Donald Hartung, 63, stands trial in Escambia County, Florida for allegedly killing his mother Voncile Smith, 77, and his half brothers John William Smith, 49, and Richard Thomas Smith, 47. He faces three counts of first-degree premeditated murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Escambia County deputies say the crimes happened July 28, 2015, according to an amended arrest report obtained by Law&Crime. Richard Smith, an employee of the Department of Homeland Security, had no-showed worked for a few days, so on deputies checked up on him on July 31. They found no sign of forced entry, but were able to enter through the back with the help of firefighters, and found the three victims dead throughout the home. Each person was under “large piles of clothes,” deputies said.
Richard Smith had been shot around his right ear, and had a stab wound to the throat, deputies said. He was found face down in the TV room at the foot of the TV, investigators said. Authorities said he was wearing the same clothes he’d been wearing when pictured leaving work at 6:36 p.m. on July 28.
John Smith was found in a sofa on front of a TV. He sustained blunt force trauma to the top of his head, and received a stab wound to the neck, authorities said.
As for their mother, she sustained blunt force trauma to the top of her head and received a stab wound to the neck. Authorities said she’d been dragged from a chair into John’s bedroom.
According to deputies, Hartung was at the house on the 28th to cook dinner, as usual. He left between 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 pm, he allegedly said, but he denied seeing his brother Richard. A neighbor, however, claimed to see Richard arrive at the residence before Hartung left, investigators said. This witness was not sure of the time, but said it was just before dark because the lights on Hartung’s car was not on, authorities said.
Another witness–who was a co-worker’s of Hartung–said that he previously had a conversation with the defendant. In it, the alleged killer said that if anything happened to Voncile Smith, then he would inherit all of her property because he was the oldest son. The mom’s attorney, however, said that she’d kept him out of the will, deputies said. Hartung would’ve been the “potential sole heir” to his family’s estate because there were no other living relatives of the Smith family.
The defendant has been called the “Blue Moon Killer” because at the time, the local sheriff described the slayings as “ritualistic” and apparently coincided with a semi-rare blue moon.
[Mugshot via Escambia County Sheriff’s Office]