Victim of 2013 triple murder remembered by his widow

Published 8:26 am Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Guest columnist

The following is a tribute to the life of Daniel P. Smith, the third victim in the Danville triple murders that occurred on Sept. 20, 2013.

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His story has not been told to date, much to the chagrin of those who knew him best, but with good reason: News reporters showed up at the family home less than 24 hours after the murders, asking for interviews/statements. The family refused because Dan was a very private person and would not have appreciated his life being splashed over news reports and articles as the sensational story of the day. Also, speculation was that Dan had been the intended target and the Hockensmiths were in the wrong place at the wrong time, so the Smith family’s safety and security were of utmost importance until his killer was caught, as it was not known if they might be targets as well.

Once the arrest was made, on Oct. 9, 2013, the question of safety lessened but the news feed had moved onto other stories. It was assumed that Dan’s story would come out at the trial. The change of plea and sentencing that occurred on Friday, May 26, while greatly welcomed, wrapped things up without that opportunity being given.

This narrative is by no means exhaustive, but an introduction to an extraordinary man.

Daniel P. Smith was born in March 1953, the fourth of five children of Robert and Dorothy Smith.  He lived most of his childhood years in Frankfort, Indiana. As so many young men did at that time, he joined the military right out of high school and served in the Marine Corps in the early 1970s. He was always proud to be a Marine, always proud to be an American.

Dan was a committed follower of Jesus Christ for over 40 years, who served as a Southern Baptist pastor in churches in both Indiana and Illinois.

He was a devoted, loving father of three beautiful daughters from his first marriage — Crystal, Heather and Stephanie — and a loving father to the five children that came as a package deal in his second marriage — Rob, Jonathan, Will, Karen and Lisa. He came to be known as Grandpa, Papaw, and Pa to his 20 grandchildren, all of whom he adored.

He was a businessman, with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, who walked in the shoes of an entrepreneur with ease. Throughout his adult life working in various retail industries, he was always happiest being his own boss. He saw the world around him in numbers, just as an artist would see it in colors and shapes, or a writer would see it in words.

He was very intelligent, with a quick, creative mind and a knack for coming up with innovative solutions to financial dilemmas that provided win-win situations for everyone involved. He found his greatest joy in business as a jeweler because “the customers always leave with a smile.”

Dan was very confident and bold — at times almost brash — in his approach to life. He was also compassionate, kind and generous, oftentimes to a fault. He would respond to a stranger’s need as easily as to a family member’s. He was sensitive to God’s direction in his giving to others, and had great pleasure in being able to bless them.

He loved people, but had little tolerance for their foolishness in the important things in life. All eight children, at one time or another, endured the harshness of his judgments on their behavior. And all eight came back at some point and acknowledged to him, “You were right.” Some of the older grandchildren and some non-family members experienced this as well.

He greatly enjoyed relaxing with family and friends, telling stories, remembering fun times. He was quick-witted and could catch you in a good-natured joke before you realized what had happened! He had an easy, engaging smile that drew people in; nearly everyone who met Dan liked him instantly. He entranced his children and grandchildren alike with his original oral-tradition-style tales of “Oogly Boogly and his girlfriend, Sassafras.”

So, was Dan Smith a perfect man? No, far from it. He had faults and life-issues he struggled with, just like all of us. But greatness is not measured in faults and mistakes. It is measured in the grace and beauty one brings to the lives of others, in steadfast faith toward God, committed love to family and friends, an open hand to the poor and needy. By these standards, Dan Smith was a great man, and he is sorely missed by all who knew and loved him.

For the last several years, Dan’s favorite song was MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine.” When it would come on the radio, he would belt it out along with the music. We would talk often about what we thought Heaven would be like. Now, he knows. And he is waiting on his family and friends to join him, and other loved ones, there. It will be quite a crowd: 29+ of us in the immediate family; his four siblings (Robert Jr., Steve, Beth and Roger) and their spouses, children and grandchildren; aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews; business associates through the decades, including gold dealers that sold to our brokerage; and many others unknown. There is room there for us all.

Sally Smith is the widow of Daniel P. Smith, one of three people shot and killed at ABC Gold Games & More on South Third Street in Danville on Sept. 20, 2013. The murder investigation recently concluded with a guilty plea and a life-without-parole sentence. Sally lives in Richmond.