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Boonsboro teen found dead in recycling bin

July 22, 1998

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

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Teen found in recycle binBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - The body of a Boonsboro High School student was found Monday in a paper recycling bin in Rockville, Md., according to the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Clothing on the body - a Hooters T-shirt - matched the description of that worn by a teenager who was reported missing from the Keedysville area on Sunday, Sgt. Randy Wilkinson said.

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Authorities using dental records on Tuesday positively identified the body as that of Joshua Lee Smith, 17, of 307 N. Main St., Boonsboro, he said.

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Investigators classified the case as a "suspicious death" but have no evidence pointing to foul play, Wilkinson said.

"We really don't know what happened," he said.

Wilkinson said investigators questioned a number of people on Tuesday who were with Smith when he was last seen, between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Interviews will continue today, he said.

Smith was partying with friends Friday night in the Keedysville area, said Holly Wolfe, 17, of Boonsboro. Wolfe said she has gone to school with Smith since kindergarten.

She was among nearly 40 of Smith's friends and co-workers who met at the Red Byrd Restaurant, Motel & Banquet Hall on Monday night, where Smith worked as a part-time cook, to console each other and talk to counselors sent by the school system.

Smith, who would have entered his senior year at Boonsboro High this fall, wrestled and played football for the school, according to friends. He worked two jobs and planned to join the military after graduation, friends said.

When Smith did not come home Saturday, his mother, Irene Smith, began to look for him.

"She wanted to give him a chance to return home," Wilkinson said.

When he did not, she called the sheriff's office, Wilkinson said. A police dog unsuccessfully searched the Keedysville area on Sunday, he said.

Authorities were preparing to send a helicopter to search the area on Monday when they received a call from police in Montgomery County, Md., Wilkinson said.

An employee of the Georgetown Paper Co. found a badly decomposed body, said Joyce Barrow, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department. Because of the body's condition, police could not estimate the boy's age or confirm his race, Barrow said.

Company officials determined that the body was brought in by a truck that had made several stops in Washington County, Wilkinson said.

Two pairs of shorts and two shirts, a pair of shoes, a set of keys, a beeper and a wallet stuffed into one of the shoes - all belonging to Smith - were found on the back porch of the Red Byrd restaurant on Saturday morning, said Manager Jeff Hoffman. The clothing was folded.

Exactly how Smith died remains a mystery. An initial examination of the body revealed no signs of trauma, Barrow said.

"There were no gaping holes, no bullet wounds, nothing to indicate stab wounds," she said.

An autopsy conducted at the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore also did not point to foul play, Wilkinson said.

Smith's injuries appeared more consistent with crushing from the compactor than an attack, he said.

A report that will tell whether Smith had been drinking or using drugs will not be ready for at least three days, Wilkinson said.

"The toxicology report will tell us a lot," he said.

Wilkinson also said it is impossible to tell from the preliminary autopsy when Smith died.

"There can be a number of theories. The rumor mill is running rampant in the area there," he said.

Smith's parents were making preparations on Tuesday to bring their son's body home, Wilkinson said.

Staff writers Marlo Barnhart and Lisa Graybeal ontributed to this story.

related story: Dead teen's friends gather for consolation

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