GOUVERNEUR — Adam W. Smith has been charged with murdering Ronald E. “Huck” Durham.
The 46-year-old from Lake Placid was arraigned on a second-degree murder charge Friday afternoon in Gouverneur Town Court and remanded to the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility without bail.
Mr. Durham was found dead of a stab wound to the neck on Feb. 11 in East Riverside Cemetery on Van Buren Road in Gouverneur.
Smith is also being held without bail on another second-degree murder charge in the stabbing death of 67-year-old William M. Freeman at Mr. Freeman’s Rossie home on March 2.
Smith is due in court at 10 a.m. Wednesday for a preliminary hearing.
District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua released a statement Friday asking anyone who may have information on the homicides to contact the state police in Canton at 315-379-0012 or the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office at 315-379-2222.
Smith has been incarcerated at the county jail in Canton since March 2, when he was arrested driving Mr. Freeman’s stolen 2018 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. He was apprehended near the Bradley Street exit on Interstate 81 heading north near Watertown. Police charged him with felony fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and booked him into jail.
State police initially charged a man Mr. Pasqua has since acknowledged is innocent with Mr. Durham’s murder: Frederick A. Wing Jr., 22, of Gouverneur. He was released on the night of March 3 after spending nearly three weeks incarcerated when investigators figured out he didn’t commit the murder. Although Mr. Wing is free from jail, he’s under probationary supervision and the second-degree murder count remains pending.
His attorney, Edward F. Narrow, said he plans to initiate court proceedings next week to get the homicide charge officially tossed.
“The state did the right thing with charging Mr. Smith, and now I look forward to having Mr. Wing’s charge dismissed as well,” Mr. Narrow said Friday afternoon.
“My plan is to talk to DA Pasqua on Monday and see if we can come up with a timetable in which Mr. Wing’s charges can be reduced, initially, returned back to local court, and be dismissed there,” he said. “One of the first things I’d like to do … is make an application to see if the county court judge will change my client’s release status from probation supervision to released on his own recognizance.”
Mr. Narrow said he plans to file the application as soon as possible, and then St. Lawrence County Judge Gregory P. Storie will pick a date for the application to go in front of him.
“For Mr. Wing, I think that takes a lot of the public scrutiny off of him. It’s hard to be a criminal defendant when you’re charged with a homicide. I know the press has been favorable over the last week, but he had that cloud of suspicion over his head for 19 days,” Mr. Narrow said. “Now Mr. Wing can fully enjoy the presumption of innocence he’s always had, and now he is innocent.”
Smith is currently on probation for a burglary conviction. He was arrested in January 2022 and charged with third-degree burglary in connection with a break-in that happened in the town of Fine. He pleaded down to attempted third-degree burglary in St. Lawrence County Court.
Announcing Smith’s arrest on Tuesday for Mr. Freeman’s murder, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe said investigators are looking into Smith “and what he’s done in the last several months,” potentially looking for leads on other unsolved cases in St. Lawrence County.
On Tuesday, Mr. Bigwarfe said an autopsy showed Mr. Freeman died of multiple stab wounds and described Smith as dangerous. Mr. Freeman was found dead at his Rossie home, 258 County Route 10, on March 2.
“This individual that’s been arrested for this pretty heinous crime, through our investigation, appears to be a very dangerous individual,” the sheriff said.
“There are no other suspects in either of the investigations at this time,” Mr. Pasqua said.
The sheriff said there is “some association” between Mr. Durham, Mr. Freeman and Smith, but wouldn’t comment further.
Mr. Bigwarfe said investigators have collected “an abundant amount of forensic evidence” and have run down numerous leads and executed “numerous search warrants, including residences, vehicles and personal property.”
“It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to link Mr. Smith right away to the Feb. 11 incident. Based upon the information we had and all the evidence available, I don’t think it was possible at that time,” Mr. Pasqua said. “I think the collaborative effort between all the agencies was able to make that link and make sure we got to the right individual.”
Officials haven’t gone into details about the evidence that led police to believe Mr. Wing killed Mr. Durham. State police underwater recovery investigators were searching the Oswegatchie River in Gouverneur for evidence in February. Police declined to say whether they found anything.
“At the time that law enforcement began investigating that crime, we were provided information from Mr. Wing indicating he had intimate knowledge of what happened. They did not arrest Mr. Wing on some whim,” and based on the available evidence, “they had probable cause to believe Mr. Wing committed that crime,” Mr. Pasqua said Tuesday.
Mr. Narrow on Monday declined to comment on the evidence that led to police developing that probable cause “only because it’s an ongoing homicide investigation and my client has information that’s helpful,” and he could end up being a witness.
“Hopefully we can close this chapter on him being a defendant and focus on him helping the state with the homicide of Mr. Durham,” Mr. Narrow said.
Mr. Pasqua on Tuesday added that Mr. Wing has “been truthful with law enforcement at this point.”
Following Mr. Wing’s court appearance on Monday morning, he said little after having been advised by Mr. Narrow to not make comments to the press. He did, however, thank the St. Lawrence County jail corrections officers with treating him well during his 19 days incarcerated there.
“I want to say thank you to the correctional facility over in Canton … they were very kind to me,” Mr. Wing said.
Mr. Wing has intellectual disabilities that made it difficult for him to understand what was happening after he’d been interviewed by state police on Feb. 11, according to his cousin, Jessica M. Bice.
She said she doesn’t believe Mr. Wing was able to understand the situation in which he found himself after being arrested. She visited her cousin in jail the Sunday after he was arrested and asked him if he understood that he was being charged with a felony and what his Miranda rights are.
“When I asked him about what Miranda rights were, he thought it had something to do with drinking. He thought he was in trouble for something with drinking,” she said.
She says he also didn’t know what a felony means.
“He thought it was something he had to pay for. He said he didn’t have any money for it,” because Mr. Wing’s only income is from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Mrs. Bice said.
She said Mr. Wing is happy to be home on a comfortable bed and spending time with his family and friends.
“He was happy to look at tractors all weekend on the computer, and be in a comfy bed,” she said.
“And homemade food,” Mr. Wing chimed in.
Mr. Wing’s family has believed in his innocence from the beginning. They said he and Mr. Durham were close friends, having almost a father-and-son relationship.
“He wants to grieve his good friend … and see the Durham family to properly say he’s sorry for their loss and hug them,” Mrs. Bice said.
“(Mr. Durham’s relatives) wanted to reach out and speak with Freddy after Huck’s death. He wasn’t able to, because one, he was incarcerated, and two there was an order of protection in place,” Mr. Narrow said. “Huck and Freddy were good friends. Now Freddy can mourn with Huck’s family.”
Mrs. Bice credits a community effort for getting her cousin exonerated and represented by Mr. Narrow.
“Another big thank you to the community, to the local Gouverneur Police Department, to everybody that rooted for us and got us to this spot today. We’ve got a long battle,” she said.
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