couple reconciled
in May and moved to New Jersey. Betty's family told authorities
that John had seemed to be mild-mannered prior to Betty's
disappearance, but they later learned he was abusive towards his
wife. Betty called her daughter at approximately 8:30 a.m. on
October 4, 1991 from the couple's West Windsor Township, New
Jersey residence. Betty gave no indication that anything was amiss
and did not mention any travel plans. She was recovering from a
broken hip at the time, which would have made traveling difficult.
Betty has never been seen or heard from again.
John told Betty's family that he believed she
went on an impromptu trip. Her relatives did not believe this
claim and began to investigate her disappearance themselves. They
learned that John had previously been married to Janice Hartman
Smith from 1970 to 1974, while he initially told Betty's family
that their marriage was his first. Janice vanished from Ohio in
November 1974, just days after her divorce from John had been
finalized. John reported Janice as a missing person two days later.
Janice's case remained unsolved until 2000.
John was never charged in connection with
either of his wives' disappearances in the 1990s and moved to
California after Betty vanished. He married for a third time in
Janice's remains were located in an Indiana
roadside ditch in 1980, six years after she was last seen. Her
legs had been cut off below the knees. She was not identified
until 2000. John, who had by then moved to California, was charged
with aggravated murder in Janice's case in the fall of 2000. His
third wife initially supported him, but filed for divorce and a
restraining order shortly before his arrest. She learned about
John's abusive background and also cited the murder of his first
wife and unsolved disappearance of his second spouse. John was
found guilty of Janice's murder in 2001; the jury rejected the
aggravated murder charge and convicted him of simple murder
instead. He was sentencted to 15 years to life in prison and is
currently incarcerated in Ohio.
Foul play is suspected in Betty's disappearance
due to the circumstances involved. John is not charged in her
case, but he was found liable for her wrongful death in a civil
suit in 2002 and was ordered to pay $1 million to her family.
Betty has never been located. It is unlikely that her family will
be able to collect on the civil action.
The Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) is
attempting to identify two women pictured in photographs found in
John's collection at the time of his 2000 arrest. Investigators
would like to ascertain the women's whereabouts, given John's
Janice Hartman Smith, circa
Betty Fran Smith, circa 1991.
Unidentified women found in
John's photo collection.