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Dead teen's friends gather for consolation

July 22, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

BOONSBORO - A front room at the Red Byrd Restaurant, Motel & Banquet Hall in Keedysville turned into a makeshift crisis center Tuesday night as scores of teens who knew Joshua Smith met to console each other and to talk with counselors sent by the school system.

The body of Smith, 17, a Boonsboro High School student, was found Monday in a paper recycling bin in Rockville, Md., according to the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

"Everyone knew him as crazy and fun-loving," said Holly Wolfe, 17, of Boonsboro, who said she had gone to school with Smith since kindergarten.

"Everyone loved Josh," added Ginger Robertson, 16, of Beaver Creek.

"As you can see, he had a lot of friends," Wolfe said, referring to the nearly 40 teens who slowly emerged from the restaurant and lingered and talked around their cars in the parking lot.

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Smith had been a part-time cook at the Keedysville restaurant for the past two years, said Manager Jeff Hoffman.

The restaurant was closed to the public at 7 p.m. so that the teens could meet.

"It's really hard for everyone, but it's good we're doing this all together," Wolfe said.

"It teaches us all a lesson: Don't take life for granted," Robertson said.

The popular teen, who would have been a senior this fall, was on Boonsboro's football and wrestling teams and also lifted weights, friends said.

"Josh was small in stature, but he was very tough and physical. It would have been a challenge for him to break into the starting lineup this year, but he was going to give everything he had to get there," said Clayton Anders, Boonsboro's football coach.

After graduation, Smith talked of joining the military, friends said.

Smith had last worked at Red Byrd on Sunday, July 12, and was scheduled to work again last Sunday, Hoffman said.

Smith showed up at the business last Thursday and asked Hoffman for a loan, he said.

Hoffman would only say he gave some money to Smith.

Besides working as a part-time cook, Smith also worked full time for the past two summers shearing Christmas trees at South Mountain Plantation in Boonsboro.

"Josh was a really good worker...He was really a physical kid - strong, quiet, and he got the job done," said Gary Cline, owner of the family-run Christmas tree farm.

After work on Friday afternoon, it seemed like Smith was "a little anxious" to get somewhere because he left a few minutes early and in a hurry, Cline said.

He said Smith didn't wait to pick up his paycheck after work Friday even though he indicated he needed it after Cline asked him if he could wait a week to get all of the employees on the same pay schedule, Cline said.

Smith was partying with friends in the Keedysville area Friday night and had plans to spend the night with a friend, but that didn't work out, Wolfe said.

He told friends he was going to the Red Byrd to stay that night and that's the last time anyone saw him, Wolfe 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 restaurant Saturday morning, Hoffman said.

That's when Hoffman and some of Smith's friends searched the establishment's grounds off of Md. 34, looked in the motel rooms, and climbed into two recycling bins, though both had been emptied as scheduled early that morning, Hoffman said.

"Everyone was looking for him. We were really worried," Wolfe said.

Smith and his friends sought jobs together at the tree farm and at the restaurant and most knew each other since childhood, Hoffman said.

"He was a good kid and a good worker...He was always good for a laugh and he didn't really worry about things. He was a typical teenager, but he also knew how to listen to his mother," Hoffman said.

It was common to hear Smith talking to his mother on the telephone from the restaurant to let her know his plans, where he was going, and what time he would be home, Hoffman said.

When Smith didn't come home Saturday, his mother, Irene Smith, looked for him and then called the Washington County Sheriff's Department, said Sgt. Randy Wilkinson, of the criminal investigation division.

Irene Smith had no comment when reached at her home.

Anyone with information about Smith's death can call sheriff's Investigator Peter Lazich at 1-301-791-3300, extension 120.

Staff writer Mark Keller contributed to this story.

related story: Boonsboro teen found dead in recycling bin

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