2012-08-18 / Front Page

No sign of kidnapping suspect

‘Cadaver dogs’ no help in search for Smith


Police have circulated this undated photo of kidnapping suspect Thomas Smith. Police have circulated this undated photo of kidnapping suspect Thomas Smith. Law enforcement offificials are sparing no resources in their attempt to fifind Thomas Smith, the 58-year-old Emporium resident who is wanted for kidnapping a local woman at gunpoint.

But, as of very early Friday morning, Smith was still not accounted for.

On Thursday, four state police K-9 cadaver dogs were brought in to assist police in the search in an effort to fifind Smith in the event he had taken his own life.

“It’s (suicide) something you have to take into consideration as a possibility,” said Emporium Borough

Police Chief John Lovett.

“We wanted to cover that base before we got too much further along…”

Lovett explained that the native animals and insects in this area can make fifinding a body diffificult.

“The critters in our area can take care of a body in a hurry, even just a couple days,” Lovett explained. “If that happens, then you’re talking about (looking for) DNA.”

Teams of armed law enforcement offificials and trained man trackers accompanied the K-9 units in day-long searches of large sections of forest on Whittimore Hill in Emporium Borough and Norwich Hill, along Route 46, roughly 10 miles outside of the borough.

“We feel a little better now about the investigation and for the family since we didn’t fifind him (dead) today,” Lovett said. “Our job stays the same: we’re just going to keep following the evidence.”

Lovett is keeping his hunches to himself, but he did say that the public can expect to hear about more searches of area residences in the coming days.

A search of the Allegany Pub was made Wednesday after police received a tip that a suspicious man was seen kneeling in the woods behind the bar. The owner of the bar, Joyce Lyon, is the brother of the suspect. Smith was not there.


Four K-9 ‘cadaver dogs’ were brought to Emporium Thursday to assist law enforcement officials in their search for fugitive Thomas Smith who has eluded authorities for 10 days now. Several teams searched large tracts of land on Whittimore Hill and Norwich Hill. Smith was not found. Above, left, John Ackerman, Deputy Coroner of Westmoreland County, gives his dog a break between searches. The command station on Whittimore Hill was set up and operating before the fog lifted over Emporium Borough. Four K-9 ‘cadaver dogs’ were brought to Emporium Thursday to assist law enforcement officials in their search for fugitive Thomas Smith who has eluded authorities for 10 days now. Several teams searched large tracts of land on Whittimore Hill and Norwich Hill. Smith was not found. Above, left, John Ackerman, Deputy Coroner of Westmoreland County, gives his dog a break between searches. The command station on Whittimore Hill was set up and operating before the fog lifted over Emporium Borough. Lovett said an aggressive investigation will continue for as long as necessary.

“We do believe he’s armed and a threat to the public so we’re going to continue to be proactive,” the chief said. “The search today was by no means a fifinal effort.”

Smith did have a short stint in the military after high school, but Lovett said authorities have no reason to believe he has received any special training in outdoor survival.

“People in this area are all generally very resourceful,” he said. “Most of us know how to get around in the mountains.”

Smith was last seen darting behind houses on South Broad St. after the woman he had allegedly kidnapped at gunpoint escaped.

Last Wednesday at a little after noon, Smith waived down a local bank employee near her home and asked her for a ride to Sheetz, saying that his vehicle was having troubles. When they drove away from the site, he pulled a gun and told her to take him to the bank. She refused and drove by the bank, at least a couple times. On the last pass, she turned onto Broad St. and drove toward Sheetz. When she got there, she jumped out of the vehicle while it was still moving, hauling Smith down the street. The vehicle came to rest against the porch of a nearby home and Smith flfled.

The victim called police minutes later and a search for Smith ensued immediately. Several sightings have been reported in the past 10 days, but most have been sightings of people who looked similar to the suspect.

Police would not speculate as to why Smith asked the victim to take him to the bank, noting that information would “come out in a trial.”

There is some speculation that Smith’s anger with the bank and its employee stem from a home foreclosure, but that information has not yet been confifirmed.

Police believe Smith is still on foot since his vehicle is accounted for and no vehicles in the area have been reported stolen. They advise area residents to be vigilant and aware during their daily routines. They also recommend locking houses and cars.

A reward of $5,000 is being offered for information that leads to his arrest.

Emporium Borough Police were assisted in their search today by the Emporium, Montoursville and Kane state police, Cameron and Elk County emergency management agencies, Mountaineer Search and Rescue Team, Cameron County Sherriff’s Department, McKean County Sherriff’s Department, Westmorland County Cadaver K-9 unit based in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, State Police Human Remains Detection K-9 Unit based in Hershey, Northwest Pennsylvania K-9 Search and Rescue Cadaver K-9 unit based in Erie, New York State Police Cadaver K-9 Unit based in Jamestown, NY, the Pa Game Commission, DCNR, Emporium Borough Police Animal Control Offificer and the St. Marys City Police.

Searchers were provided food, drinks and other necessities by the following businesses: Olivett’s Shur Fine, Sheetz, Pizza Palace, Fox’s Pizza (all of Emporium), McDonalds Restaurant of St. Marys, Joey’s Bakery of Ridgway, Helplers Distributor of Brockway, East End Beverage of Emporium, Hughes Bottled Water of Brockway and Dave’s Main Street Restaurant and Tavern of Reynoldsville. Burkes Septic Service of St. Marys provided facilities for both command posts.

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