After decades in law enforcement, Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran has seen thousands of criminals come and go, yet he still immediately recognized the name Edmond Hudmond “Eddie” Smith IV.
“He had one of the longest arrest records I’d ever seen as far as someone who hadn’t been convicted of something,” Cochran said. “He beat the system for many years, but it finally caught up to him.”
Smith, 53, was serving the ninth year of a 65-year prison sentence when he died on Aug. 21 at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. A spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons could not release any information about his cause of death, citing privacy concerns.
Whether they were acquaintances who knew of his antics as a well-known angler and outdoorsman, plaintiffs in civil actions trying to recover things he’d allegedly conned them out of or lawmen trying to put him behind bars, most people who had dealings with Smith tended to remember him.
In 2007, he was the subject of a lengthy series of articles written by former Mobile Press-Register reporter Eddie Curran highlighting his “larger than life” persona as well as the unusual — if at times, absurd — string of civil and criminal issues he had that somehow never seemed to stick.
According to county records, Smith was booked into Mobile Metro Jail 17 times between 1992 and 2007 on a number of charges that ranged from assault to stealing water from a neighbor’s spicket.
A 2006 incident, in particular, drew the attention of local media, after Smith armed himself with a handgun and chased down a man trying to repossess a $300,000 boat emblazoned with the Hooters logo. He was arrested on the side of the interstate, but the owner ultimately declined to press charges.
That’s similar to a lot of Smith’s brushes with the law, most of which resulted in light sentences or were dismissed when victims failed to show or settled their issues with Smith privately. Yet, it was a seemingly innocuous charge of harassment from 2005 that arguably sparked the chain of events that saw Smith graduate from a small-time criminal to an international fugitive and ultimately to a federal prisoner.
Smith was sentenced to 90 days of home confinement in 2006 for harassing a female RadioShack employee, but retired Circuit Judge Charlie Graddick eventually ordered him to serve 88 of those days in Metro Jail after he admitted to leaving the state two times to go hunting while he was under house arrest.
But due to medical complications that were becoming expensive for the jail, Smith was allowed to leave custody as part of a temporary release he secured with the blessing of the judge and jailers.
“He had gotten sick in the jail. He had diabetes and wounds on his feet and all of that, which needed some pretty serious medical care,” Cochran said. “So we let him out on a bond, where he had to wear a GPS ankle bracelet so that he could go and get treatment in New Orleans, I believe.”
Cochran said he and his staff were a bit “embarrassed” by what wound up happening next. Smith didn’t go to New Orleans. Instead, he fled the country along with his mother, Linda Diann Smith. Cochran said his investigators worked with Homeland Security to trace Smith to Mexico and from there to Costa Rica.
With assistance from the U.S. State Department, Costa Rican authorities were able to quietly apprehend Smith in mid-2007.
“We had some patrols as part of a fugitive task force that actually spotted him down there, and they got pictures we used to verify it was him. When they arrested him we immediately had him extradited back to Mobile,” Cochran said. “Really, it was the first time I’d ever been involved in anything like that.”
Back the states, Smith faced new charges of escape, theft and the illegal use of a gun. He spent five months in jail before being released, but it wasn’t long before he found himself on the radar of federal investigators. In 2008, he was indicted for possession of ammunition — something he wasn’t allowed to have because of his prior convictions. A year later, he was convicted of that charge in federal court.
In between his conviction and sentence for that charge, Smith found a confidant at Metro Jail in his cellmate, Paul Albert — a man he didn’t know was wearing a wire for federal investigators at the time.
That device recorded two rambling but detailed conversations Smith had about a plan to hire a “hitman” through Albert to kill several people, including U.S. District Judge William Steele and Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Bordenkircher, who had presided over and prosecuted his case, respectively.
“They need to never be able to f**kin’ find a hair, a splatter or f**kin’ bullet in the wall … f**kin’ nothing. They need to be wiped off the face of the earth,” Smith was recorded saying of the federal officials. “Needs to be no f**kin’ skulls. No f**kin’ teeth. No bones. We’re not payin’ for them just to f**kin’ be killed. We’re paying for a perfect f**kin’ erasing.”
Notably, Smith offered to pay for the hits on Steele and Bordenkircher with a Rolex, a used car and “Pancho Villa’s sword” — all items he claimed to have at his disposal on the outside. Curran, whose name also appeared Smith’s “hit list,” said claiming to own Pancho Villa’s sword was “classic Eddie Smith”
Smith was tried and convicted in 2010 for retaliation against federal officials by threat, solicitation to commit murder and making false statements to federal agents. He claimed he was only putting on a show for Albert and never intended to follow through with the threats, but was sentenced to 65 years in prison.
Even though Smith threatened to have him killed, Curran said he doesn’t hold any ill will toward the man today. As for his reporting, Curran said the series about Smith’s antics almost seemed to write itself because of the number of people who had stories about him and were willing to share them.
“He certainly wasn’t the world’s biggest criminal, but he was this kind of larger-than-life character,” he said. “All the people I met just had so many stories about him, and everything just kept growing.”
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