What happened to Shari Smith over three decades ago is every parent’s worst nightmare. Her harrowing story of abduction and murder will play out on Investigation Discovery‘s new show I, Witness. The I, Witness episode documenting Shari Smiths murder case is called “The Smith Sisters.” Shari’s sister, Dawn Smith, will give riveting details about what her family went through when her 17-year-old sister was abducted from the mailbox as her father worked in his home office in Lexington County, South Carolina. For days, the Smith family was taunted through phone calls by serial killer Larry Gene Bell. Shari Smith is also known as Shari Faye Smith or Sheri Faye Smith.
On Investigation Discovery’s I, Witness, viewers will learn that in 1985, Shari Smith was a typical teenage girl who attended Lexington High School. It was there that Shari became well-known for her beautiful voice and happy spirit. The accomplished singer had her whole life in front of her. However, she had no idea that evil would meet her right outside her home.
Shari had just pulled up to her mailbox, which was several feet away from the home. Her father, who was working in his home office, saw his daughter when she arrived. The expectation was that she’d enter the home in just a matter of minutes as she always had. However, this particular day, she didn’t come inside.
Concerned, Shari Smith’s father stepped to the window to see if he could see her. The car was still there, but Shari was not. In a panic, he drove down to the mailbox to get a closer look, and that’s when he made a shocking discovery.
Shari’s car door was open, her purse was inside, but Shari was nowhere to be found. South Carolina detectives quickly moved into action. Shari Smith was a beloved young person in town, and her family was very well-respected.
A massive search was launched, but it yielded zero clues about the blond-haired singer’s whereabouts. Soon the Smith family began receiving taunting phone calls from a man who said that he had kidnapped Shari. When they asked about her, the abductor assured them that Shari was eating and watching television. He promised to call back soon. However, with each phone call, his words grew darker. The caller began speaking of Shari “being with him” and their “souls” becoming one.
The kidnapper later called the family and told them where they could find Shari Smith’s dead body. According to Caselaw court records, an autopsy report couldn’t find an exact cause of death but believed that she had most likely been suffocated.
“Unfortunately, by the time Shari’s body was located, the pathologist could not ascertain either the cause of her death or whether or not she had been sexually assaulted. The pathologist believed, however, that Shari either suffocated or died from dehydration (resulting from a rare form of diabetes from which Shari suffered). Following the discovery of Shari’s body, Bell made harassing phone calls to the Smiths for the next three weeks. During these calls, Bell callously depicted how he abducted Shari at gun point, raped and sodomized her, wrapped her head in duct tape, and suffocated her.”
Shari’s mother, father, and sister, Dawn, were all in disbelief. They later learned something even more disturbing. The killer had made Shari write a 2-page letter, a Last Will and Testament, in which she told her family that she loved them, and for them not to let this ruin their lives. She also wanted to have her casket closed at the funeral. To her father, she seemed brave and at peace. But he was still heartbroken.
The haunting calls continued even after Shari was found dead. But in a strange twist, the killer, who was later identified as Larry Gene Bell, took a sudden interest in Shari’s sister, Dawn Smith.
Police later learned that Larry Gene Bell had killed Debra May Helmick, a 10-year-old little girl with blue eyes and blonde hair.
Police were able to use the Last Will and Testament letter to find a phone number that had been written on the top sheet of paper before it. The number was traced back to a couple that had allowed Larry Gene Bell to house sit for them while they were on vacation, according to New York Daily News.
Stamps for the letter and blonde hairs were found in the couple’s home. When prosecutors took this case to trial, the jury came back in less than an hour with a guilty verdict and a penalty of death.
Larry Gene Bell, the electrician, was put to death by electrocution in 1996??? True crime buffs will remember the 1991 made-for-TV movie that was based on their true story. It was titled Nightmare In Columbia County, according to the Movies Based On True Stories Archives.
I, Witness is a brand new series that allows the story to be told by the ones who were left behind. It is produced by XCon Productions and Lincoln Square Productions, according to Discovery Communications. Watch I, Witness tonight at 9/8 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery.
Did you get to watch Investigation Discovery’s other gripping crime series A Crime To Remember? In case you didn’t, read about last night’s episode here.
[Featured Image by LK/AP Images]