10/30/2003

Homicide Detective Shot to Death in Office

Officer Down: Larry Boyd Smith - [Houston, Texas]

HPD grieves for tireless investigator.
By STEVE McVICKER, PEGGY O'HARE and DALE LEZON, The Houston Chronicle

RESOURCES
HPD Sgt. Boyd Smith appeared on the television show America's Most Wanted Sept. 27, discussing his investigation of Texas fugitive Michael Blane Brashar.
Brashar, 42, was wanted for the 1982 strangulation of 20-year-old Mary Ann Castille, who was dumped in a Houston bayou.

Another segment regarding Brashar's capture features Smith and is scheduled to air at 8 p.m. Saturday, said America's Most Wanted producer Cindy Anderson. The program airs here on Fox 26.

Police across the city are lamenting the loss of 28-year Houston Police Department veteran Larry Boyd Smith, who died Wednesday after a shooting at the agency's homicide division.

"He was one of the finest homicide detectives, and such a perfect gentleman," said retired HPD Capt. Bobby Adams, who spent 12 of his 43 years with the department leading the homicide division. "He ... carried himself so well that you were always proud to send him anywhere."

Smith, 61, apparently was working alone in his cubicle on the sixth floor of police headquarters at 1200 Travis about 3:45 p.m. when he was shot. Smith was taken to Ben Taub Hospital, where he later died.

Police officials Wednesday did not immediately release details of the shooting. When asked if the shooting was being treated as having occurred "in the line of duty," police spokesman Robert Hurst stated, "He was at work." The shooting remains under investigation.

Acting Police Chief Joe Breshears, who was conducting a news conference about the department closing its crime lab toxicology section, left the media gathering for the shooting and later returned.

Later, in a brief statement outside the hospital, Breshears would not confirm that it was Smith who shot himself, but went on to describe the dead officer as "a man dedicated to this city. It's a tremendous loss to the Police Department. He was a good man. He was a great man. He will be missed."

Other officers, however, talked openly about Smith's death as they remembered the detective as a tireless murder investigator.

He was just a star for the homicide division," said Adams. "When he and his partner were on a scene, you knew it was going to be done right. And I never recall him ever being asked to do something that he didn't do it absolutely correctly, and with a good attitude."

Adams also said he recalls Smith as someone who "always had a smile on his face," said Adams, adding that he saw Smith as recently as last week at a retirement party for several homicide detectives, and that Smith was in a good mood.

A longtime homicide investigator, Smith distinguished himself by working cases long after other detectives might have given up.

One of those investigations yielded results this week, with the arrest of Anthony Allen Shore, who was charged Monday with four counts of capital murder in connection with the deaths of three girls and a young woman. Smith had been involved in the probe of the September 1986 killing of 15-year-old Laura Lee Tremblay, one of Shore's alleged victims.

In another case that went unsolved for decades, Smith pursued leads in the 1982 sexual assault and strangulation of 20-year-old Mary Ann Castille. The case remained cold until 1999, when DNA testing turned up a suspect.

Michael Brashar was charged with murder in connection with Castille's death after Smith's investigation was featured on the television program America's Most Wanted. The program, broadcast locally on Sept. 27, featured an interview with Smith. Producers of the popular TV show called the resolution of the case "one of the most stunning moments in the history" of the long-running series.

Smith is in a segment that is scheduled to air Saturday regarding Brashar's capture, said America's Most Wanted producer Cindy Anderson.

The producer said when she last spoke with Smith on Tuesday, he was in ebullient spirits and excited about the segment airing this weekend.

"He was in very happy spirits yesterday, very happy. This is something this guy had worked so hard on," said Anderson, who is based in Washington, D.C. "I told him to tape it."

"He was excited, he was feeling good. Then we got talking about Michael Brashar's trial. He said, `Maybe now someday I can retire,' " Anderson said.

Smith also was one of the detectives who interviewed Andrea Yates after she confessed to drowning her five children in June 2001.

Additionally, Smith, a Katy resident, also helped investigate the slayings linked to drifter serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole.

At one point, Lucas said he and Toole had killed as many as 600 people, although that number later dropped significantly in a controversial review of the murder cases originally attributed to them. Smith remained convinced that the duo was responsible for nine killings here.

In an e-mail message, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal late Wednesday described Smith as "one of the finest men I've ever known."

Rosenthal said Smith had recently undergone surgery and had not yet been cleared to return to work. But he insisted on helping with this week's arrest of Shore.

"That's the kind of policeman Boyd was," said Rosenthal. "That's the kind of man he was."

The mood was somber at HPD headquarters Wednesday afternoon. Most officers and civilian workers declined to comment on the shooting, saying officials had asked them not to speak to the media about it. But some said they would pray for Smith.

The shooting stunned prosecutors in Rosenthal's office, said Warren Diepraam, assistant district attorney. Diepraam said they had heard about the shooting from officers who called the office soon after it happened.

"Everybody was pretty much in shock," Diepraam said.

Smith was well liked and respected by prosecutors, Diepraam added. He had a reputation as a tireless worker, he said. Diepraam said he had often worked with Smith on cases.

"He was a good guy who always made the extra effort to help out," Diepraam said.
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