Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

Book Reviewed

However, three reviewers believed Smith made a good case for his innocence. One of them sternly took Wambaugh to task. "I was a big fan of the Joe Wambaugh books Onion Field and New Centurions but I have to say that his involvement in the Jay Smith case is very troubling. How any former law enforcement officer can take it upon himself to pay off other law enforcement officers in an effort to steer justice is very bothersome to me. . . . Joe Wambaugh's role in this fiasco is a stain on a literary career and an insult to justice."

One reviewer wrote, "I attended Upper Merion High School while Smith was principal, and can attest to his bizarre, unsettling and off-putting presentation. I never had a class with Bradfield, but he seemed to have a charismatic attraction to many students who I knew and considered intelligent and well grounded." With the special perspective afforded by personal experience, this person asserted that Smith's writing was rife with "evidence of mental disturbance" including "grandiosity, perversity and narcissism." Despite finding many flaws in Smith's personality, this individual concluded, "It is easy to believe that [Bradfield] could have been a psychopath, and not a stretch to consider that a psychopath would find Smith an excellent target to implicate in wrong doing and so deflect suspicion from himself."

Only months after he self-published the book he hoped would vindicate him in the court of public opinion, Smith died on May 12, 2009, in a Wilkes-Barre, Pa., hospital where he was being treated for heart trouble. He was 80.

Author Joseph Wambaugh, who never wavered in his belief that Smith was a triple murderer, greeted the death as "good news." He expressed the belief that the man called "The Prince of Darkness" would now meet his true master, after whom he had been nicknamed. "I do not celebrate the death of any man, but Satan does," Wambaugh stated. "A number-one draft pick has finally arrived."

Joseph Ersek, who had served under Smith in the National Guard, was considerably kinder to the late educator and murder suspect. "He always gave everybody the impression that we [his unit] were special," Ersek commented. "I can't say anything bad about him. He had a lot of confidence in himself. He made you think he was somebody."

In an interview with the author of this Crime Library article, Smith attorney William Costopoulos stated that he kept in "sporadic" contact with his client. "We did lunch a couple of times," Costopoulos added. "I liked Jay but he was odd." Costopoulos is convinced Smith was innocent of murder and recommends that those wanting to learn more read Joseph Wambaugh and the Jay Smith Case.


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