For eight dramatic minutes Wednesday Bryan Smith played audio recordings from his phone of the many ways his father had threatened to kill him.
“I’ll make sure he never walks or talks again. I’ll put him in a damn box,” Dale Smith said to his wife in the recordings.
“I know all kinds of ways to destroy him mentally before I kill the son of a bitch.”
“I’m so (expletive) mad, I’ll come over and strangle the little bastard.”
“I’ll come over and I’ll blow his (expletive) brains out.”
“If he reports this to the authorities, that’s a death warrant on him.”
Those were just some of the threats Dale Ivan Smith, 80, made regarding his son last year before he showed up at Bryan Smith’s house planning to kill him with an AK-47.
Dale Smith was sentenced Wednesday to four to 15 years in prison for assault with intent to commit a serious felony, changed from attempted murder. His other charges for first-degree stalking, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a bomb or destructive device were dismissed as part of an Alford plea agreement, a plea in which a defendant believes there is enough evidence to convict him if the case goes to trial but doesn’t acknowledge his guilt
According to police reports, Dale Smith was outside his son’s house on the night of Nov. 16, 2017, in violation of a no-contact order. His son called police, who found several guns and 15 pineapple grenades in Dale Smith’s car.
Police also found a letter in the car addressed to Dale Smith’s wife apologizing for killing their son.
“By now you will know something has happened to Bryan,” the letter said. “I’m sorry, but it had to be done.”
The plan to murder Bryan Smith stemmed from a family conflict that began in November 2016 when his mother, Alice Smith, was receiving medical treatment in Boise. Dale Smith wanted to remove her from treatment, but Bryan prevented him. Dale Smith physically attacked his son and was removed from the hospital by security staff.
Bryan Smith took over custody of his mother and moved her to a senior care facility in Idaho Falls. During his victim impact statement Wednesday Bryan Smith said he thinks his father was angry because he took control of his mother’s finances, including money she received from a personal injury lawsuit.
Dale Smith hired an attorney, former Canyon County Prosecutor Richard Harris, to help him regain custody of his wife. Harris testified that Dale Smith made threats against his son during a settlement meeting.
Bryan Smith told the court that he reported his father to Bonneville County Prosecutor Daniel Clark in November 2016 believing he was in danger. In April 2017 Bryan Smith received two separate calls in one day, one from Harris and one from the daughter of Dale Smith’s alleged mistress. Both callers said Dale Smith was looking to hire two men to hurt him.
Both Bryan Smith and his wife, Sharon Smith, told the court that they spent a year living in fear of what Dale Smith would do. Bryan Smith had GPS trackers placed on his father’s car to know if he came to Idaho Falls. This continued until Bryan Smith saw his father’s car outside his home in November 2017.
“I can’t really believe I’m here under these circumstances” Bryan Smith said, noting that as an attorney he’s spent much time in courtrooms. “My father Dale Smith tried to murder me.”
Bryan Smith said his mother died over the summer and that a psychiatrist told him she seemed to have lost the will to live, adding to the family’s grief.
Bryan Smith also said he believes the grenades and guns his father had were part of a planned last stand if law enforcement caught up to him.
Defense Attorney Curtis Smith (no relation) asked Harris and Sharon Smith if his client had ever threatened others to the extent he did his son before he lost custody of his wife. Both said no. Curtis Smith said Dale Smith had a clean criminal history before the last two years, and asked the judge to consider a rider program.
Bonneville County Prosecutor Daniel Clark said the case played out like a Greek tragedy, with the sentencing being the climax. Clark said he had never seen a case where the defendant planned his crimes as extensively as Dale Smith. He added that Dale Smith has continued to contact his son in violation of a no-contact order.
“The defendant hasn’t stopped committing crimes this entire year,” Clark said.
Dale Smith denied that he intended to kill his son, saying he only planned to scare him by shooting at him. He said he was frustrated because his son prevented him from having contact with his wife.
“When people try to control me, I lose my temper,” Dale Smith said.
District Judge Bruce Pickett expressed concern that Dale Smith had lied to police about his identity when arrested and changed his story multiple times. Pickett didn’t get very far before Dale Smith interrupted him. The defendant interrupted the judge four times. Pickett was visibly irritated and warned Dale Smith that the interruptions were only proving he couldn’t obey a court order.
“Then go ahead and hang me,” Dale Smith said.