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York countian part of Jay C. Smith’s death row case that inspired Joseph Wambaugh’s ‘Echoes in the Darkness’

This story from the York Daily Record on May 31, 1992, tells about a York County junkman’s find of evidence in the murder case of Susan Reinert in 1979. One of the defendants in this dramatic case, Jay C. Smith, died last week. Background posts: West York ritualistic suicide forgotten by many, but investigators remember and Longtime district justice: ‘You can wait for my book’ and Witman murder among York County’s most notorious crimes.

The crime story made headlines in Pennsylvania for years.
Joseph Wambaugh extended the case’s international reach with his portrayal in the 1987 book “Echoes in the Darkness.”
The case spawned a TV mini-series.
And a York County man played a role in the case.
“Jay C. Smith, 80, the former Upper Merion High School principal convicted of a teacher’s shocking 1979 murder, then freed from death row by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1992, died Tuesday,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Smith was implicated in the murders of Upper Merion teacher Susan Reinert and her two children and sent to death row.
And the find of the York County junkman helped free him… .

A state policeman who had investigated the case asked junkman Mark Hughes of Wellsville to clean out his attic.
According to York Daily Record articles in 1992, Hughes cut a deal. He hauled the stuff away for free, kept what he wanted and threw the rest away.
He brought the contents from the trooper’s attic to his warehouse.
Hughes found a cardboard box labeled as a gas stove, and discovered something even hotter than that inside – evidence that he connected with the Reinert case.
He turned the evidence over to William Costopoulos, Smith’s attorney.
“The hero in this development is the junkman,” Costopoulos said. “If it weren’t for the junkman (the evidence) would have been in the incinerator.”
Smith died in a Wilkes-Barre hospital, near his northeastern Pennsylvania home.
The Inquirer reported that he had been living in rural northeastern Pennsylvania since his release from prison.
York County, in the form of the Wellsville man this time, always seems to find its way in or near the news.
Click here for a post about Ray Krone, a York countian released from death row.