Bothell man confesses to wife’s murder

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, Contributing Writer

A Bothell man was arrested Thursday for the murder of his estranged wife after he confessed to a friend that he committed the crime, according to documents from the Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Alan Justin Smith was originally considered a person of interest and, last week, was named a suspect in the investigation of the death of Susann Smith, who was found dead in February. Detectives found Susann’s body in her home, in the 200 block of 240th Street SW in Bothell, when her employer called police because she had missed work for two days without an explanation.

An autopsy determined Susann Smith died from “a brutal and lethal assault” including approximately 19 sharp force and blunt force wounds to the face, head and neck; a fractured skull; and drowning in a bathtub, according to court documents. She also had defensive wounds on her arms and hands.

Alan and Susann Smith were married but separated, and were in the process of a bitter divorce and custody battle over their two young children, court documents said. The children are now in the care of Child Protective Services.

On February 12, when Susann Smith was found dead in her house, detectives interviewed Alan, whose “reaction seemed rehearsed,” twice, according to documents from prosecutors. When police told him they had found a dead body in his wife’s house, he said he had no idea who would want to harm Susann, but did not immediately answer when asked if he had harmed her. He couldn’t explain what he had been doing for a four-hour time period on the previous Sunday evening.

Police also noticed injuries on Smith’s hand during the interview. He said the bruise and cut on his left hand came from recent accidents – from his 3-year-old son hitting his hand with an ax while they chopped wood and from cutting himself while slicing an apple, respectively. But an interview with Smith’s 6-year-old daughter didn’t back that explanation up.

An ex-girlfriend of Alan Smith’s, who told detectives she had dated him for several months in fall 2012, said he was angry with his wife and said he “wanted her to be done with,” documents from prosecutors state. Smith’s ex-girlfriend said he asked her several times how to make somebody disappear without anyone knowing.

Police interviewed neighbors, co-workers, friends and family of Alan and Susann Smith, according to court documents. Alan Smith’s co-workers said he constantly discussed his hatred and hostility toward Susann, and Smith’s supervisor told him that his discussion of the divorce was disrupting the work environment.

Both Susann and Alan Smith claimed that the other had been mentally or emotionally abusive, according to court documents. Susann’s attorney, John Ely, told police that Alan gave Susann “an incredibly menacing stare” after a court ruled in 2012 that Alan had to pay child support and attorney fees to Susann. Alan claimed that after he saw a psychiatrist, the psychiatrist suggested that Susann might have a personality disorder and might have sexually abused their daughter. But interviews with Susann’s friends and family didn’t reveal any evidence that she had mental health issues.

In several more interviews with police, Alan Smith was “reluctant to cooperate,” and his answers “were very direct and non-emotional regarding Susann and her personal life,” documents from prosecutors state.

Alan Smith’s Internet searches on his work computer and his cell phone also revealed to police probable cause that he had committed the murder. Earlier in the same day that detectives told Smith his wife’s body had been found, he searched for flights out to Venezuela for one adult and two children, for “Where is the best place to live in south central america” and for “10 best countries to live and work abroad,” which suggested to detectives that he was considering leaving the country permanently. In December 2012, he searched for “How realistic is CSI miami” and “most realistic crime shows.” On February 21, 2013, he searched for “How long does it take for DNA test?” and “How much material is needed for DNA?”

Throughout the course of the investigation, detectives discovered Alan Smith lied about owning a bicycle and omitted several important actions, such as driving past Susann’s house 30 minutes before police initially contacted him to tell him that she had been found dead, which police eventually found out about from records of Smith’s GPS.

In April, Alan Smith moved back into Susann’s house in Bothell. Since then, Bothell Police have responded to several domestic incidents at the house involving Smith and his girlfriend, Love Thai (who is not a suspect in the murder investigation.) On May 16, officers issued a warning to Thai, who was sunbathing naked in the backyard. On May 24, police were called to the residence twice – once for a welfare check of a woman who seemed to be having a paranoid episode, and several hours later because the couple was arguing loudly in the front yard about ferrets they had recently purchased. And on June 17, officers issued a warning to Smith and Thai, who were both naked and having sex in the front yard.

On June 20, police served a search warrant to Smith for his passport. When he did not turn over his passport, he was arrested for obstructing and was booked into jail. He was later bailed out and turned over his passport. While Smith was in custody for the obstructing charge, police served another warrant for photos and inked impressions of his footprints, which closely matched bloody footprints found in Susann’s house.

Alan Smith confessed to a friend on June 23 that he had killed Susann. The friend, who met Smith several weeks ago through church, told detectives that Smith said he felt overwhelmed and “trapped in by tornadoes all around him.” As they discussed the process of Christian healing and repentance, Smith looked his friend in the eyes and said “...yes, I did it to her...” and began crying. The friend thought Smith planned to turn himself in to the police, but when Smith did not, the friend called police on June 25.

Police arrived at the crime scene on the morning of June 27, where Smith was arrested on first degree murder charges and taken to Snohomish County Jail.

Under Washington state law, the sentence for first degree murder, which Smith would face if he is convicted, is life in prison.

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