BOILING SPRING LAKES, NC (WWAY) — Case closed. A missing Brunswick County man’s remains have been found, bringing an end to a 24-year-old cold case.
“It’s a rarity to be able to make this come to fruition,” SBI Assistant Special Agent Kelly Hodges said.
A joint investigation by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department (BSLPD) recently uncovered evidence that led to an arrest in a cold case involving the disappearance of Timothy Jason Smart in 1995.
The BSLPD investigated the missing person case of Smart, but eventually the case ran cold.
“Don’t give up, no matter what the time frame is or how long it takes,” former Boiling Sprin Lakes Police Chief Brad Shirley said. “This certainly was a case that had many challenges, but also there was a lot of good information from the beginning and over the years to help us get to the point where we are today.”
Shirley says one detective in particular never gave up.
Boiling Spring Lakes Police’s Detective Sergeant Kevin Smith began working on the case around 2014.
Shirley took on the cold case in 2013 and worked on it for six years until he left the department. He says Smith spent countless hours working on this case, and the strides they made would not have been possible without him.
Shirley says Smith is the only detective for the BSLPD, so he is responsible for a lot of the recent progress the department made while investigating this case.
More than 20 years later, WWAY reported on the unsolved case as part of Hannah Patrick’s “#Unsolved” series that aired in May of 2018. SBI says after the news story aired, an anonymous caller contacted the SBI and provided information that revitalized Smart’s case.
Special Agents from the SBI’s Coastal District along with the BSLPD reopened the case.
“Cold cases in particular present some real challenges for law enforcement,” Hodges said. “Witnesses move on you. Witnesses pass away. I think one of the biggest issues is that our victim wasn’t from this area, so no one knows him. He was only here for a brief amount of time.”
Officers from the BSLPD arrested Bryan O’Daniels on July 1, 2019, and charged him with murder. He remains in custody at the Brunswick County Detention Center.
“So, it kind of kicked off with this anonymous caller coming in, and sometimes in investigations like this, it’s all about timing.”
WWAY asked Hodges if Patrick’s #UNSOLVED series played a major role in their progress with this case.
“Absolutely,” Hodges said. “I don’t think that we would have received that information had it not been for that story.”
After months of questioning witnesses, SBI agents and officers from the BSLPD say they found skeletal remains believed to be that of Smart’s on Tuesday, September 10.
With the help of the North Carolina Forest Service, law enforcement was able to recover the buried remains in a wooded area off of West Boiling Spring Road in Boiling Spring Lakes.
“We’re talking several hundred acres of wooded area,” Boiling Spring Lakes Police Chief Greg Jordan said.
He says he has seen many cold cases, but something about this case was different.
“The difference with this one is that there was a lot of determination,” Jordan said.
Jordan highlights the determination of Smith in particular. He says Smith was one of the people who kept digging for information and kept searching the area, no matter how long it took.
The medical examiner will confirm the identity and cause of death.
“Sometimes the wheels of justice turn slowly. This case is an example of what happens when agencies utilize all of their resources to collaborate. Everyone whose worked on this case, past and present, is thankful to be able to bring closure to Tim’s family and friends after all these years,” said Kellie Hodges, SBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC).
O’Daniels is charged with one count of murder.