The Demise of Harley Arlen "Sam" Smith

About every ten years I get an itch. I start thinking about my childhood and my parents divorce in 1979 and leads, inevitably, to my fathers death in 1985. 

I was raised in the same city that was my fathers home town, Renton, Washington, USA. He graduated from Renton High School in 1964 - and if you know your history - you know that what came next was a call from Uncle Sam to head towards a place called Vietnam.

This post isn't about his 1st Cavalry experience or his Purple Heart. I do believe those things had to do with his demise but I cannot reconcile how much it did.

In 1985, when I was 13, my father (as far as I knew) took his own life. Even back then there was talk that it wasn't suicide but murder. Being his son, over the next ten years of my life, I came to believe that indeed he killed himself. The reports said so, the family said so and the coup de grĂ¢ce was that he was a disabled Vietnam Veteran. The dots all lined up and as we even know today, the kids that get sent out to fight our wars who make it home have an inordinate rate of suicide.

I thought I had put it all behind me until the Internet and all its wonders sent a one in a million post hurtling out of the ether in my direction. This simple, odd post wrenched me out of my "I'm over it" mentality to once again delve even deeper into 1985 in a lonely, quiet town in New Mexico.

Think of Farmington, New Mexico as Mayberry but maybe a little upside down and from what I read, backwards. This state was 4th highest in murder in the Union in 1985 - that is amazingly bad. So why a fairly intelligent man would take his 2nd wife and step-children and leave his two first born sons in Washington has always stuck in my craw. You may think it may have to do with why he left ME but no.. who would leave the wonderful state of Washington for of all places, New Mexico? I think I know why but I'll leave it up to you to decide.

I'm leaving this story right here, with you. It is better than any fiction you've probably recently read! With it, I leave with you my notes, my FOIA (Freedom of Information Act that I finally just got this week!) filling to get the police records of the investigation and giving you the rare insight to a police investigation of a death in a small town and how it can leave a son with many, many questions.

To get you up to speed, you can start with where my memory was trip wired into a self-immolating fire, sending me for months down the path of ferociously seeking more data, and rereading everything I have on this subject. These are just the papers, not the memories, but I'm wiling to share those too if anyone cares to ask.

Now, come down the rabbit hole with me. Keep in mind, I did not post this... it is a completely random post from a stranger.


Before I post this link here, I do want to say my father was not a nice man. He, like his son and most of us, did not always make the right decisions. He had a tough childhood, was sent to Vietnam and was nearly killed and then set back down home in a world that had shifted drastically beneath his feet.

1. 1985. The death. 
2. 5 months later, his home (called a compound in the newspaper) partially burned. The only things lost were of my father, Harley Arlen "Sam" Smith. The house, which was always occupied happened to be unoccupied during this one weekend.
3. His two sons received nothing in death benefits, life insurance or family heirlooms which were theirs by birthright. 

Reading this post you can imagine - a blast from the past with a subject I was intimately aware of with NEW and odd information. I hesitate to call it synchronicity but for lack of the antonym it is, in the heat of writing this, the word I'll use. I'm usually better than this.

After reading that post, I give you this:

Drop Box Link to just about everything I have that I have had the time and wherewithal to digitize and try to analyze. It is exhausting and I have tried my best to annotate newspaper articles and reports where I can pointing out lies of omission, misinformation or just plain hindsight facts.

And this is where I just dump it all out there for the Universe. I don't expect anyone to solve this, I don't expect anyone to decisively call this. I can't even do it but I do have an inkling of what I believe happened. In my mind there are only one of two outcomes. 

I'd be seriously interested in what you have to say. You may leave comments below anonymously or email me at Your comments (unlike the rest of this public stuff, that I've posted willfully as his first born son and living descendant) will be kept private unless otherwise stated.


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