Gouverneur murder suspect Smith waives hearing; troopers release more details on prior conviction

Mar. 14—CANTON — The murder charge against a Lake Placid man for killing Ronald E. "Huck" Durham has been sent to St. Lawrence County Court after the defendant waived his right to a preliminary hearing. Meanwhile, state police have released additional details on the attempted burglary conviction for which the alleged killer was under probationary supervision at the time of Mr. Durham's death and a second murder.

Prior to waiving the hearing, Adam W. Smith, 46, had been scheduled to appear in Gouverneur Town Court for the hearing at 10 a.m. today. He is charged with two separate counts of second-degree murder for allegedly stabbing Mr. Durham on Feb. 11 in a Gouverneur cemetery and for stabbing William M. Freeman, 67, at his Rossie residence on March 2. Smith is represented by the St. Lawrence County Conflict Defender's Office.

St. Lawrence County District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua says the next step is to put both murder cases in front of a grand jury to consider for indictment. That process is done in secret with the outcome announced by the DA's office afterward.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Pasqua said Smith has no pending scheduled court appearances.

At the time Smith is accused of killing Mr. Durham and Mr. Freeman, he was on probationary supervision following an attempted burglary conviction. State police on Wednesday released additional details on that case.

Troopers say that on Nov. 16, 2021, around 7:03 p.m., they responded to Lake Road in the town of Fine for a possible burglary complaint, which led to the arrest of Smith, who was living in Star Lake at the time. Police say a garage had been broken into, and Smith stole "miscellaneous equipment and tools." Smith was arrested and charged with third-degree burglary, a felony, on Jan. 5, 2022, arraigned in Clifton Town Court and released pending further court action.

Troopers say Smith pleaded guilty to the burglary on May 26, 2022, and accepted a reduced charge of attempted third-degree burglary, which is also a felony. On July 18, 2022, Smith was sentenced to three years of probationary supervision and ordered to pay $2,000 in fines. No appeal was filed and prosecutors consider the case closed, troopers added.

Smith has been incarcerated at the county jail in Canton since March 2. That's when he was arrested driving Mr. Freeman's stolen 2018 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. He was apprehended near the Bradley Street exit on Interstate 81 heading north near Watertown. Police charged him with felony fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and booked him into jail.

State police initially charged a man Mr. Pasqua has since acknowledged is innocent of Mr. Durham's murder: Frederick A. Wing Jr., 22, of Gouverneur. He was released on the night of March 3 after spending nearly three weeks incarcerated when investigators figured out he didn't commit the murder.

Although Mr. Wing is free from jail, he's under probationary supervision and the second-degree murder count remains pending.

His attorney, Edward F. Narrow, said last week that he plans to initiate court proceedings to get the homicide charge officially tossed.

Announcing Smith's arrest on March 7 for Mr. Freeman's murder, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Brooks J. Bigwarfe said investigators are looking into Smith "and what he's done in the last several months," potentially looking for leads on other unsolved cases in St. Lawrence County.

Mr. Bigwarfe said an autopsy showed Mr. Freeman died of multiple stab wounds and described Smith as dangerous. Mr. Freeman was found dead at his Rossie home, 258 County Route 10, on March 2. Mr. Durham was found dead of a stab wound to the neck in East Riverside Cemetery on Van Buren Road, Gouverneur, on the morning of Feb. 11.

"This individual that's been arrested for this pretty heinous crime, through our investigation, appears to be a very dangerous individual," the sheriff said.

"There are no other suspects in either of the investigations at this time," Mr. Pasqua said.

The sheriff said there is "some association" between Mr. Durham, Mr. Freeman and Smith, but wouldn't comment further.

Mr. Bigwarfe said investigators have collected "an abundant amount of forensic evidence" and have run down numerous leads and executed "numerous search warrants, including residences, vehicles and personal property."

"It's unfortunate we weren't able to link Mr. Smith right away to the Feb. 11 incident. Based upon the information we had and all the evidence available, I don't think it was possible at that time," Mr. Pasqua said March 7. "I think the collaborative effort between all the agencies was able to make that link and make sure we got to the right individual."

Officials haven't gone into details about the evidence that led police to believe Mr. Wing killed Mr. Durham. State police underwater recovery investigators were searching the Oswegatchie River in Gouverneur for evidence in February. Police declined to say whether they found anything.

"At the time that law enforcement began investigating that crime, we were provided information from Mr. Wing indicating he had intimate knowledge of what happened. They did not arrest Mr. Wing on some whim," and based on the available evidence, "they had probable cause to believe Mr. Wing committed that crime," Mr. Pasqua said March 7.

Mr. Narrow has declined to comment on the evidence that led to police developing that probable cause "only because it's an ongoing homicide investigation and my client has information that's helpful," and he could end up being a witness.

"Hopefully we can close this chapter on him being a defendant and focus on him helping the state with the homicide of Mr. Durham," Mr. Narrow said.

Mr. Pasqua on March 7 added that Mr. Wing has "been truthful with law enforcement at this point."

Following a March 6 court appearance where Mr. Wing was officially placed under probationary supervision, he said little after having been advised by Mr. Narrow to not make comments to the press. He did, however, thank the St. Lawrence County jail corrections officers with treating him well during his 19 days incarcerated there.

"I want to say thank you to the correctional facility over in Canton ... they were very kind to me," Mr. Wing said.

Mr. Wing has intellectual disabilities that made it difficult for him to understand what was happening after he'd been interviewed by state police on Feb. 11, according to his cousin, Jessica M. Bice.

She said she doesn't believe Mr. Wing was able to understand the situation in which he found himself after being arrested. She visited her cousin in jail the Sunday after he was arrested and asked him if he understood that he was being charged with a felony and what his Miranda rights are.

"When I asked him about what Miranda rights were, he thought it had something to do with drinking. He thought he was in trouble for something with drinking," she said.

She says he also didn't know what a felony means.

"He thought it was something he had to pay for. He said he didn't have any money for it," because Mr. Wing's only income is from Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Mrs. Bice said.

She said Mr. Wing is happy to be home on a comfortable bed and spending time with his family and friends.

"He was happy to look at tractors all weekend on the computer, and be in a comfy bed," she said.

"And homemade food," Mr. Wing chimed in.

Mr. Wing's family has believed in his innocence from the beginning. They said he and Mr. Durham were close friends, having almost a father-and-son relationship.

"He wants to grieve his good friend ... and see the Durham family to properly say he's sorry for their loss and hug them," Mrs. Bice said.

"(Mr. Durham's relatives) wanted to reach out and speak with Freddy after Huck's death. He wasn't able to, because one, he was incarcerated, and two there was an order of protection in place," Mr. Narrow said. "Huck and Freddy were good friends. Now Freddy can mourn with Huck's family." Mrs. Bice credits a community effort for getting her cousin exonerated and represented by Mr. Narrow.

"Another big thank you to the community, to the local Gouverneur Police Department, to everybody that rooted for us and got us to this spot," she said. "We've got a long battle."