Grieving Spouse or Black Widow? Police Say Pamela Smart Had Her 16-Year-Old Lover Murder Her Husband

updated 02/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/04/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

When Pamela Wojas and Gregg Smart met at a party during the college Christmas break five years ago, they seemed an ideal match. The two teenagers both loved good times and rock and roll, and Pam thought that Gregg, with his shoulder-length hair, looked like Jon Bon Jovi. Three and a half years later—after Gregg had cut his hair and gone to work for the Nashua, N.H., life insurance firm that employed his father and Pam had taken a job as media-services director for a nearby school district—the two married. Last spring Gregg planned to celebrate their first year of marriage, then take Pam away on a Florida vacation, a reward for his banner rookie year as a salesman. Gregg's buddy, Steve Payment, remembers receiving a call from him last May 1, six days before the anniversary. "Gregg was really excited," says Payment. "He was planning a big party."

Gregg, 24, never had that party. On the evening of May 1, after returning from work to the couple's Derry, N.H., town house, he was killed by a single shot to the head with a .38 revolver. When Pam, who had been at a school board meeting, arrived about an hour and a half later and saw Gregg's body in the foyer, she ran from unit to unit in the complex, frightening neighbors with her screams. Three days later she led Gregg's parents, Judy and Bill Smart, in a tender farewell ceremony, leaving roses on her husband's grave.

Gregg's death was tragic; Pam's evident suffering touching. But her tenure as a sympathetic widow proved brief. Next week Pamela Smart, 23, is scheduled to go on trial as an accomplice in the first-degree murder of her husband. The gunman, say police, was 16-year-old William Flynn, Pam's alleged lover.

They also say that from the beginning there were flaws in Pam's story. The home had been ransacked, and Pam told police that close to $300 in jewelry and some compact discs were missing. But investigators doubted that burglars would have chosen the Smart home, whose entry was in full view of other town houses in the complex, or that they would have struck at night, when people tend to be home. Besides, robbers in the area rarely pack firearms. Interviewed by reporters again and again, Pam challenged the doubters. "I'm absolutely convinced." she told the Derry News, "that someone was burglarizing our home and Gregg just walked in."

By June the case took a different turn, with the trail leading some 30 miles eastward to Winnacunnet High School in Hampton, just a parking lot away from Pam's media-services office. An 18-year-old Seabrook youth overheard some of his teenage friends saying that they had murdered Gregg Smart. Flynn, Patrick Randall, 17, and Vance Lattime, 18, had allegedly driven out to the Smarts' home that night. Flynn is accused of shooting Smart while one of the other youths held the victim. The third drove the getaway car.

On June 10 Vance Lattime's father, having learned from a friend of the boys that a gun from his collection had been used in the murder, turned the weapon over to the police. The following day ballistics experts matched the bullet that killed Smart with the elder Lattime's revolver, and the three boys were arrested. (Flynn's trial for first-degree murder is yet to be scheduled. Charges against the other two youths are still being decided.) Before long police were connecting Flynn with the dead man's wife; the youth had taken part in a video Pam had made for a Florida orange juice-sponsored high school contest, and they had spent time in each other's homes. Flynn's high school friends say that he shared Pam's love of rock and roll. When he wasn't out on dirt bikes with his pals, he often played guitar and listened to his favorite group. Mötley Crüe.

Investigators claim to have more damning evidence: Pam's student aide. Cecelia Pierce, 16, was staying at the Smarts' home the week before the killing while Gregg was attending insurance classes in Rhode Island. Flynn visited at times during the week. A prosecutor said that during one of these visits, Pierce had walked into Pam's bedroom and caught her having sex with Flynn. Pierce said Pam was unhappy in her marriage but did not see divorce as a solution because she feared Gregg would win the right to their property and that he would be unwilling to let her go as she tried to establish a new life. Pierce said she heard Pam and her teenage lover plotting to kill Gregg.

But it wasn't until the boys were arrested that Pierce, who had remained close to Pam, agreed to help set a trap for her. "It was really bothering me that Pam had her husband killed," she told a television interviewer. "Her lover was in jail, and she didn't care. And how was I supposed to believe that she was actually my friend? I could hang myself knowing what I know, and she'd be relieved because that's one less person who could tell." (In fact Smart has since been indicted by a grand jury for attempting, while in jail, to arrange for another inmate to have Pierce killed.)

On July 13 police outfitted Pierce with a hidden microphone to record a conversation with Smart. According to Pierce, the two had agreed that if Pierce were ever wired, she would signal Smart with a wink. "For a few minutes," Pierce said later, "I had to think to myself, 'Should I wink?' But I didn't wink, and she told all." Smart's lawyers, Paul Twomey and Mark Sisti, claim that Pierce is merely trying to protect the boys at Pani's expense.

John and Linda Wojas—who moved from Miami to New Hampshire when Pam was in the eighth grade to protect her and her two siblings from the violence of big-city living—have been stunned by the charges against their daughter. "We try to think back through all her childhood years, if we could ever see a mean streak in her," says Pam's father, a retired airline pilot. "She was the most lovable, friendly kid."

Many who knew Pam then agree. At Derry's Pinkerton Academy, she was a cheerleader, honor student, class officer; she dated the captain of the football team. If she had any faults, they were that she needed to be the center of attention and that she was, perhaps, too determined to lead a glamorous life. Remembers Gregg's mother, Judy Smart: "She used to say to me, 'I'm going to be another Barbara Walters. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but that's my goal in life.' " The closest she got was as a disc jockey at Florida State University, where she called herself the Maiden of Metal, and where she graduated in 1988.

Police maintain that Smart was driven to murder her husband by her infatuation with Flynn and by visions of a $140,000 insurance payoff (of $90,000 that was paid to Pam shortly after Gregg's death, somewhat less than half of it had been spent by the time the account was frozen at the time of Pam's arrest). But Gregg's parents speak of less tangible motives. They describe Pam as a manipulative woman whose emotional growth had stopped at 16. They say she was devastated when Gregg began to mature. "She didn't want to see Gregg turn into a yuppie," says Judy Smart. "She wanted him to keep his hair long, to party on weekends with their friends. But Gregg had gotten past that point. He wasn't this rock star she was talking about all the time."

More than a little bewildered by their family's tragedy, the Wojases remain loyal to their daughter. "Gregg is dead," says John Wojas. "We want whoever did it to pay for it. Hey, if my daughter was involved, so be it. She has to pay the price, like anybody else. But until she comes to me and says to my face, 'Dad, I was involved.' I can't believe it. I've just seen this kid do too much good all her life."

—William Plummer, Stephen Sawicki in Derry

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