The Eagle/ Richard Hanners
Two breakthroughs in the case of the missing couple whose house burned in the Laycock Creek Road area were announced Oct. 24 by the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office received confirmation from the Boise Police Department in Boise, Idaho, that the pickup truck belonging to Terry and Sharon Smith was located over the Oct. 20 weekend.
Sheriff Glenn Palmer also announced that the Oregon State Medical Examiner notified his office Oct. 22 that samples of human tissue submitted for DNA testing had been partially analyzed. The samples, from remains found in the burned out residence on Nan’s Rock Road, tested conclusively to be those of Terry Smith.
Further testing is underway on tissue samples and dental records submitted to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in an attempt to locate and identify Sharon Smith, Palmer said in the press release.
The sheriff’s office is jointly investigating the case with the Hilo Police Department in Hawaii County, Oregon State Police, Boise Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Palmer said.
Both in their 60s, Terry and Sharon Smith were considered a “sociable” couple by friends and family members, so their disappearance following the fire at their home in the hills south of Mt. Vernon was always suspect. The disappearance of their silver 2006 Toyota Tacoma added to the mystery.
By the time first responders arrived at the cabin on Nan’s Rock Road in the early morning hours of July 18, the remodeled rural cabin was completely burned and the metal roof had collapsed over the ruins.
The Smiths divided their time between a home in Hawaii and the cabin in Eastern Oregon, where Terry often fished and hunted. The Smiths were known to let people stay on the 80- to 100-acre property in the Laycock Creek area that they bought in the mid-1990s, according to Sharon’s sister Cathy Hinshaw, who lives in Hawaii.
The Smiths first met in junior high school while growing up in Springfield, Hinshaw said. Over the years the couple operated restaurants, second-hand stores, a clothing business in Bali, Indonesia, and seasonally at farmers markets in Washington.
The Smiths never had children and were always working and keeping busy. Hinshaw recalled them serving food at homeless shelters on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Terry would give you the shirt off his back,” she said, adding that he always picked up hitchhikers.
The Grant County Sheriff’s Office took the lead in the investigation of the missing couple from the very beginning, with assistance from state police and the FBI. On Aug. 2, Palmer reported that his office and the FBI had made some contacts in the case and conducted numerous interviews. On Sept. 5, Palmer announced that the case was being treated as a homicide.