In 1976, Smith invaded a shop specializing in religious items at Albany, New York, murdering proprietor Robert Hedderman and one of his employees, Margaret Byron.
Arrested in 1977, for the abduction of 18-year-old Marianne Maggio, at Schenectady, the defendant was convicted on all counts and sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment at the maximum security prison in Dutchess County. There, on May 15, 1981, he beat and strangled to death a female correctional officer, Donna Payant, and was charged with her murder under a state law requiring the death penalty for lifers who kill an on-duty policeman or jailer.
Convicted of Payant's murder on April 21, 1983, Smith was formally sentenced to death on June 10 of that year.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
Lemuel Warren Smith
(born July 23, 1941), is a convicted serial killer and rapist from Upstate
New York who was the first convict ever to kill an on-duty female prison
Trouble from the
Lemuel Smith was born
in Amsterdam, New York in a very religious African-American household.
During later insanity claims, Smith stated his first attempted murder
occurred when he was just twelve years old when he nearly smothered a
nine-year-old girl to death (a claim that was not substantiated).
On 1958-01-21, Dorothy
Waterstreet was robbed and beaten to death near Lemuel Smith's
neighborhood in Amsterdam. Evidence pointed towards the 16-year-old
Smith but the case fell apart when the district attorney was too hasty
in trying to extract a confession and Smith was not arrested.
During the following
summer, while under continuing pressure from Amsterdam police, Smith was
relocated to Baltimore, Maryland where he soon took a 25-year-old woman
prisoner and beat her nearly to death. This time, a witness interrupted
the crime and Smith left a living victim. He was quickly arrested and,
on 1959-04-12, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for assault.
After nearly ten years
in custody, Smith was paroled in May 1968 and moved back to the Capital
District. On 1969-05-20, he kidnapped and sexually assaulted a woman who
managed to escape. Later that same day, he kidnapped and raped a
46-year-old friend of his mother's. When the woman convinced Smith to
let her go, he was arrested again and eventually was in a New York
prison on a four-to-fifteen year sentence.
Freedom and serial murder
Smith spent 17 out of
18 years in prison when a law passed by the New York Legislature made
him a free man on 1976-10-05. On 1976-11-24 - the day before
Thanksgiving - Robert Hedderman, 48, and Hedderman's secretary, Margaret
Byron, 59, were found brutally murdered in the back of Hedderman's
religious store in Albany. Human feces was found on evidence nearby
which later proved valuable. Lemuel Smith was free and employed nearby
and hair and blood evidence made him a main suspect.
On 1976-12-23, while
Albany police were investigating the double-murder, Joan Richburg, 24,
was raped, murdered and mutilated in her car at Colonie Center mall in
Colonie. The pattern of brutality and more hair evidence made Smith the
prime suspect in that murder as well but he remained free pending
Barely two weeks
later, on 1977-01-10, a large black man tried to lure a 22-year-old
woman out of a gift shop in Albany. When she resisted, he took her
60-year-old grandmother hostage and threatened to kill her.
When help arrived, he
threw the woman down knocking her unconscious and deliberately stepped
on her hand, breaking it. Only years later would the grandmother see a
picture of Smith in the newspaper and identify him as her attacker.
With the three murder
investigations stalled, on 1977-07-22, Maralie Wilson, 30, was found
strangled and mutilated near train tracks in downtown Schenectady.
post-mortem mutilation was worse than some veteran investigators had
ever seen in the region. Smith was known to frequent the area and
witnesses recalled Wilson being accosted by a large black man.
Schenectady police made Smith the prime suspect in her murder.
Marianne Maggio, 18, who worked in the same area as Maralie Wilson, was
kidnapped and raped by Lemuel Smith. When he forced her to drive towards
Albany afterwards, police stopped the car and arrested Smith without
Ingenius experiment and confessions
A short time after
Smith's last days as a free man, an investigator looking at photographs
of Maralie Wilson noticed that a mark on her nose might be a bite mark.
She was exhumed and the bite mark was positively matched to an imprint
of Lemuel Smith's bite pattern.
Around the same time,
in late October 1977, Smith was transported to
in Albany. He and four other men were randomly
placed behind five screens at one end of the stadium. At the other end
of the stadium, a police dog was given the scent of the feces-stained
clothing from the Hedderman store murders eleven months prior.
The dog crossed
the entire stadium directly to Lemuel Smith. Out
of sight of the dog, the five men were randomly
rearranged and the experiment was repeated with
the same result. It was successful a third time
On 1978-03-05, with the pressure from
the dog experiment and the bite mark match, Smith confessed to five
murders, including the murder of Dorothy Waterstreet nearly twenty years
Along with his confessions, Smith
revealed disturbing secrets about life-long mental problems including a
claim that he suffered from multiple personality disorder. He attested
to being controlled by the spirit of his deceased brother, John Jr., who
had died from encephalitis as an infant before Lemuel was born.
One counsellor described that other
personalities besides John Jr. might exist inside Smith. They also
determined that he had suffered multiple head injuries as a child and
teenager and that he had suffered further mental abuse as a result of
overzealous religious convictions, especially from his father.
Originally, Smith's lawyers and
doctors feared he might not be fit to stand trial. When it was
determined to go ahead with the initial rape and kidnapping trials, two
doctors testified to his delusions but stopped short of saying he was
criminally insane. Smith was found guilty of rape in Saratoga County
and, on 1978-03-09 was sentenced to ten-to-twenty years in prison.
On 1978-07-21, a four-day bench trial
in Schenectady ended with Smith found guilty of kidnapping and he was
sentenced to another twenty-five years-to-life. Soon after, Lemuel Smith
unsuccessfully attempted suicide.
In Albany, Smith was indicted for the
Hedderman store double-murder. He was found guilty on 1979-02-02 and
sentenced to another fifty years-to-life.
When the bite mark evidence was
presented in the Maralie Wilson murder case, Smith was indicted for her
murder. He was also indicted for the murder of Joan Richburg after
confessing. Since there was already no chance of him ever leaving
prison, the indictments were dismissed.
In 1981, Lemuel Smith was in the
maximum-security Green Haven Correctional Facility. On 1981-05-15, Green
Haven Corrections Officer Donna Payant was on duty when she received a
phone call and told her co-worker she needed to take care of a problem.
When she missed roll-call, hundreds of corrections officers combed the
entire prison grounds throughout the night and into the following
Trash dumpsters were emptied into a
truck which police escorted to a dumpsite twenty miles away. When the
garbage was spread out, officers finally found Payant's mutilated body.
It was the first time in the United
States that a female corrections officer had ever been killed inside a
prison. More than five thousand officers attended Payant's funeral and
New York governor Hugh Carey officially vowed "a swift response".
The same examiner that observed bite
marks on Maralie Wilson was coincidentally called to examine bite marks
on Payant's body. He quickly recognized the bite marks and Lemuel Smith
was charged with Payant's murder on 1981-06-01. The charge carried a
mandatory death sentence.
Big guns on
defense - to no avail
The high-profile nature of Donna
Payant's murder brought high-profile lawyers William Kunstler and C.
Vernon Mason (Mason was later a main player in the alleged Tawana
Brawley hoax). The team alleged everything from promiscuity by Payant to
guards dealing drugs inside and outside the prison. They were unable to
evade the bite mark evidence, however, and even their own expert witness
agreed that the bite marks on Payant matched those on Maralie Wilson.
The capital murder trial finally
began on 1983-01-20, more than eighteen months after Smith's arrest. The
defense impugned testimony of inmates and other corrections officers and
proposed conspiracy theories but, with no answer to the bite mark
evidence, Smith was found guilty on 1983-04-21.
Considered the only deterrant for
prisoners already serving life sentences, a New York law at the time
mandated that Smith automatically be sentenced to death. He was
sentenced on 1983-06-10. On 1984-07-02, an appeal by Smith called that
law's constitutionality into question and was successful in commuting
his death sentence to another term of life.
As punishment for the Payant murder
and due to the threat he posed even while in prison, Lemuel Smith spent
the next twenty years of his life in near-isolation, the longest such
span in the nation at the time.
Lemuel Smith and the Compulsion to Kill: The Forensic Story of a
Multiple Personality Serial Killer. New Lietrim House Publishing,
LLC, 2003-10-01. ISBN 0972238301
Tooth marks of suspect key in murder of guard
By Selwyn Raab - The New York Times
August 13, 1981
A prisoner's teeth may be a vital factor in
whether he is indicted for murder in the death of a prison guard and
whether he is the first person in four years to face the death penalty
in New York State.
A Dutchess County grand jury in Poughkeepsie
began hearing evidence yesterday on a charge by the state police that
the prisoner, Lemuel Smith, strangled and sexually molested a prison
guard, Donna Payant, last May at the Green Haven State Correctional
If Mr. Smith were indicted and convicted of
first-degree murder, he would face a mandatory death penalty. State law
requires such a penalty for anyone who commits a homicide while serving
a life sentence in prison.
This provision is the only part of the
state's capital-punishment statute that has never been tested in the
courts or declared unconstitutional.
2 Provisions Thrown Out
In 1977, the Court of Appeals, the state's
highest, threw out the two other key provisions, which mandated the
death penalty for the intentional killing of a police officer or a
prison employee. But in that ruling, the court did not address the
provision applying to prisoners serving life sentences.
A major piece of evidence in the murder of
Mrs. Payant - the first female prison guard in the state to be killed on
duty - are tooth marks found on her chest. A forensic dentist, Dr.
Lowell J. Levine, of Huntington Station, L.I., said the marks matched
impressions of Mr. Smith's teeth.
''In certain cases, teeth marks can be as
good as fingerprints,'' Dr. Levine said in an interview. Mrs. Payant,
who was 31 years old and the mother of three, had been a correction
officer for one month. She disappeared last May 15 at the maximum-security
prison in Stormville, about 40 miles north of New York City. Her
mutilated body, wrapped in a plastic bag, was found the next day in a
landfill dump in Amenia, N.Y., 10 miles from the prison.
Not Guilty Plea
Mr. Smith, who is 40 years old, pleaded not
guilty at his arraignment on June 6. His chief counsel, C. Vernon Mason,
asserted that Mr. Smith, who is black, was framed because of his
criminal record and said that he might be a ''victim of racial prejudice.''
The lawyer, in an interview, also accused
the state police and the Dutchess County District Attorney's office of
ignoring evidence that he said implicated a correction officer in the
Officers in the State Police Bureau of
Criminal Investigation said Mr. Smith became a suspect largely because
of forensic evidence and similarities between the murder of Mrs. Payant
and other crimes for which Mr. Smith had been indicted or convicted.
Mr. Smith was serving two terms of 25 years
to life for two murders in Albany in 1976. He also had been indicted for
the strangulation of two women and the rape and kidnapping of another
woman in the Albany area between 1976 and 1978.
Other Charges Dropped
After he was convicted in 1979 of the double
murder in Albany and sentenced to a minimum of 50 years in prison, the
other homicide charges were dropped.
At the Green Haven prison, Mr. Smith was a
clerk in the Roman Catholic chaplain's office. Investigators said they
believed that Mr. Smith, pretending to be a correction officer, called
Mrs. Payant on the prison telephone and asked her to go to the
After the murder, according to the
investigators, Mr. Smith placed Mrs. Payant's body in a large trash
container inside the prison, and the receptacle was later taken to the
The tooth marks on Mrs. Payant and the
manner in which she was sexually abused and bound were noticed by Dr.
Michael M. Baden, a deputy chief medical examiner in New York City, in
an autopsy review.
Evidence Called Similar
Lieut. Thomas R. Neilen of the state police
said Dr. Baden indicated that some of the evidence was similar to that
in the 1977 slaying in Schenectady of Maralie Wilson, 30 - a case in
which Dr. Baden was used as a forensic expert and Mr. Smith was indicted.
Dr. Levine, the dentist who had identified
Mr. Smith's teeth from a cast made in 1978 as the same as those that had
caused the bite marks on Miss Wilson, was called into the Payant case.
After examining photographs of the bite marks on Mrs. Payant, he said
they appeared to be the same as the marks found on Miss Wilson and
matched a cast of Mr. Smith's teeth.
Mr. Smith's lawyer, Mr. Mason, questioned
the use of photographs to compare the bite marks. But Dr. Levine, who
said he had testified as a forensic dentist in more than 200 cases,
maintained this was the usual procedure.
Mr. Mason, who is general counsel to the
National Conference of Black Lawyers, has urged that the witnesses who
he said had implicated a correction officer in the slaying be called
before the grand jury. ''Justice demands it,'' he said.
RACE: ? TYPE: N
MO: Shot two holdup victims;
beat/strangled female prison guard
DISPOSITION: three life terms,
1977; condemned 1983; sentence commuted.