Murder victim of Golden State Killer was a Pocatello native

Left: Charlene and Lyman Smith. Right: Joseph James DeAngelo Submitted Photos

Left: Charlene and Lyman Smith. Right: Joseph James DeAngelo
Submitted Photos

By David Ashby, dashby@journalnet.com

POCATELLO — The news this week that an arrest had been made in the decades-old Golden State Killer case was particularly gratifying for Pocatello resident Donald Smith and his family.

On March 13, 1980, Smith’s brother and sister-in-law, Lyman and Charlene Smith, were murdered in their home by the Golden State Killer in Ventura, California.

Donald Smith, who currently lives in Pocatello, has followed the case ever since. He found out on Wednesday about the arrest the day before of the suspect, 72-year-old former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, after clicking on an online link showing one of many composite sketches of the murderer.

Lyman and Donald Smith were born in Pocatello but moved to California in the summer of 1945 with their family. Ironically, the Smith family lived in Citrus Heights, which was where authorities ultimately caught and arrested DeAngelo on Tuesday.

While Donald enlisted in the Navy, Lyman went to the University of California-Berkley and graduated from the Boalt Hall School of Law at Berkley.

After graduation, he relocated to Ventura County in Southern California where he was hired as a law clerk. After passing the bar exam, Lyman became a deputy district attorney in Ventura County and then went into private practice.

Donald, who moved back to Pocatello about 10 years ago, remembers his brother as a man who would go out of his way to help people, particularly children.

Besides being active in local Democratic Party politics, Lyman served on numerous boards, including the governor’s traffic safety board, where he wrote the California law that required children be placed in child safety seats while in vehicles.

“He was always looking out for people,” Donald said. “He always put kids ahead of himself.”

In 1980, Jerry Brown, the governor of California, called Lyman to tell him he was appointing him to be a judge. However, Lyman never had a chance to take the position.

About a week after Lyman got the call, the Golden State Killer broke into his Ventura home and bludgeoned him and Charlene to death with a fireplace log, police said. The killer also raped Charlene during the break-in.

Donald, who was in the Navy at the time, said he found out about the grisly murders while in transit from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Puerto Rico. The news was horrifying.

“It hit you like a damn brick,” Donald said. “You don’t want to believe it.”

Later, Donald and other family members went into the home where the murders had taken place to look for Charlene’s will.

“It was strange going in that house,” Donald said. “They had removed part of the plasterboard walls in the bedroom because they had the remnants of the killing.”

To this day, a few details of the murder baffle Donald. For one, he said his brother had a firearm next to the bed, but it was never utilized.

Donald also said that the killer wasn’t interested in robbing the residence. Charlene had plenty of gold jewelry in the office, but none of it was stolen, according to Donald.

“Robbery definitely was not a thing,” he said. “As far as I know, the only thing that was missing was a gold coin attached to a necklace my brother was wearing. I think the killer wanted a souvenir.”

Lyman left behind three children from a previous marriage.

“That’s what I think bothers me so much,” Donald said. “His children don’t have a father and his grandchildren don’t have a grandfather. A murder like this robs people.”

In all, the Golden State Killer is suspected of 13 murders and dozens of rapes across California between 1975 and 1986. The serial killer had multiple monikers, including the East Area Rapist, the Diamond Knot Killer and the Original Night Stalker.

Though the killer was able to elude investigators for more than four decades, authorities said that with DeAngelo’s arrest, they now have in custody the man who murdered Lyman, Charlene and many others.

”I’m glad they caught that SOB,” Donald said.