CANTON — A Lake Placid man who also has a home in Gouverneur has been charged with murdering 67-year-old William M. Freeman. Officials expect he will also be charged with killing 72-year-old Ronald E. “Huck” Durham.
St. Lawrence County sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday afternoon charged Adam W. Smith, 46, with second-degree murder.
Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe said Smith has been incarcerated at the county correctional facility in Canton since March 2. On that date, Smith was charged with felony fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property after deputies arrested him driving Mr. Freeman’s 2018 Chevrolet Silverado truck. He was apprehended near the Bradley Street exit on Interstate 81 near Watertown, heading north.
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 home, 258 County Route 10, Rossie, 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,” District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua said.
The district attorney said Smith is the prime suspect in the Feb. 11 murder of Mr. Durham in Gouverneur’s East Riverside Cemetery. Mr. Durham died of a stab wound to the neck. Mr. Pasqua wouldn’t comment on whether the same knife was used in both murders.
He said because of “physical evidence collected and interviews conducted, we anticipate Mr. Smith will be charged with (the murder of Mr. Durham) shortly.”
“I can say Adam Smith is the primary suspect in Mr. Durham’s death. I do expect in the upcoming days … Mr. Smith will be charged with the homicide of Mr. Durham,” Mr. Pasqua said.
In addition to the Durham and Freeman murders, Mr. Bigwarfe said investigators are looking into Smith “and what he’s done in the last several months,” potentially looking for leads on other unsolved crimes in St. Lawrence County, although they don’t have any specific crimes for which they’re eyeing him.
Undersheriff Sean P. O’Brien said Smith has been on probation for felony burglary. He says because he was not incarcerated for that earlier offense, “it’s unfortunate people had to lose their lives because of that.”
“To get him off the streets of St. Lawrence County and adjoining counties is pretty important,” Mr. Bigwarfe said.
He said there is “some association” between Mr. Durham, Mr. Freeman and Smith, but wouldn’t comment further.
Smith remains in county jail without bail.
The investigation involves several law enforcement agencies, including state police, the St. Lawrence County and Jefferson County sheriff’s offices, the Watertown Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations and the North Country Crime Analysis Center.
Mr. Pasqua said Monday that New York State Police is the lead agency investigating Mr. Durham’s murder, and the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office is the lead agency on Mr. Freeman’s murder.
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.”
On Feb. 11, state police charged a man officials now say is innocent, 22-year-old Frederick A. Wing Jr. of Gouverneur, with Mr. Durham’s murder. When asked about any relationship between Mr. Wing and Smith, Mr. Pasqua replied, “what I will say about that is all the individuals involved in the Durham case were known. Certainly there were no random coincidences in either of these cases.”
Mr. Wing was jailed on the night of Feb. 11 without bail. Once police and prosecutors figured out he didn’t commit the murder, Mr. Wing was released on the night of March 3.
“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.”
Mr. Wing still has a second-degree murder charge pending against him and is free from jail under probationary supervision. Following a court appearance on Monday when Mr. Wing was informed of his probationary restrictions, his lawyer, Edward F. Narrow expects the charge will be officially dropped within a month or two.
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 20 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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