...I've found myself...in recent years obsessed with the criminal cases of Pam Smart and other women whose weapon of choice was the stranglehold of sex. Ms. Smart, you may recall, was the pretty, prim school district employee (she was often referred to, erroneously, as a teacher) who seduced a fifteen-year-old virgin boy--a seemingly sweet son of a single mother whose bleak trailer park existence was suddenly brightened by sex several times a day with this older woman who liked Motley Crue and Van Halen as much as he did--and then told him that he couldn't have his source of joy any longer if he didn't kill her husband. Since little inheritance or insurance was involved in this transaction, for the life of me I could not comprehend why this woman did not just get a divorce, and sickning as the situation was, it just fascinated me that she had fucked this teenager into submission. Elizabeth Wurtzel
, Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women
Wurtzel's brief account of this affair sparked my curiosity and caused me to do some basic internet digging. Interest in the case has mostly died down in the aftermath of higher-profile and more sensational news stories since. Most of what I found were photos of the worst of '80's hair, and some poorly written accounts calling Pam Smart a black widow.
Here's the story, as near as I can tell.
Pam Smart was born Pamela Wojas in Miami, Florida, the middle daughter of a comercial airline pilot and a stenographer. Pam had worked since the age of 13, and was a cheerleader for both basketball and football at her high school. Throughout her life, she was notorious for being very organized, for folding even her dirty laundry into the appropriate piles and deeply resenting any hitch in her tight schedule.
In College, Pam Smart majored in communications at Florida State University, completing her BA in a little over three years (graduating 1988) with a grade point average of 3.85. It was on New Years Eve 1986 that Pam Wojas met Gregory Smart. The couple started dating exclusively within a month of meeting, and married shortly after graduation. At the time they met, Greg Smart was a fan of Heavy Metal, as well as hiking and fishing. He had shoulder-length hair, and played the guitar. After graduation, Greg decided to move into a condominium a few blocks from his parents' house, cut his hair short and work for the same insurance firm his father worked for. Pam admired TV interviewer Barbara Walters, and wanted a career in broadcasting. In college, she hosted a weekly radio show called "Metal Madness", calling herself "the Maiden of Metal". When she graduated, she took a job as a media services director in the New Hampshire school district of Hampton. Smart had her own secretary and a student intern, and her job consisted primarily of overseeing the distribution of educational videos. She was also part of an anti-drug program organized by the state of New Hampshire called "Project Self-Esteem", in which she worked with a lot of students. It was working on "Project Self-Esteem" that she met 15-year-old Bill Flynn. Flynn reportedly turned to his best friend, J.R. Lattime, when the two were introduced to Smart and whispered, "I'm in love." In addition to Bill Flynn and J.R., Smart also became close friends with her student intern, Cecilia Pierce. While all this was going on, Pam and Greg's marriage had begun seriously to deteriorate. Greg was becoming every day more conventional, more like his parents and like a "real grownup", spending time with his business contacts and old New Hampshire friends, while his wife was getting involved in her carreer and spending all her time with high school students. Greg admitted to having had an affair. The couple were slowly swinging toward divorce, but each one was determined to keep their condo with its white leather couch and each one wanted custody of their beloved Shih Tzu, Halen (named for Eddie Van Halen).
One weekend while Greg was on a business trip, Pam invited Cecilia Peirce and Bill Flynn to her house to watch the movie 9 1/2 Weeks. At the end of the movie, Smart left Peirce downstairs to walk the dog and took Flynn up to her room and seduced him (reportedly donning turquoise lingerie she'd bought specially for the occasion--ah, the eighties).
From the beginning of their affair, Pam Smart told Flynn, "you'll have to get rid of my husband." Smart reportedly claimed she couldn't divorce Greg because he would stalk her, she claimed he beat her, that he was obsessive, that there was no escaping him. While it is obvious that the Smarts did not have a happy marriage, there is little evidence that Greg Smart really did beat his wife (although I must point out that one wouldn't necessarily expect anyone in 1989/1990 to notice a thing like that between a couple of small-town New Hampshire yuppies), most news coverage indicates that Pam Smart just didn't want to risk losing her condo or her precious dog, Halen. She was also obsessed by detail and needed as much control over her circumstances as possible. When helping to plan the murder, she reportedly told the boys not to use a knife to kill Greg because they would get blood all over the furniture. A gun would be cleaner.
Bill Flynn made two abortive attempts on Greg Smart's life, before Pam Smart reportedly told him that he'd better not screw up again, saying also, "if you loved me you'd do this!" At this point Flynn solicited the help of his friends J.R. and Pete. Neither of them liked Pam very much, but they decided to help their friend to keep him from getting caught. Pam's student intern/best friend Cecilia was also aware of the plot to murder Greg. It was planned that on the first of May 1990, a day Pam would be home late from work because of an important school board meeting, Greg and Pete would break into the house (Pam would "accidentally" leave the back door open for them) and stage a robbery, waiting until Greg got home, and then kill him. Pam stipulated that the boys put the dog, Halen, in the basement, because she didn't want him to be traumatized. Bill Flynn testified that he shot Greg Smart, saying, "God forgive me," before pulling the trigger that left the bullet from a .38 caliber revolver lodged in his skull.
Generally when a person is murdered mysteriously, the deceased's immediate family are the first to be ruled out as suspects. Pam Smart had an alibi, working late at a school board meeting. Despite the alibi, her lack of surprise or obvious grief excited the suspicion of local law enforcement. She consented almost immediately to interviews with investigators (the last thing on most people's minds when a loved one has been killed), telling police that the whole thing looked to her like a botched robbery. In her interview, she described examining the scene of the crime, saying "when I walked over toward the body...", rather than something like, 'when I walked over to Greg, my husband, who I loved very much and couldn't believe he was dead, etc'. When she was accompanied by police to her house, still sealed as a crime scene, to gather her things, she walked repeatedly and non-chalantly through the pool of her husband's blood on the floor.
At this point in the investigation J.R. Lattime's father brought a .38 he'd found in his house to the police, believing it might have been the murder weapon. J.R.'s foster brother, Ralf Welch, had over-heard J.R. and Pete discussing the murder. An annoynmous tip also indicated that a teenager named Cecilia Pierce was aware of the plan. The police talked to Cecilia on Monday, but it wasn't until Thursday that she told them everything she knew. Cecilia then agreed to wear a wire and record some conversations with Smart, in hopes that she'd say something incriminating. Of course she did. On the first of August 1990 Pam Smart was arrested for the murder of her husband. Bill Flynn, J.R. Lattime, and Pete Randal had been arrested earlier, and had plea bargained for lesser sentences if they agreed to testify against Smart. Pam Smart was charged with first degree murder, the others with second degree murder. All were found guilty. Pam Smart was sentenced to life without possibility of parole, and is serving that term in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Bedford Hills, NY (New Hampshire doesn't have a maximum security facility for women). Bill Flynn, J.R. Lattime and Pete Randall are all housed in the Thomaston State Prison in Maine. All have earned their GEDs. Flynn joined the prison ministry group, Lattime works in the print shop and Randal has learned carpentry. They will be ellibible for Parole in 2018, when they are in their fourties.
So I don't know about fucking anybody into submission, the way Elizabeth Wurtzel imagines it. I think of it more like putting a slightly disturbed, needy woman into an immature world, taking all the big dreams she must have had on graduating from college and stuffing them into an expensively furnished condo she had to share with a nice, boring guy who was quickly turning into his dad. Add to that her constant exposure to high school kids, for whom every problem is just huge, because it has just been invented, and for whom there aren't a lot of real consequences for one's actions. I don't really see this as a case of an adult woman toying with a teenager so much as a grown-up woman who was unwilling to embrace responsible adulthood, and who couldn't put her admittedly sort of uncomfortable life into perspective.