Wilmington man charged with murder in 1995 missing person case

Updated: Jul. 2, 2019 at 3:41 PM EDT
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BOILING SPRING LAKES, N.C. (WECT) - Detectives with the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department have charged a man with murder in connection with a missing person case from 1995.

According to a news release, the police department reached out to local media in May 2018 to run an update on the cold case of Timothy Jason Smart who had been missing since July 15, 1995. After the story aired, new information led detectives to classify the case as a homicide.

Timothy Jason Smart
Timothy Jason Smart(Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department)

Investigators from several agencies did extensive follow-up work on leads which resulted in the arrest of Bryan Lee O’Daniels, 44, of Wilmington.

O’Daniels was taken into custody in Leland on July 1 and charged with one count of murder. He is in the Brunswick County Detention Center with bond set at $750,000 and he cannot have any contact with witnesses.

“The arrest was the result of a yearlong collaborative effort between the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Bureau of Investigation,” the news release stated. “Each agency — along with the case notes from the original reporting officer, Mike Parsons of the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department — were instrumental in helping bring resolution to this case.”

During O’Daniels’ first court appearance Tuesday afternoon, District Attorney Jon David said investigators have not found Smart’s remains. Prosecutors Tuesday said Smart was long distance truck driver from North Dakota and in June 1995, he was charged with DWI and traffic offenses.

Smart met O’Daniels in the Brunswick County Jail and stayed with O’Daniels at his home when they got out.

July 11, 1995, was the last time Smart’s mom and girlfriend heard from him. He didn’t show up to a new truck driving job on July 17, 1995. In August 1995, Smart’s mother reported him missing. Interviews were conducted but the case went cold.

In May 2018, an anonymous caller gave the State Bureau of Investigation information on Smart’s disappearance, including the name of a person who had additional information. The SBI and Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department followed up on the name provided and over the past several weeks, detectives have conducted interviews.

David said a “close circle of friends” — interviewed separately — all had consistent information about the disposal of body, where it was disposed and how it was cleaned it up. Those friends expressed to investigators they feared O’Daniels would retaliate if they spoke up sooner.

No body has been recovered but David said, “We can say with confidence the victim isn’t hiding somewhere. He was murdered and this defendant here is responsible.”

David said they’re looking into whether to charge another person as an accessory after the murder. He’ll make an announcement on a decision in the next few weeks.

David said they haven’t been able to locate any of Smart’s family members. His mom has died. David urged any family members to contact the district attorney’s office. David also said it’s common in cases like this for the defendant to make statements to others about a crime he or she did to instill fear or to brag about it. He urges anyone who has heard something like this to contact the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department.

David did acknowledge in court challenges prosecutors may have moving forward with this case.

“The challenge before us is that this is both a cold case from 1995 and a no body homicide,” David said.

When O’Daniels was asked in court Tuesday if he wanted to say anything, he said, “First of all, I’m denying anything to do with this. I want to have my day in court. I think I’ll be found not guilty of this and I’m going to fight.”

O’Daniels’ next court date is July 23.

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