By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
It was June 25, 1979, and an orange Plymouth Horizon hatchback sat apparently unoccupied in the parking lot of a hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Inside the partially open trunk was the nude, beaten body of a woman lying on a green, plastic bag with her hands tied behind her back.
Her name was Susan Reinert, a 36 year old English teacher at Upper Merion High School in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Her nose and mouth were bloodied, and her right eye was bruised. She had abrasions on both of her forearms, both knees, behind the neck, on the buttocks, between the shoulder blades and on her ankle.
It appeared she'd been bound with chains which caused the abrasions on her back. It was estimated she was killed 24 to 36 hours before she was found.
No clothing, purse, or keys were found with the body, however there was a rubber dildo under the front seat.
An autopsy completed on June 25, found she died from an overdose of morphine, but no needle marks were found which could have been covered by a bruise.
Her ex-husband Ken Reinert came to identify her. It was then that authorities became aware her children were missing. The most imminent question was where was Karen, 11, and Michael, 10.
The hotel was almost 100 miles from her home.
One of the last to see her was her next door neighbor. On June 22, 1979, she saw Reinert leaving with her two children a little after 9 p.m. Supposedly she was due to give a speech before the Allentown chapter of Parents without Partners, and her children accompanied her for a weekend getaway.
Reinert never made her speech, and three days went by without anyone seeing the mother and children.
The day after the autopsy was completed, her body was released to the funeral home. The police did not want the body to be cremated, hoping to have a more experienced forensic pathologist examine it. Due to a miscommunication with her brother, he had the body cremated.
Any further opportunity to find more forensic evidence was gone.
In a strange coincidence, if you believe in them, a man named Jay C. Smith, 51, was late to a sentencing hearing scheduled for the same day Susan's body was found. He had been convicted on firearms and disorderly conduct charges.
He explained his tardiness to authorities by explaining that the friend who was to give him a ride, canceled at the last minute. The friend, when questioned by the FBI, denied ever knowing that Smith needed a ride. Smith's phone records reflected he only called his attorney on Friday afternoon, and then Sunday night.
Reinert and Smith were known to each since he was the principal at the school where she taught.
August, 19, 1978
A couple sitting on a curb outside a shopping center pizzeria saw a brown Ford Granada prowling around a parking lot. Then it stopped besides a parked van. Fascinated, they watch as an individual with a hooded mask, and a gun in each hand exited the Granada and looked inside the van. The couple notified the police. When they arrived, they saw the car in question heading in their direction. They stopped the driver who turned out to be Dr. Jay C. Smith.
Inside the car was .22 Ruger, and three other loaded handguns. The strange hood he was wearing was made from the sleeve of a football jersey. He also had bolt cutters, tools to break into cars, two homemade silencers and two syringes filled with Placidyl, a tranquilizer that induces unconsciousness within 60 seconds after it's administered.
He also had his daughter Stephanie's social security card. She had mysteriously disappeared with her husband six months before.
Smith said the firearms were to scare off people harassing him, and the syringes belonged to his son-in-law, who he claimed was a drug addict.
After his arrest, Smith was overheard on a telephone conversation asking someone to remove all the files from the house before police arrived.
Authorities staked out Smith's house. Around 2 a.m. a car pulled in, and a man described as a Woody Allen look alike began to load up boxes taken from the basement into his truck. The man was Smith's friend and a former librarian.
The police recovered:
In 1966, Dr. Jay C. Smith, a colonel with the 79th Army Reserve Unit started at Upper Merion High School. He was married to a woman named Stephanie, and they had two daughters, Stephanie and Sheri.
As a school principal, he spent his day locked in his office where strange chemical smells would come from. Smith was known to speak to attractive teachers about finding work in the porn industry. He also had strange peculiarities such as bringing trash from home, and strewing it around school grounds. He would wash his hands at least 15 times per day, and carry on hours-long tirades over the school PA system.
Unbelievably Smith had been a principal at Upper Merion High School for 12 years when he was arrested. It appeared he was a sadist who was into BSDM, bestiality and dark pornography.
What Happened to the Hunsbergers?
In 1976, Stephanie Smith Hunsberger and her husband Edward moved into her father's home at King of Prussia. Both of them combatted heroin addiction. Eddie was on probation for an armed robbery conviction from 3 years before. Neither could hold down a job, so Stephanie prostituted herself to bring in money.
However they said they wanted to get clean and both of them enrolled in a methadone clinic, despite having failed at various previous attempts to go sober.
On February 25, 1978, they paid a visit to Eddie Hunsberger's parent's home, which lived close by in North Wales. They would usually visit once per week. The pair told Eddie's parents they had to go somewhere but would be back soon. They never returned.
After a few weeks, Eddie's parents contacted Smith who told them the couple moved to California, because Eddie found out there was a warrant for his arrest and that they owed money to a drug dealer.
Mrs. Hunsberger investigated and found the warrant did not exist. Besides that, the couple left all their things, behind including an uncashed income tax check.
In March, 1978, when the pair didn't show up for their rehab at the methadone clinic, the staff called Jay Smith. He told them he planned to detox his daughter himself using Placidyl and marijuana.
Smith also cashed Stephanie and Eddie's welfare checks for 6 months after they disappeared.
The couple have never been seen or heard from again, dead or alive.
Eventually it came to light that all of Smith's crimes were committed on Saturdays, which coincidentally was the day his daughter and her husband were last seen.
It turned out that Jay C. Smith had been leading a double life for several years. He was linked to two armed robberies of Sears stores.
In August 1977, Smith robbed the Sears & Roebuck store in St. Davids dressed like a Brinks guard. He walked out with $34,073 in cash.
Four months later, again dressed as a security guard, Smith walked into the Sears & Roebuck store in Neshaminy Mall. The cashier got suspicious, and when she called security he took off.
In May 1978, Jay Smith left his position as principal of the school, and took over as the Special Services Coordinator in the administrative offices. The change was due to the fact Smith had been caught shoplifting at various times.
When Smith was going to trial for robbery, his wife Stephanie who was in advanced stages of stomach and liver cancer, lied for him. She testified he couldn't have committed the crime because they were in Ocean City, Maryland. The jury didn't believe her.
In May 1979, Smith was sentenced to 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison for the Sears robberies. He was also sentenced to a 2 to 5 year term for his conviction of marijuana possession and receiving stolen paintings in 1978. The paintings belonged to Upper Merion High School where he once served as principal
All Roads Lead to Murder
In 1965, Susan Gallagher married Ken Reinert, an Air Force captain. He served in the Vietnam War as a radar technician, flying B-52 bombers on combat missions. He was awarded several honors, including the Air Force's Air Medal.
As an Air Force family they traveled to cities in California, New York and Puerto Rico. Ken Reinert earned a master's degree, and after his service ended they settled in Philadelphia in 1971. Susan went on to teach English at Upper Merion High School.
By 1974, she was involved in an extra-marital affair with William "Bill" Bradfield, a co-worker and chair of the English department at the school. He was 6'3" and a well-known womanizer, who pursued ugly women, using their insecurity against them.
Susan divorced her husband in 1976. He later married Lynn Hoover, a divorcee with a daughter. They had a son, Wayne. They divorced in 1994. Kenneth Reinert died in 2002 from a heart attack, at the age of 59.
William Bradfield, Susan Reinert's lover, was first married to Fran who he met in college. They had two children, Martin and William. When the oldest was five, Fran left.
Then he had a son David, with a common-law wife named Muriel.
In 1963, he got involved with co-worker Susan Myers, 23, an English teacher at Upper Merion High School. They started a 17-year affair. He also had other lovers. Susan Reinert was only one of them. She did know about Sue Myers, but not about three other women he was involved with.
During their affair, Bradfield denied his relationship with Reinert, while she told others they planned to get married soon.
Perhaps the catalyst leading to Susan Reinert's murder started with the death of her mother in October, 1978. She left Susan $30,000 in cash, and a portion of 600 acres of land.
By December 1978, Susan Reinert gave Bradfield an ultimatum. He pleaded for more time, claiming that Sue Myers was hysterical and unstable. He knew Susan was ready to end the relationship, so he told her he was moving out, and in with his parents.
Susan Reinert told her friends she was marrying Bradfield in the summer of 1979, and they were moving to England. She hadn't told the kids so they wouldn't tell her ex-husband, who would try to stop her from leaving the country with them.
Reinert tried to purchase a life insurance policy for herself through USAA for $500,000, naming Bradfield as the beneficiary. Her application was denied. Eventually she was able to secure coverage for $250,000 with a $200,000 accidental-death rider. It was a 1-year policy payable to Bradfield as her intended husband. The policy covered murder. She excluded her children and brother as beneficiaries.
She then asked Jay Smith for a letter of reference in order to secure a position in England as an exchange teacher.
In the meantime, Bradfield told others that Smith was planning to kill Susan Reinert, and if he didn't, then she would be killed by someone else because she frequented bars. According to him, it seemed she had a death wish. He alluded that Susan Reinert was involved with a kinky partner, who used human feces in their sex rituals. In another version he said that Smith was a hitman for the mafia, and that he was intent on killing Reinert because they were having an affair.
For some reason, Bradfield failed to do the obvious, which was to tell Susan that her life was in peril at the hands of Smith.
By June 1979, Susan had four life insurance policies with accidental death riders, all with Bradfield as a beneficiary. The payoff was about $730,000.
Susan Reinert and Susan Myers both believed they would be spending the summer of 1979, in England with Bradfield, however he had already enrolled in a summer program at St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It appeared he had no intentions of leaving the United States.
Bradfield was also seeing Wendy Zeigler who told friends that Bill had promised to marry her once she graduated.
Rumors circulated, but not just any rumors, down, dirty ones that could cost an individual their marriage and/or their career. It involved swinger parties between the faculty at the school, and satanic worship.
The weekend when Reinert when missing, Bradfield said he was in Cape May, New Jersey with friends. Was he attending one of the rumored swing parties?
During Reinert's autopsy it was found she had sand between her toes.
Initially Bradfield was arrested and charged with theft by deception. It seems he'd convinced Reinert to withdraw $25K from her bank account so he could invest it for her. It turned out the investment ended up in his pocket. While sitting in jail he filed suit for the life insurance money, which Reinert's family immediately blocked through the courts. However he wasn't the only one involved in the scheme.
Wendy Ziegler, one of his lovers was also arrested. She hid the $25K in a safe deposit box for him, and removed it the day of Reinert's disappearance. She ended up testifying against him in 1981. He was sentenced to two years in prison for those charges.
In 1983, Bradfield was charged with Reinert's murder. He was convicted of conspiracy to commit three murders, despite the children's bodies not being found. He was sentenced to three life terms.
A photo turned up in Barfield's cell, which wasn't developed until 1986. It depicts a crudely carved stone marker that resembles a hooded figure, in a wooded area. The location has never been identified. It was found among dozens of boxes that contained Bradfield's belongings. There is a theory the stone marks the place where the Reinert children were buried. There were coded writings in the box as well.
The Reinert children were declared legally dead in 1987.
William Bradfield died in 1989.
The case became known as the Main Line Murders.
Six years later to the day of Susan Reinert's disappearance, Jay Smith was arrested and charged with her murder. Reinert's colleagues had dubbed him the "The Prince of Darkness" after she disappeared. There was a rumor Smith had burned the Reinert children in the school's incinerator. Another one is that the children were alive, and had been turned over to the missing Hunsbergers to bring up.
During Smith's trial it was found there was a hair that matched Reinert's at Smith's house. Under her body, a comb from Smith's Air Force Unit was found.
Authorities believed Smith committed the actual killings, but Bradfield had orchestrated them.
Smith was convicted and given the death penalty in 1986.
Smith's conviction was overturned in 1992, based on improper hearsay testimony. The prosecutors also withheld evidence from Smith's attorney.
New evidence was found in a box kept in the lead investigator's attic that could have cleared Smith of one of the murders. It was turned over by the owner of a company paid to clear out the attic for the investigator.
Inside the box were notebooks numbered 1 to 23, with number 13 missing. Smith's attorney theorized the missing notebook contained information about a jailhouse informant who could clear Smith of the charges.
Smith's attorney said that officers investigating the crime, might have received up to $50k before the arrest as a payoff for information offered by author Joseph Wambaugh who wrote Echoes in the Darkness, a bestselling book about the case. If Smith eluded conviction on the murder charges, any money Wambaugh stood to make from the book and movie deals would crumble.
Part of the evidence that got Smith released was obtained by former Patriot-News reporter Pete Shellem (1960-2009). According to Shellem's son, he committed suicide, six months after Jay Smith's death.
Smith's attorney argued that Smith could not be tried again for the murder due to double jeopardy.
Mr. Smith filed several lawsuits against the state police and Mr. Wambaugh, accusing them of colluding to convict him falsely, but lost all of them, the last one in 2000. Mr. Smith said he wished a nuclear bomb would drop on Pennsylvania.
A lone investigator left on the Reinert case said there was at least one other person, never charged, who had a great deal of knowledge about the murder, and this person might know what happened to the children,
A co-worker of Stephanie Smith (Jay Smith's wife), gave the press her diary. It contained information on sex rings. One headline read, Sex Ring Linked to Murder. Swingers Group Probed.
One of the rumors was that Jay C. Smith was a member of a cult made up of intellectual professionals, who were satanists and sacrificed Susan. Perhaps the children were used in rituals as well, but that cannot be ascertained, unless anyone who was present and witnessed what happened, would come forward with information.
In his book, The Ultimate Evil: The Search for the Sons of Sam, Maury Terry (1946-2015) wrote:
Specifically, in 1979, when Berkowitz was organizing "Operation Photo" with Lee Chase, he requested that a particular news clipping be sent to Lieutenant Gardner and Felix Gilroy. The article reported that the FBI was probing leads that a Philadelphia schoolteacher named Susan Reinert had been slain in a Black Mass ritual and the event recorded on film. Until Vinny's letter two years before, we had no idea why Berkowitz wanted that clipping sent out. Now the implication was clear.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer