The tapes that convicted Smart: Cecelia Pierce’s role — (KeeneEquinox)

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KeeneEquinox

Issue date: 4/20/06

Section: Justice in New Hampshire

Published: Monday, December 8, 2008

Updated: Saturday, April 11, 2009

Photos from the time period show a plump girl, usually disheveled with clothes that don’t quite fit and aren’t quite cool enough-with a look of yearning, always the yearning to belong, to be part of that which passes for high school cool.

Her downcast eyes and slumped shoulders made her a perfect candidate for Pamela Smart’s self-esteem class, Project Self-Esteem. Cecilia Pierce did end up making a video splash, but maybe not the way she planned.

Even more than the two self-confessed murderers, she was the state’s star witness against Smart, and her taped conversations with Smart were a major factor in Smart’s conviction.

Early Years

Pierce was born on May 24, 1974. She was a sophomore at Winnacunnet High School when she first met Smart in Project Self Esteem. Pierce and Smart were both facilitators leading the same group of freshmen, according to her testimony during Smart’s trial in 1991.

“Cecelia Pierce’s mom worked and made Cecelia stay home and take care of her younger sibling,” said Linda Wojas, Smart’s mother. “She was failing a lot of classes, and Pam helped her.”

In November of 1989 Pierce became an intern with the media center and was assigned to Smart, according to the Derry Police Department supplement report. It was during this internship that she became good friends with Smart.

“Pam befriended her,” said Wojas. “She felt very badly…[Cecelia] was a chunky girl, failing in most of her subjects.”

Smart, in an interview with Derry police, stated Pierce was a “good kid” who looked up to her.

Pierce had known William Flynn through high school, and both were involved in the Project Self Esteem class. Through the class, Smart, Flynn and Pierce worked on an orange juice commercial together, along with Rachel Emond and Traci Collins.

According to Wojas, Smart’s own self-esteem was at a low point during this period.

“She was incredibly responsible in the workplace, [but] she was incredibly socially immature,” said Wojas. “Greg [Smart] came to her and told that he had cheated on her. She was teaching a course on self-esteem when her self-esteem was in the basement.”

According to Pierce in her trial testimony, Smart and Flynn were originally just friends. She first noticed a change around February, when Smart confessed to Pierce that she “loved Bill.”

“She sat me down in a chair,” said Pierce in her testimony. “She said, ‘I think I’m in love with Bill.”

Pierce thought it was “ridiculous” at first.

“I think Cecelia had a crush on Bill,” said Smart in a prison interview. “Maybe she became jealous of me, and that might have been a possible motive [for helping the state].”

About a week later, Smart told Flynn that she loved him. According to Pierce’s trial testimony, at this time Smart also told Pierce that “she had a choice either to kill Greg or get a divorce.”

An Accomplice to Murder

Pierce stayed over at Smart’s house on numerous occasions, sometimes for week-long stretches at a time.

According to the Derry Police Department report, the first of these visits occurred in April of 1990. She also stayed from April 23-27.

It was during this visit that Flynn came over. This was the first time that Flynn and Smart had sexual intercourse, according to Pierce.

According to Pierce’s trial testimony, this visit occurred one week before Greg’s death. Flynn stayed at Smart’s house along with Pierce on Tuesday of this week.

“We rented two movies,” said Pierce in her testimony. “We watched ‘Nine and a Half Weeks,’ and then Bill and Pam went upstairs and I stayed downstairs and watched another movie.”

Pierce was “getting bored,” so she went upstairs to check on Smart and Flynn. She found them on the floor of the bedroom having sex.

According to the Derry police reports, Smart told Pierce “on an almost daily basis what was going on in the planning of Greg’s death.”

In the report, Pierce states that she was present on occasions when Smart and Flynn were discussing the details of the plans to murder Greg.

“She [Pierce] knew everything that was going on,” said Raymond Fowler, who rode along in the car with Flynn, Patrick Randall and Vance Lattime on the night of Greg’s murder.

The Tapes

Wiretapped conversations between Pierce and Smart occurred on four separate dates in 1990: June 19, July 12 and 13 and Aug. 1. The tapes of these conversations are difficult to hear in many places, and numerous transcript passages obtained by the Equinox are labeled “inaudible.”

“The tape was garbled, I barely heard,” said Wojas. “They were crackly, distorted, not good at all.”

During Smart’s trial, transcripts were provided as well as headphones, but the sound quality remained questionable.

“I couldn’t hear anything,” said Smart. “We all had headphones, jurors too. No one could hear.”

“Bill Smart threw down the earphones as the tapes were played in the trial and said, ‘I can’t hear these damn things,'” said Wojas.

Paul Maggiotto, prosecutor for the case, acknowledged the poor tape quality.

“When we first listened to the tapes, they were difficult to hear,” said Maggiotto. “We recorded it through speaker phone to a hand-held recorder. I would have done it differently. It wasn’t the best conditions, [but] the tapes speak for themselves.”

The first of these wiretaps were a series of telephone conversations between 2:55 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. on June 19. Throughout the tape, Smart speaks rapidly and sounds increasingly frantic and nervous.

“I was on Prozac, so I was hyper,” said Smart. “I was talking really fast, and I already talk fast. I was out of it.”

According to Wojas, Smart’s Prozac dosage was incorrect.

“Pam was on Prozac, she weighed 102-105 pounds,” said Wojas. “She was little and had a much higher dosage; it made her manic, talking fast.”

Towards the end of the first conversation on June 19, Pierce begins to ask Smart, “…but listen, if they find out that I lied for you am I gonna be charged with…?” Smart interrupts, “You’re not gonna be lying, lying for me, you didn’t lie about anything, you don’t know anything, what the hell’s the problem?”

Smart abruptly ends the conversation when Pierce mentions that Smart “could have just got a divorce instead.” She makes an inaudible comment about her phone before ending the conversation.

“[Mark] Sisti called and said don’t talk to Cecelia,” said Smart. “Then I went and called her. What kind of a retard does that?”

Smart called Pierce back at 3:04 p.m., and again spoke rapidly and frantically. “They’re [Derry Police] gonna try and get you to talk and to confess and you know they’re gonna say, ‘We know you know’ and all that, you know, try and make you nervous but all you have to do is just maintain the same story, you know, and that’s it, that, you know, you don’t know and that’s it, you know.”

“I called Cecelia because I wanted information,” said Smart. “I wanted to know if Bill [Flynn] killed Greg.”

Smart continues to talk with increasing speed as she explains hypothetical scenarios to Pierce.

“…But I don’t, you know, I don’t think you should be nervous because, you know, realize that, that’s just it, if they start telling you, look, well, this person says you know that Bill was at your house at like 10 p.m. at this time or whatever you’ll say, ‘Well Bill’s obviously lying because he’s on trial for his life and that’s it.’ You know, and the police are going to realize that Bill or anybody is making up stories because that’s how it looks.”

The final conversation on June 19 took place at 3:50 p.m., when Pierce called Smart. Smart almost immediately asks, “Did you find out what has been happening?” Pierce mentions the police found a note Smart wrote to Flynn, “…the one that Sarah found.”

A series of eight completely inaudible statements from Smart disrupts the flow of the conversation early on in the tape, at which point Pierce says, “…supposedly my fingerprints were found on the thing and crap like that.” It is unclear what she is referring to here.

On July 12 and 13, Pierce was fitted with a body wire to record two more conversations with Smart.

The July 13 conversation exhibits similar sound problems, and Smart continues to speak rapidly. At different points in the tape, Smart alternates between using either the word “fuck” or “shit” exclusively for a long stretch of conversation.

The tape stops and starts at least once early on in the conversation, and the volume dips in and out.

According to Mark Sisti, Smart’s attorney, Smart knew Pierce was wired during the conversation.

“On the fourth tape, Pam apparently left her office and directly went to Cecelia Pierce,” said Sisti. “Pam and Cecelia both knew at that meeting Cecelia Pierce was wired.”

The final tape was another tapped telephone conversation Aug. 1 at 10 a.m. Shortly after the conversation, Smart was arrested at the media center at Winnacunnet High School.

The tapes were the key piece of evidence for the jury in finding Smart guilty.

“There were two things that hung her,” said Sisti. “The second day of cross examination and the Cecelia Pierce tapes.”

According to Sisti, one of the most damning things about the tapes was Smart herself.

“What was telling in the tapes was Pam saying, ‘If you tell the truth, we’re all fucking going to jail,'” said Sisti. “There was no question it was Pam’s voice. [The jury] could recognize the voice, the sentences.”

With the key role the tapes played in finding Smart guilty, some around Pam have questioned their authenticity, both due to inaudible portions and the fact, according to Wojas, that the tapes were never authenticated.

“The wiretap orders should have been signed by an impartial magistrate, but instead were signed by John Lyons from the AG’s office,” said Wojas. “Judge Gray said it didn’t matter. Cecelia Pierce became an emancipated minor at under 18, and signed the wiretap order.”

According to Pelletiere, the tapes were in fact authorized.

May 1, 1990: the shocking death that started a sensation in N.H. — (KeeneEquinox)

Michael Rideout

Issue date: 4/20/06 

Like most insurance agents, Greg Smart’s work day on May 1, 1990 stretched past 5 p.m., what with clients to call or counsel, paperwork to file or forms to complete. He pulled into his driveway at 4E Misty Morning Drive in Derry, N.H.

He unlocked his front door to the condo he shared with his wife of less than a year, Pam. He stepped inside.

His wife Pam arrived home from a school board meeting at 10:15 p.m. As she later described in a written statement, “when I came up to the house I thought it was weird because there were no outside or inside lights on. I opened the door with my key and turned the hallway light on.”

By the time the Winnacunnet Board of Education had finished its meeting, three of the district’s students and one other friend were already back home in Seabrook. Their night’s journey had carried them to Derry, a town 37 miles away from Seabrook. Not the usual stomping grounds for four guys from the wrong side of the tracks.

One of the four teenagers, William Flynn, 16, had a very close relationship to the victim’s wife Pam. Flynn was also a friend with Pam’s teenage assistant and confidant, Cecelia Pierce. The two had worked together on a video project for Pam three months earlier.

Earlier in the year Greg, admitted to Pam he’d had a one-time affair with a woman while away on a business trip in the fall of 1989. This had devastating effects on Pam’s self esteem, particularly since they’d just married May 8, that same year.

As she later described in an exclusive prison interview, the combination of betrayal, low self esteem and Prozac brought her to the edge. Hurt and feeling desperate, Pam became close with Flynn.

The relationship between Flynn and Pam, age 21, was the reason why the four teens drove a car borrowed from one of their grandmother’s the evening of May 1, 1990. Besides Flynn, the car carried 16- year- old Patrick “Pete” Randall, 17- year- old Vance “J.R.” Lattime and Raymond Fowler, 19, who maintains, along with others, he was along for the ride.

Fowler said he was just along for the ride to Derry because the boys were only going to check out a place to break into. Lattime and Fowler hung around a shopping plaza while Randall and Flynn went to “check things out to steal at a later time.”

About 90 minutes later, Flynn and Randall returned back to Lattime’s grandmother’s 1977 tan four door Chevrolet Impala. Fowler recalls that Flynn and Randall spoke of the power that they had felt. “You should feel the power of killing a man, feel the gun, it’s still hot.”

Approximately one hour after the boys had left the Smart residence, Pam opened the front door to her house. “I saw Greg’s foot and opened the door further,” she said, “[I] saw him lying on his stomach.” Pam ran out of her home screaming and started to bang on her neighbor’s doors.

Paul Dacier of unit 4D Misty Morning drive described to the police that he heard “pitter patter” from next door and a loud bang after Greg Smart had arrived home from work. “I looked out my window and saw a man – who I recognized as the resident who lives beside my condo,” Dacier said. Dacier then went on to explain in a Derry Police Department statement form that around 10:15 a woman came to his front door screaming for help. “She was pounding on the door. I told my fiancé to call 9-1-1,” Dacier said.

Dacier’s fiancé Kim Mercer also placed a statement with the police. “At 10 p.m. I heard frantic screaming outside of my door. I called the police,” she said. She also stated that during the year prior to that day she witnessed activity next door with lots of parties, couples sleeping over, and strange people arriving at the condo.

Greg Smart, 24, had been murdered. Crime scene photos show a young man face down in a hallway with a bullet wound to the upper left side of his head. Visible by his body are two pens and the valise he’d brought home from work. His feet point towards the welcome mat with a pink and blue goose design. A single gunshot wound to the head from a .38 caliber bullet was determined to be the cause of death.

Identifying who caused the death fell to Detective Daniel R. Pelletier from the Derry Police Department who was assigned to the case. Even 15 years later, it’s obvious this is one case Pelletier remembers well. Understandable, given the fact that the murder of Greg Smart and the ensuing murder trial remains one of the biggest spectacles to ever hit New Hampshire.

“I observed the victim lying in the hallway face down just inside the front door of the apartment at the dining room entrance,” Pelletier said. “There was a pool of blood under the victim’s head. A wound was located on the top, left side of the victim’s head and blood was located on and around the wound.”

Five days after the murder, and one day before what would have been the one year wedding anniversary of Pam and Greg Smart, Pam contacted Bill Spencer at WMUR News 9 for an interview.

On May 14, 1990, an anonymous phone call placed to the Derry Police department linked Cecelia Pierce, a fellow student of Bill Flynn and an intern for Pam in the media center, to the murder case.

On June 10, 1990, the Seabrook Police Department had a break in the case. Ralph Welch, a friend of Lattime, had come to the Seabrook Police Department and informed them that he had knowledge about Greg Smart’s murder and that he knew who killed Greg Smart.

Charewicz of the Seabrook Police Department interviewed Welch, and he found that Welch knew intimate details about the case. At the same time Vance Lattime Sr. had just turned in his .38 caliber revolver to be looked at by the Seabrook Police Department, due to his suspicion of the gun’s involvement with a murder, according to the affidavit of Pelletier.

“Vance Lattime Sr. had checked and noticed his .38 caliber had been cleaned, he thought it was strange,” said Pelletier.

During the interview by the Derry Police, Welch said that three friends had told him about their involvement in the murder. The individuals Welch named were Randall, Lattime and Raymond Fowler.

According to Welch, Fowler had also told Daniel Blake, of Seabrook, about his involvement in the murder. Blake later married Cecelia Pierce, another major participant in the Smart drama.

According to a Derry Police Department Supplement Report, Blake was interviewed by Detectives Surett and Charewicz and divulged information regarding details of the murder. Blake told the detectives that in early May Fowler told him that he had gone with Lattime, Randall and Flynn to Derry and “shot a guy” according to the report. Fowler had also told Blake that Randall and Flynn had gone into the man’s home while he and J.R. waited in a plaza behind the Smart’s condo. The two teenagers perused the selection of stores in the plaza, such as RadioShack and Strawberry’s, and also waited in their car.

Fowler told Blake details about what Flynn and Randall had talked about in the car ride back to Seabrook from Derry that night. Blake knew that Flynn was seeing the man’s wife Pam and he knew that Pam was “supposed to be a teacher at Winnacunnet High School,” according to the Derry Police Department Supplement Report. Blake stated that Fowler told him that when Bill and Pete went into the man’s home that one of them held a knife to the man’s throat and the other one shot him.

On June 12, 1990 an anonymous phone call was made to Surette at approximately 11 p.m.

Ruggerio answered the call and informed Surette that there was an anonymous call about the Smart homicide and the caller sounded like an older male using a pay phone.

Surette took the call at the house officer desk on a taped line. According to a Derry Police Department Supplement Report, the caller told Surette that “the school teacher was sleeping with one of the boys and that she staged the thing.”

The first names of three boys involved in the murder, Bill, Pete and Vance, were also mentioned by the anonymous call.

On June 11, 1990, Flynn, Randall and Lattime were arrested. Flynn’s arrest report states that his crime was “first degree murder.” Randall and Lattime were arrested as accomplices to first degree murder.

The boys were taken in wearing the trendy “mullet” style hair cut of the early 90’s and their possessions were collected by the Seabrook Police Department. The Seabrook Police Prisoner Property Inventory list includes possessions of one William P. Flynn as 21 cents in change, one silver necklace, a dungaree jacket, a red cap and a pair of sneakers.

Surette and Assistant Attorney General Paul Maggiotto interviewed a man named Kenneth Knight, a friend of the Flynn family, questioning any information he might know of the murder.

According to the Derry Police Department Supplement Report, Flynn’s mother told Knight that on the evening before Flynn’s arrest he told his mother that he had done something bad but he would not tell her what he had done. Flynn had spoken with Knight later that evening in private and was emotionally distraught.

A sensitive Flynn admitted to Knight that he was the one who had shot Greg Smart and said the reason he did it was because Greg beat Pam. Flynn told Knight that he had seen the bruises. Knight said that Flynn told him he would do his time and go to jail for the rest of his life if he had to.

On June 13, 1990, Pelletier, Captain Loring Jackson, Charewicz and Surette carried out a one party audio surveillance on a conversation between Pam Smart and her assistant /confidant Cecelia Pierce. Pierce was wearing a body wire that was monitored by the detectives and was recorded at approximately 12:50 p.m. of that day.

The surveillance was authorized by Chief Edward B. Garone of the Derry Police Department and Pierce signed a form permitting the monitoring and recording of her conversation with Pam Smart. A total of seven tapes were recorded between Pam and Pierce. Not only were body wires worn in the recording of the conversations but wire taps were placed on Pam Smart’s phone line.

On July 13, 1990 a recording device was placed on Cecelia Pierce before she met with Pam. Some of the conversation went as follows:

Pierce: “You know what. Remember that time you let Bill use your car to go up there?”

Pam: “Where?”

Pierce: “Up to your house?”

Pam: “Yea.”

Pierce: “Well that time, if he hadn’t forgotten directions he could have killed Greg then and then…”

Pam: “I know, I really…”

More of the conversation leads to Pam questioning Pierce of wearing a body wire.

Pam: “Give me some signal that if you ever come down to me and you’re wired that you are going to give me.”

Pierce: “I’ll just wink.”

A Derry Police Department Supplement Report shows that Pierce was interviewed by Pelletier in a multi-party conference call with Assistant Attorney Generals Cynthia White and Diane Nicolosi. Pierce stated in this interview that Pam had discussed the actual planning of her husband’s death and Flynn was present for some of the discussions to go over the details of the murder.

On Aug. 1, 1990, at 7 p.m. the last phone conversation was recorded between Pam Smart and Pierce by Charewicz and Jackson. The phone call was made from Pierce’s residence to Pam Smart’s work phone at the Winnacunnett High School media center.

On that same day, Pelletier signed an affidavit and warrant at the district court in Derry for the arrest of Pam Smart with the charge of accomplice to first degree murder of her husband Greg Smart. Pelletier, Jackson, Byron and Charewicz met at Pam’s work in Hampton, N.H. and entered the building.

Pelletier proceeded to head towards Pam’s office in the lower level of the building in the media center and had a brief conversation with Pam. “Well Pam, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.” Pelletier said. “The good news is we’ve solved the murder of your husband.”

The bad news was that Smart was under arrest.

Pam Smart was read her rights, under the watchful eye of WMUR News, which had shown up to the scene, and brought to the Derry Police Department where she was then allowed to make one phone call and placed into cell two.

Pelletier states that Pam told him she had the card of her lawyer, whom she had contacted when he arrested her, but the Derry Police Department Supplement Report states that Pelletier noted that Pamela Smart did not say anything else to detectives upon her arrest.

Smart joined Flynn, Randall and Lattime as participants in Greg Smart’s murder to be under arrest. Fowler was later arrested after Smart’s pre-trial motions had started.

“We talked to Pam,” said Pelletier about the beginning of the investigation, “You always want to look at the inner circle first and work your way out.”

Pelletier found a few things odd about Pam’s willingness to talk to the media days after the murder of her husband. She was told not to talk to the media, on advice of the police, but still did. Pelletier notes Pam’s reaction to Greg’s death as “handling this more professionally, than emotionally.”

Mark Sisti, Pam’s lawyer for the trial, recalled in an interview on February 18, 2005, that he was contacted before Pam’s arrest. “We informed her that she was the focus of an investigation,” said Sisti of their conversation.

The media jumped on the case like wild animals on fresh meat.

The trial was covered live by WMUR television every day, and was also the first trial to be broadcast on Court TV. The image of an attractive, young, grieving widow being a suspect of her own husband’s murder was eaten up by the media and the public before the jury could even be selected.

Phrases such as “Ice Princess” were used as headlines to newspaper articles about the trial. Pam was consistently mislabeled as a teacher. During the trial Flynn was constantly referred to as a 15-year-old boy when in fact he was 16 years old.

When the trial began, the jury was never sequestered, making it possible for jurors to fraternize in public with people about the trial and view news coverage of the trial.

By May 20, 1991 all the trials against Pam Smart and the boys involved had either struck a deal or reached a verdict.

Lattime would spend the next 15 years in jail.

Fowler would spend the next 13, only to be sent back on a parole violation. He was released last summer

Flynn and Randall, who committed the crime, remain in jail until eligible for parole in 2018.

Pam Smart will remain in jail for life, but her, her family and supporters maintain her innocence and continue to work toward a pardon.

For all of them, the rest of their lives were never the same.