Investigation into couple missing after fire treated as homicide

Sharon and Terry Smith

The investigation into the couple missing after their house in the Laycock Creek area burned in July is being treated as a homicide.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said evidence collected at the scene of the fire on Nan’s Rock Road between Mt. Vernon and John Day is believed to be of human origin, and testing is being conducted by the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office in Clackamas.

The possible remains have not been identified, Palmer said in a Sept. 5 press release.

“This agency is not prepared to release any identities in this case of anyone,” Palmer said. “As the investigation progresses we will release information to the public as it becomes available.”

Terry Smith, 67, and Sharon Smith, 65, have been missing since their off-the-grid and isolated home was destroyed by a fire July 17-18. Their silver or light gray 2006 Toyota Tacoma with Oregon license 714EGG also went missing.

Two cadaver dogs from the Crook County Sheriff’s Office searched the scene following the fire with negative results, Palmer said in an Aug. 2 press release.

Family and friends told the Eagle about the social nature of the Smiths and how unusual it would be for them to disappear for any length of time without communicating with their friends and family.

Cathy Hinshaw, Sharon’s sister who lives in Hawaii, told the Eagle she felt pretty sure from the beginning that the Smiths had died and were consumed in the fire. But there were still unanswered questions.

“I can’t understand where the truck went,” she said.

She said the sheriff’s office asked her for a DNA sample and then three weeks later asked her to send a form confirming that they could use her sample.

Hinshaw said she spoke to Sharon the evening of the fire, and Sharon had told her they were headed to bed. The Smiths had planned to clean the caretaker’s house the next day and then go fishing.

The caretaker’s wife had suffered a stroke. The couple were in Idaho seeking medical treatment at the time of the fire but were expected to return the next day.

The Smiths sometimes let people stay on the 80- to 100-acre property on Nan’s Rock Road that the couple bought in the mid-1990s, Hinshaw said. They were a very social couple, and their disappearance was very unusual and suggested foul play, she said.

Hinshaw said she’s dealing with the tragedy.

“After a while, it gets easier,” she said. “I’m trying. There are good days and bad days.”

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