Lemuel Smith was born into the least likely of bedeviled households on July 23, 1941. He was part of a strictly religious Black family living in Amsterdam, New York. His father was a minister, and both of his parents lived in the household. There were no reports of physical or mental abuse. There were no known reasons why Lemuel would have such a compulsion to kill, which according to him started as early as when he was twelve years old when he nearly smothered a nine-year-old girl to death.
The Smith household tasted grief prior to Lemuel's birth when their son John Jr. died of encephalitis in 1939. Lemuel was the youngest of four children born to the couple.
By the time Lemuel was 10 years old he had already suffered at least three head injuries, and during those years of his adolescence he stalked, kissed, touched and manually penetrated girls. When he was 12 years old he refused to attend church with his family.
As an adult he was given an EEG, which showed that there was no lasting brain damage from his childhood injuries
On January 21, 1958, Dorothy Waterstreet was robbed and beaten to death as she crossed a supermarket parking lot near Lemuel Smith's neighborhood in Amsterdam. Evidence pointed towards the 16-year-old Smith and within two days he was brought in for questioning, but the case fell apart when the Lemuel would agree to questioning only if he received immunity, which was not agreed to and the case fell apart.
Only a month before he was indicted for the burglary of Strech’s coffee shop & Richel’s Confectionary store in the same neighborhood. He was free after posting a $1000 bond.
During the following summer, he moved to Schenectady with his sister Edith, then to Baltimore with other relatives. In August he took a 25-year-old woman prisoner and beat her nearly to death during a botched robbery with a 15-inch pipe. This time, a witness interrupted the crime and Smith left a living victim.
In early 1959 he went to trial for the crime and received the maximum sentence which was twenty years. He served his sentence at Baltimore Penitentiary where he spent much of his time in solitary confinement. He was denied parole twice, and it was during this time that he converted to Catholicism over the stringent opposition of his family, and he was made the chaplain's assistant.
Two years after becoming the chaplain's assistant and ten years into his sentence he was granted parole based on the chaplain's plea to the parole board.
In May 1969, he kidnapped and sexually assaulted a woman who managed to escape. Later that same day, he kidnapped and raped a 46-year-old friend of his mother's. When the woman convinced Smith to let her go, he was arrested again and eventually was given a 4 to 15 year sentence to be served in Attica prison. He was denied parole twice during these years.
In October 1976, a law passed by the New York legislature gave Lemuel Smith his freedom, which he took full and immediate advantage of.
On November 24, 1976 Robert Hedderman, 48, and his secretary, Margaret Byron, 59, were found brutally murdered in the back of Hedderman's religious store in Albany. Human feces was found on evidence nearby which later proved valuable. Lemuel Smith was free and employed nearby and hair and blood evidence made him a main suspect.
On December 23, while Albany police were investigating the double-murder, Joan Richburg, 24, was raped, murdered and mutilated in her car at Colonie Center mall in Colonie. The pattern of brutality and more hair evidence made Smith the prime suspect in that murder as well but he remained free pending investigation.
Barely two weeks later, on January 10, 1977 a large black man tried to lure a 22-year-old woman named Denise out of a gift shop in Albany. When she resisted, he took her 60-year-old grandmother Beulah Southwell hostage and threatened to kill her. When help arrived, he threw the woman down knocking her unconscious and deliberately stepped on her hand, breaking it. Only years later would the grandmother see a picture of Smith in the newspaper and identify him as her attacker.
On July 22, 1977, Maralie Wilson, 30, a legal secretary, was found naked under some brush close to railroad tracks. She had been strangled and mutilated. The horrendous post-mortem mutilation was worse than some veteran investigators had ever seen in the region. Smith was known to frequent the area and witnesses recalled Wilson being accosted by a large black man. Schenectady police made Smith the prime suspect in her murder.
On August 18, Marianne Maggio, 18, who worked in the same area as Maralie Wilson, was kidnapped and raped by Lemuel Smith. When he forced her to drive towards Albany afterwards, police stopped the car and arrested Smith without incident.
Wilson's remains were exhumed in order to match the bite marks found on her neck, breasts and nose to Lemuel's dental plate. They were a match.
Around the same time, in late October 1977, Smith was transported to Bleecker Stadium in Albany. He and four other men were randomly placed behind five screens at one end of the stadium. At the other end of the stadium, a police dog was given the scent of the feces-stained clothing from the Hedderman store murders eleven months prior.
The dog crossed the entire stadium directly to Lemuel Smith. Out of sight of the dog, the five men were randomly rearranged and the experiment was repeated with the same result. It was successful a third time as well.
In May 1978, with the pressure from the dog experiment and the bite mark match, Smith confessed to five murders, including the murder of Dorothy Waterstreet nearly twenty years earlier.
Along with his confessions, Smith revealed disturbing secrets about life-long mental problems including a claim that he suffered from multiple personality disorder. He attested to being controlled by the spirit of his deceased brother, John Jr., who had died before he was born.
When it was determined to go ahead with the initial rape and kidnapping trials, two doctors testified to his delusions but stopped short of saying he was criminally insane. Smith was found guilty of rape in Saratoga County and, on March 1978 was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison.
Four months later, a four-day bench trial in Schenectady ended with Smith found guilty of kidnapping and he was sentenced to another twenty-five years-to-life. Soon after, Lemuel Smith unsuccessfully attempted suicide.
In Albany, Smith was indicted for the Hedderman store double-murder. He was found guilty on February, 1979 and sentenced to another fifty years-to-life.
When the bite mark evidence was presented in the Maralie Wilson murder case, Smith was indicted for her murder. He was also indicted for the murder of Joan Richburg after confessing. Since there was already no chance of him ever leaving prison, the indictments were dismissed.
In 1981, Lemuel Smith was in the maximum-security Green Haven Correctional Facility. In May 1981, Green Haven Corrections Officer Donna Payant was on duty when she received a phone call and told her co-worker she needed to take care of a problem. When she missed roll-call, hundreds of corrections officers combed the entire prison grounds throughout the night and into the following morning.
Smith had strangled Donna Payant in the chaplain's office, stuffed her body in to a garbage bag and took it to one of the dumpsters.
Donna Payant was married and had three children.
Trash dumpsters were emptied into a truck which police escorted to a dumpsite twenty miles away. When the garbage was spread out, officers finally found Payant's mutilated body.
It was the first time in the United States that a female corrections officer had ever been killed inside a prison. More than five thousand officers attended Payant's funeral and New York governor Hugh Carey officially vowed "a swift response".
The same examiner that observed bite marks on Maralie Wilson was coincidentally called to examine bite marks on Payant's body. He quickly recognized the bite marks and Lemuel Smith was charged with Payant's murder in June 1981. The charge carried a mandatory death sentence.
The high-profile nature of Donna Payant's murder brought high-profile lawyers William Kunstler and C. Vernon Mason (Mason was later a main player in the alleged Tawana Brawley hoax). The team alleged everything from promiscuity by Payant to guards dealing drugs inside and outside the prison. They were unable to evade the bite mark evidence, however, and even their own expert witness agreed that the bite marks on Payant matched those on Maralie Wilson.
The capital murder trial finally began on January 20, 1983, more than eighteen months after Smith's arrest. The defense impugned testimony of inmates and other corrections officers and proposed conspiracy theories but, with no answer to the bite mark evidence, Smith was found guilty three months later at the conclusion of the trial.
Considered the only deterrent for prisoners already serving life sentences, a New York law at the time mandated that Smith automatically be sentenced to death. He was sentenced in June. On July 2nd, 1984, an appeal by Smith called that law's constitutionality into question and was successful in commuting his death sentence to another term of life.
As punishment for the Payant murder and due to the threat he posed even while in prison, Lemuel Smith spent the next twenty years of his life in near-isolation, the longest such span in the nation at the time.
Throughout the years that Lemuel Smith was in prison he was examined by several doctors, and found not to have been physically, mentally or sexually abused by his parents. He was heterosexual but participated in homosexual relations while he was in prison. He abused drugs and alcohol, and was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder.
As of December 2020 he is incarcerated at Five Points Correctional Facility in Seneca County.
source - murderpedia
Do you have a story to tell?
We want you to feel at home when you post a comment on Stranger Than Fiction Stories. That’s why we reserve the right to delete comments and ban users as needed to keep the comment threads here civil and substantive. So read the guidelines below to make sure you are coloring inside the lines.