John Smith (murderer)

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For other people with the same name, see John Smith.

John David Smith III (born 1951) is an American murderer convicted of killing his first wife and also believed to have murdered his second. Skull fragments found in a locker owned by him belong to a third, unidentified, woman, and a photograph found in his possession of an unidentified woman is the basis of an ongoing "Jane Doe" inquiry.[1][2]

He is the subject of the television movie Murder on Pleasant Drive,[3] an episode of Cold Case Files and the books Stranger in my Bed by Michael Fleeman[4] and My Sister Is Missing: Bringing a Killer to Justice" by Sherrie Gladden-Davis.[5] The case was also featured on Medical Detectives, Forensic Files season 9, episode 19: Deadly Matrimony, and Who The Bleep Did I Marry season 2, episode 5: The Third Mrs. Smith.

Smith married Janice Hartman (b. 2 March 1951) on June 30, 1970 when they were both 19. The marriage was troubled; Janice's brother said that Smith was abusive from the first. Hartman left Smith in 1974 and returned to Ohio intending to divorce him. A few days later she disappeared.[6]

Soon after, Smith's brother Michael observed him building a narrow box which he claimed was for Janice's belongings. In 1979 their grandfather discovered the box and called Michael, who found inside it a dismembered corpse with rainbow hair which he believed to be Janice Hartman. He told John, who took the box away.[6]

Smith married his second wife Betty Fran Gladden Smith,[1] in March 1990.[6] While confined to her home by an injury, she disappeared from West Windsor Township, New Jersey on October 4, 1991.

Michael Smith kept his secret until 1999, when told the FBI about the box. Inquiries with law enforcement officials in Ohio and Indiana produced the box and remains, which had been found in 1980 by highway workers in an Indiana field.[6]

Smith was arrested in October 2000 in Escondido, California,[7] where he was living with his third wife.[8] He was convicted in July 2001 of the murder of Janice Hartman and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.[6] His first parole date was in 2011.[9] He unsuccessfully appealed his conviction in 2002.[10] The family of Janice Hartman sought civil damages against Smith's grandfather and brother for their alleged involvement in covering up Smith's crime for over twenty years, but the claims were unsuccessful.[6] Smith remains incarcerated at Marion Correctional Institution.


  1. ^ a b Meaghan Elizabeth Good. "The Charley Project: Betty Fran Smith". Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Identified". The Doe Network. Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  3. ^ MarieGabrielle (8 May 2006). "Murder on Pleasant Drive (TV Movie 2006)". IMDb. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "The Stranger In My Bed (St. Martin's True Crime Library): Michael Fleeman: 9780312984175: Books". Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "My Sister Is Missing: Bringing A Killer To Justice: Sherrie Gladden-Davis, Brad Crawford: 9781578602018: Books". Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Hartman v. Smith, 2005-Ohio-3299 (Court of Appeals of Ohio, 9th Judicial District 29 June 2005).
  7. ^ "Man Held in Wife's 1974 Disappearance". Los Angeles Times & Associated Press. 4 October 2000. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "Downtown: The Missing Mrs. Smiths". ABC 20/20. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  9. ^ "Smith guilty of murder". 20 July 2001. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  10. ^ Ohio v. Smith, 2002-Ohio-4402 (Court of Appeals of Ohio, 9th Judicial District 28 August 2002).