SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — The sons of 31-year-old Cynthia Smith, who was killed more than 30 years ago in southwest Missouri, said they are happy someone has been charged in the crime that caused them to be separated as children.
Lawrence Gene Timmons, 65, was indicted Friday on a first-degree murder charge in Smith's death and six charges of unlawful possession a firearm for incidents that allegedly occurred in 2017 and 2019. During an arraignment Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Jack Goodman entered not guilty pleas for Timmons, who does not yet have an attorney.
A court official told Goodman on Tuesday that Timmons was not eligible for a public defender because he has more than $250,000 in assets. After Timmons told the judge he didn't have "anywhere near $250,000" Goodman ordered an indigent hearing on Oct. 8, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
Jason Smith was just 4 in 1988 when his mother didn't pick up him and his then 8-year-old half-brother, Shawn Goodspeed, from a babysitter. After the body was found about a week later, Shawn was sent to live with his dad in California and Jason remained in Missouri with his grandparents.
Cynthia Smith was last seen leaving a Mt. Vernon bar with a man. Her body was found at a rural cemetery near Pierce City, about 50 miles southwest of Springfield.
Jason Smith, who is now 35 and living in Springfield, said Monday that he doesn't have many memories of his mother.
"Probably my biggest memory — (her death) is solely what separated my brother and I, for pretty much all of our lives," the News-Leader reported.
The older brother, Jason Goodspeed, now 39, remembers his mother as a kind and loving woman who sometimes cried when residents at a long-term care facility in Aurora where she worked had died.
"Her dying just changed everything," he said. "Everything."
Lawrence County authorities said Timmons is a suspect in the 1994 death of his first wife, Deborah Jean Timmons, and in the 1998 drowning death of an 11-year-old girl who was a friend of a daughter Timmons had with Deborah Jean.
The Associated Press could not independently verify that Timmons was being investigated in those deaths. A Lawrence County sheriff's detective told the AP on Tuesday that the department is working with other agencies, but would not say if Timmons is suspected of the Oklahoma killings.
Timmons also is charged with forgery on a job application he allegedly filled out in February 2019 and a second forgery charge for which he was arrested Aug. 19 at his Pierce City home after allegedly filling out a job application in March that falsely claimed he was not a felon.
Smith said he only recently learned Timmons was convicted of felony kidnapping and assault following a 1976 incident with an 11-year-old Springfield boy and Timmons was accused but acquitted of raping a 24-year-old Monett woman just hours before his mother's disappearance.
"I didn't know about that," Smith said. "It seems like somebody — I wish they'd have caught him sooner."
Goodspeed, now 39, and living in Tempe, Arizona, said he knew Timmons was questioned when his mother disappeared but he wasn't aware of his extensive criminal record. He said he still wonders what happened to his mother before she was killed and often questioned if the case would be solved.
"He's affected a lot of families, a lot of people," Goodspeed said. "I can't help but have some annoyance at the original investigation from the beginning. Had they got it right, they'd have saved those lives. And I hope those families, I hope they find their closure as well."
In New York state Monday, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office said there was no evidence Timmons committed any crimes while living in the Rochester, New York-area from 2004-14. However, officials from Perinton, New York, said Monday that in 2014, Timmons falsified information on a job application and was hired as a public park watchman.