Missing since: 07/15/95
Missing from: Boiling Spring Lakes, Brunswick County, North Carolina.
Date Of Birth: 07/04/70
Age at disappearance: 25
Hair: Brown, short thick, wavy. May wear a mustache.
Clothing: He always dressed in western jeans, boots and western shirts. Always boots, never tennis shoes. Cowboy hat or baseball cap. He also wore a large rodeo-style belt buckle.
Circumstances of Disappearance
Tim Smart was last seen in Boiling Spring Lakes, North Carolina on July 15, 1995. He is believed to have departed the area hitchhiking about 07.00 to Lugoff, South Carolina where he was to undergo a job orientation on July 17, 1995. He had little or no money.
By occupation Smart is a long distance truck driver. Smart is an occasionally heavy drinker who frequents country and western bars. He loved Country Western music and was a good dancer, he was a cowboy and loved Rodeo, horses, and worked on a few cattle ranches in Montana.
Smart had been charged with DWI and was out on bond awaiting trial, according to his girlfriend, Smart had seemed optimistic when they last spoke, and eager to put the problem behind him.
He was born and went to school in California. He kept in close contact with his mom in California. He would call home about every two days and he kept in contact with his girlfriend in North Dakota.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation
Special Agent Janet D. Storms
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For years, whenever Gaile Smart saw a tall, dark-haired young man, she stopped and wondered. One time, she made a U-turn and pulled up alongside another driver to see if it was her son, Tim, who disappeared in Southeastern North Carolina more than 13 years ago when he was 25.
Soon after, when Gaile Smart passed friends in the grocery store, some asked about Tim, but most avoided the subject.
For Smart, 69, who lives in Salinas, Calif., having a missing son is in some ways like living with a terrible disease. No one wants to talk about it. They just avoid the subject.
But Smart said she thinks about Tim, her only child, every day. And more than a decade later, she still cares for his horse Pritzel.
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“Tim has just disappeared, and I’ve never heard a word from him and nothing has ever turned up,” Smart said. “It’s like someone came and snatched you up, and you never existed.”
Since her son was a healthy adult when he went missing, Smart said she believes it took a while for police to take the case seriously. But according to police files, within month of Timothy Jason Smart’s disappearance, investigators suspected foul play.
And Smart also believes her son is dead, because during years of moving around, he always called her. Until one day, after he’d been staying in Brunswick County, the calls just stopped.
According to Smart’s missing-person file at the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department, he was last seen July 15, headed to a job with a trucking company in Camden, S.C., where he was set to begin working two days later.
A friend Smart had been staying with told investigators Smart left hitchhiking at about 7 a.m. on the 15th. He had little or no money, according to the file.
Smart had been charged with DWI and was out on bond awaiting trial. But his girlfriend, who lived in North Dakota, told investigators Smart had seemed optimistic when they last spoke, and eager to put the problem behind him. She told police Smart was outgoing, with a “habit of telling his life story to bartenders and waitresses,” according to the court file.
Smart never arrived at his new job, and, after not hearing from him for a couple of weeks, his mother called from California and reported him missing to Boiling Spring Lakes police.
That summer, a Boiling Spring Lakes investigator suspected foul play, according to the file.
He asked neighboring departments for information on any unidentified deaths and also asked other police departments to check their jails.
Smart drank heavily and could have been arrested for disorderly conduct, the investigator wrote. But by the fall, with no leads, the investigator asked the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation for help.
And by April 1996, a police memo shows detectives believed without new information a credible investigation was no longer possible. The investigator who worked the case in the 1990s, M.E. Parsons, is no longer with Boiling Spring Lakes police.
Lt. Curtis Ledbetter, a current employee of the department, reviewed Smart’s file about 18 months ago after bones were discovered which appeared similar to Smart’s description.
Although tests on the bones, which weren’t found in Southeastern North Carolina, were negative, Ledbetter said, he believes something bad happened to Smart, but he doesn’t know what.
That he suddenly stopped calling his mother and hasn’t been heard from in a decade indicate foul play, Ledbetter said. He also said it’s possible Smart’s remains have been found and buried but never identified.
As for the investigation, Ledbetter said he agreed with the former investigator – police need someone to tell them something for them to figure out what happened.
“It seems like to me every lead has been followed,” Ledbetter said. “They talked to everybody they can talk to.”
Gaile Smart kept up with an SBI investigator for years after Tim disappeared, though she says she hasn’t heard anything in a long time. Authorities told her Southeastern North Carolina has many places where a body could be hidden and never found, she said. On Sunday, Smart said, she was surprised to receive a call about her son.
The CUE Center for Missing Persons, based in Wilmington, picked up Smart’s case in 1998. And CUE founder Monica Caison said she’s searched wooded areas in Brunswick County for Smart’s body, without success. She said if he were found, his bones would be recognizable to authorities. Smart was about 6 feet 1 inch tall and wore a large rodeo-style belt buckle. Caison keeps a box with his personal items – everything from a baby tooth to cigarette butts – so authorities could get his DNA should bones, matching Smart’s description be found, she said.
Allison Aubin, an administrative assistant who has worked at the Boiling Spring Lakes Police Department for four years, says Smart’s case isn’t closed.
Several times a year, Aubin says, she runs Smart’s Social Security number and other personal information through databases to see if he’s taken a job, been arrested or signed up for housing or utilities.
The last time Smart saw her only son was in 1994, when she visited him on a ranch where he was working in Montana. He was a happy and intelligent young man, she says, who was still trying to find his purpose in life.
He loved country line-dancing and made friends quickly, wherever he went, she said. Before Montana, he’d been a student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, before quitting school and working. After Montana, he did farmwork in the Midwest, and eventually took a trucking job where he drove to North Carolina. Smart told his mom that, with his next trucking job, he would visit her in California. But he never arrived, and now Smart doesn’t think he ever will. Still, she hopes someday to know why, but even that seems an unlikely possibility so many years later.
“I don’t know. It’s been so long,” Smart said. “Every day I think about him. You never give that up – ever.”
If you have any information on this case please contact CUE Center For Missing Persons using the contact form below or contact Cue Center at (910) 343-1131 24 hour tipline (910) 232-1687.
All information submitted to CUE Center For Missing Persons is confidential.