Almost two years after a fire destroyed a home east of Mt. Vernon, a suspect has been arrested on two counts of first-degree murder and arson.
Isaac Connery, 23, was arrested in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, June 26, according to a July 8 press release from the Grant County sheriff and district attorney.
Connery is accused of shooting Terry and Sharon Smith July 17, 2018, and setting fire to their home on Nans Rock Road in the Laycock Creek area between Mt. Vernon and John Day, according to the release.
“The Grant County Sheriff’s Office has worked for the past two years in solving this crime where we have taken the lead in this case, and our due diligence and hard work never ceased,” Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said in the release. “With what we have in a case like this, and as traumatic (as) it has been for the families of Terry and Sharon Smith, hopefully this will be a step toward understanding what took place the night of July 17, 2018.”
The fire totally destroyed the home, but Palmer later discovered partial human remains at the site, which were identified through DNA as belonging to Terry Smith, the release states.
Palmer also discovered other partial remains that could not be identified but have been accepted as belonging to Sharon Smith, according to the release.
Evidence was found, including witness testimony and suspect cellphone locations, that place Connery and his mother, Gabrielle Connery, 46, at the Smith home at the time of the fire, the release states. The Connerys had been associated with the Smiths, both in Hawaii and Oregon, prior to the incident.
The Smiths’ pickup was later discovered abandoned in the Boise, Idaho, area after the fire, and follow-up interviews with witnesses indicated that Isaac Connery took the pickup the night of the fire, the release states. He was indicted June 23 for unlawful use of a motor vehicle, and a nationwide warrant was issued for his arrest.
Grant County Undersheriff Zach Mobley and Sgt. Danny Komning, along with FBI Special Agent Ben Jones, traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to interview Isaac Connery.
Mobley learned that he and his mother had dropped off two Connery minor children at a local campground, likely Clyde Holliday State Park, on the afternoon or evening of July 17, 2018, and then Gabrielle Connery drove Isaac Connery to the Smith home and dropped him off, before returning alone to the campground to pick up the children, according to the release.
“Isaac Connery went to the Smith home and shot Terry, then Sharon Smith, and set fire to their home,” the release states. “Then Isaac Connery took their pickup and drove to meet Gabrielle Connery” in the Boise, Idaho, area.
The process to extradite Isaac Connery to Grant County has begun, and the matter will soon be presented to a grand jury for more formal charges, including possible charges against Gabrielle Connery for the role she played in the deaths of the Smiths, the release states.
Cathy Hinshaw, Sharon Smith’s sister, told the Eagle that the Smiths met the Connerys about 10 years ago when the Smiths sold them property in Hawaii. She said Isaac Connery was 10 or 11 years old at the time.
Hinshaw said, over the years, the Smiths helped the Connerys start a business and buy property, and gave the family a free place to live.
Hinshaw said the Smiths owned about 60 properties, and they would sell property to young families who were just starting out for little to no money down.
“They would buy properties, and pay a little bit and move on and build themselves a life,” she said. “And so that’s what they did with the Connerys.”
Hinshaw said Gabrielle Connery moved into one of the Smiths’ properties with her children, but defaulted on the payments and gave it back. She said the Connerys moved back and forth between the mainland and Hawaii, and during that time, Terry Smith built the Connerys a fruit stand business, with air-conditioned containers to store the fruit, and the Smiths put them up in a home they owned nearby at no cost.
“They were just part of the family,” Hinshaw said.
Weeks before the fire, Hinshaw said her sister told her on a phone call that Isaac and Gabrielle Connery showed up at their cabin in Grant County after their car had broken down.
Sharon Smith did not “feel right” with the Connerys staying with them, Hinshaw said.
“She did not tell me why. She just said she did not feel right with them there,” Hinshaw said. “She wanted them to go.”
When she got news of the fire and heard the Smiths were missing, Hinshaw said she knew they were not away on a fishing trip as some suggested because she had spoken to Sharon Smith hours before the fire.
Hinshaw said she would have never suspected Isaac Connery would have been capable of a crime of this caliber.
“(The Connerys) were all just the nicest kids,” Hinshaw said. “(The Smiths) bought them things and took care of them like they were their own kids. They were wonderful people just trying to help.”
Palmer said in the release the sheriff’s office worked with Jones, arson and crime lab personnel from the Oregon State Police, the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office, the Oregon State Fire Marshal, Boise (Idaho) Police Department and various agencies in Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii.