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Reservoir slaying victim had gone fishing to find peace


Vernon A. Smith went to Loch Raven Reservoir Thursday in search of peace and solitude. Instead, he found a violent end at his favorite fishing hole.

"Fishing was a time of solitude for him," his elder brother, Albert H. Smith, recalled from his home in Annandale, Va., in the first interview granted by a family member. "He fished in the rivers and the reservoirs, he fished off the piers in Ocean City and fished for mackerel in the Atlantic. Fishing was a time where he could be at peace with himself.

"I like to believe that he died at peace with himself and with the world."

Baltimore County homicide detectives were searching yesterday for new leads in the slayings of Mr. Smith, a 46-year-old Cockeysville contractor, and a man he never met, 26-year-old insurance adjuster Vincent B. Young. Their bodies were found floating in the shallow waters of a cove, about 200 yards north of the Warren Road bridge.

Police received few calls about evidence revealed Monday: a blood-splattered, dark blue and maroon baseball cap featuring a painted picture of Donald Duck on the front. The cap, found at the crime scene, might have been worn by the killer, police said.

"It's still a mystery and still a whodunit," said E. Jay Miller, a county police spokesman. "We have no focus yet on this investigation. We're just hoping the calls will keep coming in."

Police are working on the theory that Mr. Smith was slain because he stumbled upon a killing in the wooded area, said Cpl. Kevin B. Novak, another police spokesman. Mr. Smith had been bludgeoned to death and Mr. Young was shot several times in the upper torso.

But while detectives are no closer to arresting a killer, Mr. Smith's family is trying to grapple with his violent death.

"Why Vernon? Why did this happen?" his elder brother said in a phone interview.

"He made anybody who spent any time with him glad that they met him," said Albert Smith, a management consultant who learned of Vernon's death after flying home from a business trip to Boston. "He was one of those kind of guys who always put a smile on your face.

"There's nobody on this earth that would want to harm my brother that I knew of or that he knew of. He was a man of peace and serenity. He went fishing to find that, and now he's dead.

"There's a human being out there who took something from us which makes a violent death like this so much harder to deal with," he added. "We're just praying for justice. Whoever did this will get what they deserve."

Other family members declined to talk about the slaying.

Born in Washington, D.C., Vernon Smith moved with his family in 1962 to Annapolis, and graduated from Annapolis Senior High School in 1967. He later earned an associate's degree from Anne hTC Arundel Community College.

"I don't remember what he studied at all," his brother said. "I just remember that he was very much into bands because he was a musician. He was a drummer. He could play just about anything . . . guitar, keyboard instruments, the organ. Once, he even got to play the drums in the play 'Jesus Christ Superstar' at the Kennedy Center."

After moving on from 1970s rock bands named Joy and Second Eagle, Mr. Smith kept up with his love of music by playing in jazz quintets at socials and bar mitzvahs.

An architectural draftsman, Mr. Smith was an independent contractor who worked with local companies occasionally, his brother recalled. He also was a carpenter and spent a lot of time renovating his home and building furniture.

Mr. Smith, who had three children from previous marriages, also is survived by a 4-month-old son, Joshua, his wife, Patricia Ann Bannister, his mother and a sister.

Meanwhile, Police Department criminal profilers have been called in to examine evidence and information, to try to provide new leads into the case, Corporal Novak said.

County police are asking anyone with information to call 887-2198.

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