Saturday, July 31, 2021

Gone But Not Forgotten


As I look back at the past twenty years, one thing that has become the elephant in the room for me is the book that I have been jabbing at finishing. Oh, I have a list of excuses a mile long as to why this pet project never got completed.  Just to defend myself all of my excuses are valid ones, but I have to admit I have lollygagged when I could have plowed through the emotional angst and written THE END many times over.  One could assume I have a problem with completing things or with procrastination...both is probably true.  I've noticed in the last few years how unorganized I've become and how overwhelming everything seems to be at times.  I guess instead of just jumping in and getting things done at times when I feel overwhelmed, I back off.  Perhaps, the fear of success rattles my cage.  Perhaps if I complete my project, what's next?  Does something have to come next? Why can't I just exist in troglodytic nothingness?

So I'm recommitting myself to finishing this "project" and it's purely for my own satisfaction.  This story I'm writing is about my time in drug rehab.  Needless to say, it was a time of great emotional upheaval and self-discovery...among other things.  I'm going to be posting it online in blog form so if any of you are interested in reading it, I'll be posting the link to it soon.

As I've been working on it, names and faces have flooded my head.  One such name and face is that of Sharon Smith, a girl I once knew from what was once referred to as reform school (Stevens School For Girls).  Sharon and I escaped together and headed to Boston together where I ended up leaving her with some friends of mine there (long story).  I never saw Sharon again after that, but I always wondered what became of her until I discovered many year later that fate had been unkind to her and her family.  

Below is Sharon's story according to Noi Noi Ricker published on July 16, 2016 in the Bangor Daily News:

BANGOR, Maine — When Sharon Smith disappeared nearly 36 years ago, her siblings weren’t immediately worried.

“She had run away so many times, she was that type of person,” her brother Randy Smith of Lakeland, Florida, said Monday by phone. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, she’s missing.’ It was more, ‘She’ll be back next week.’”

But she didn’t come back.

The 25-year-old mother of two was last seen on or about Aug. 25, 1980, when she worked an evening shift at the Paramount Lounge, a gritty hotel bar in downtown Bangor known for its adult entertainment where she worked as a waitress and, occasionally, as a stripper.

Her mother, Carolee Smith, reported Sharon Smith missing at the time, resulting in a police investigation that appeared to go nowhere over the years until last month, when investigators dug up a property in Hermon looking for Sharon Smith’s body.

Suddenly, the surviving members of Sharon Smith’s family were given hope for resolution, and memories of the young woman and her disappearance came flooding back.


“My first thought was, ‘Here we go again.’ Then, I was hoping they would find something to give the family closure,” Randy Smith, who was 15 at the time his sister went missing, said Friday.

“My sister was my big sister, very protective and loving,” he recalled. “She really spoiled me. I was the youngest, and I could do no wrong.”

The Smith family, which included Sharon Smith, her parents and five siblings, was in the process of moving to Florida when she disappeared, Randy Smith said.


Their father, Sgt. Harold Leroy Smith, was an Air Force aircraft engineer and was stationed at the Maine Air National Guard in Bangor when he met and married Carolee Smith, who was a Bangor native.

The family’s move may have led some to mistakenly believe the Smiths had abandoned Sharon Smith, Randy Smith said.

“My oldest sister and brother were already down there. Some people said, ‘You took off.’ We didn’t take off, we were moving,” he said. “We had already sold everything. We just figured she would come back. For real.

“Then as years go by, you realize … ,” Randy Smith said, letting his sentence trail off.
A daughter’s search

In addition to her parents and siblings, Sharon Smith left behind two children. Mandi Clark of Bangor was 5 when her mother vanished. Clark said Tuesday that she doesn’t remember Sharon Smith but does remember asking, as a little girl, “How come mom hasn’t come to visit?”

Clark’s brother, Jamie Clark, was a year older. He died at the age of 15. They were both raised by her father, David Clark, who had custody of them before Sharon Smith disappeared and now also is deceased.


Mandi Clark has her own opinions about what happened to her mother, but she does not believe she is alive after all these years.

“In 1995, my friend Wendy and I decided I would try to find my mom,” Clark said, sitting in the living room of her Bangor apartment with a collage of family pictures behind her, one featuring her as a toddler being held by her mother.

Because her mother’s family had moved to Florida and they didn’t really stay in touch, the two friends had little information to start with. They found Sharon Smith’s birth date and Social Security number, which had not been used since 1980, and started talking to anyone with connections to her or the Paramount Lounge.

Stories about what happened the night her mother went missing run the gamut of a jealous boyfriend killing her to gun running, Clark said she discovered.

During her investigation, which is referred to in a recently filed police affidavit, she got a call from an anonymous man who told her Franklin “George” Gilks killed her mother and that “things got carried away, accidents happen.”

Clark said the conversation scared her after the man told her to “leave things alone,” or something similar might happen to her. She reported the call to police.

While she stopped digging around at that point, she never stopped believing her mother would be found.

“I don’t care what happened. I just want her body,” Clark said.

“I just want closure. I just want to bury her here,” she said.
Cold case

The place where Sharon Smith worked, the Paramount Lounge, was located on the ground floor of the hotel built in 1911 on Harlow Street. Sharon Smith, who also went by the names Sharon Clark and Sharon Beaudoin, was renting a room there. The hotel and lounge changed hands and closed about three years after Sharon Smith vanished.

Asked what their parents thought about Sharon Smith’s lifestyle, Randy Smith paused.

“They were just happy she had a job,” he recalled. “She was a fun-loving spirit.”

The Paramount is the last place Sharon Smith was seen alive, Bangor police Detective Jeremy Brock, who took over the case last fall, discovered when he reviewed the case file.

Despite the case remaining unsolved for years, law enforcement investigators didn’t forget about Sharon Smith. Her missing person’s case in the 1990s was handled by now retired Detective Ed Thorne, who interviewed several people who pointed the finger at Gilks. He also interviewed a co-worker of Sharon Smith’s who is believed to be one of the last people to see her alive. The co-worker reported that she stopped by and saw Sharon Smith at the Paramount and that Sharon Smith was supposed to come by her apartment afterward but never showed.

The case file also contains references to two people who told police that Gilks admitted to killing Sharon Smith while at a drinking party, where he was “quite intoxicated.” They reported that Gilks told them he broke Sharon Smith’s neck during an argument.

An anonymous letter was sent to Bangor police in May 1999, according to an affidavit filed with a search warrant for the Hermon property. The letter, which was postmarked from Ohio, implicates Gilks, Sharon Smith’s “on and off again” boyfriend, as a suspect and states, “you will find the body of Sharon Clark under the living room part of this old ugly home on the right hand side of the road where George Gilks used to live in Hermon.”

Despite the reference to Hermon in the letter, a majority of the other evidence led investigators to where Gilks, who died in 2008, lived at the time Sharon Smith went missing, which was a trailer in Carmel. The Carmel location was mentioned by several others who implicated Gilks in Sharon Smith’s disappearance, the affidavit states.

In 1999, cadaver dogs searched the Carmel property for evidence related to the case but didn’t find a scent. The affidavit doesn’t indicate if the Hermon property was located and searched at that time.

Thorne and another Bangor officer went to Florida shortly after receiving the letter to provide the entire Smith family with an update.

“The detectives came down here 20 years ago. They said they knew who did it but they didn’t have enough evidence,” Randy Smith said. “They told us her apartment was left open and her purse was inside.”

When he heard those details, Randy Smith realized his sister was never coming back.

“It just seemed crazy to me,” he said.
Search yields new leads

After taking over the case, Brock found more leads to pursue, according to the affidavit. He and Detective Tim Shaw searched property records and discovered Gilks had indeed lived in Hermon in his youth, and his mother and brother still lived at the location of his childhood home, 147 New Boston Road. The old barn that once served as the family’s home was torn down 20 years ago and replaced by a rain pond with a small fountain made out of concrete surrounded by rocks and a garden.

The detectives met with the Gilks who agreed to allow a cadaver dog to search the property. Deborah Palman, a former Maine Game Warden who is a special deputy for the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, brought her dog, Raven, to the scene on June 14.

“Raven gave a positive indication for the scent of human decomposition at an area near the rain pond where the house used to stand,” the affidavit for the search warrant states. “After probing the ground where the house used to stand, Raven positively indicated several more times in the same area as before.”

The positive indications were enough to convince a judge to allow the June 23 excavation.

Gilks’ family members told police at the time of the search they didn’t believe Gilks had anything to do with Sharon Smith’s disappearance.

The June search for evidence related to Sharon Smith’s case resulted in no evidence being seized, the affidavit filed by Brock at the Penobscot Judicial Center states.

While no items were seized, new leads are now being followed, Sgt. David Bushey, who leads the detective’s division, said Thursday.

“People are starting to call again,” Bushey said. “We don’t have any good solid leads, but we’re creating a list of people to do follow up interviews with. We’ve had a couple people reach out by email as well.”

The family heard about the Hermon excavation after Maine relatives called to let them know it was happening, said Randy Smith and his brother Larry Smith of Tallahassee, Florida, who is more than a decade older than his missing sister.

Larry Smith said his sister loved music and was “kinda crazy.” He also believes she is dead and added that while a part of him wants to know what happened, another part just wants closure.

“I thought it all went away,” Larry Smith said by phone.

For Sharon Smith’s daughter and two grandsons, Micheal and Caleb, there will be no closure until she is found.

“I just want her to know, I’m still here,” Mandi Clark said. “So she’ll know nobody forgot about her.”

15 comments:

  1. A sad and all-too-common story. My heart aches for the loved ones who miss her.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sounds like a Dateline or 48 Hours story.

    Procrastination isn't my middle name, it's my title.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Try putting a time every day at the same time, just 10 minutes to work on something whether you want to or not. The goals should not be 'write a book' but 'do something every day for ten minutes'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great advice, Doc! Thanks! I've been doing just that and getting so much more done and not feeling so overwhelmed.

      Delete
  4. Oh my what a horrible story. I'm sorry.
    It does sound like an episode of Dateline.
    I look forward to reading the link you send us. You are a fascinating woman "Mildred" :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I'm looking forward to reading your comments because you also are a fascinating woman :-)

      Delete
  5. What a sad and tragic tale. May Sharon rest in peace, wherever she is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sharon certainly deserves the peace she never found while I knew her.

      Delete
  6. "I've noticed in the last few years how unorganized I've become and how overwhelming everything seems to be at times."... I could have written this very same Sentence! What a tragic story of your Friend. I do Hope you'll finish your Memoir, you Write so well. I lived in Bangor, Maine as a small Child, went to Kindgergarten there Etta Clark was the Teacher who taught Kinder thru 12th Grade in a one room Schoolhouse at the time, she even let my little Brother come to School even tho' he was too Young, it gave him an edge when he finally was eligible for Public School after we moved. My Dad was stationed at some Military installation outside of Bangor, all I remember about the place was the Woods and that our Neighbor was an Old Trapper married to a Native American Woman we called Old Missus Audis, she used to boil things in a big Cauldron in front of their dilapidated Wooden Home and their Home was fascinating to me as a Child, they had Chickens INSIDE and she's give us the Fresh Eggs. Everyone around there back then seemed Poor and we were Poor too since Dad was only an Airman, being that Dad was Native American married to a European Woman, the Audises were our best Friends there even tho' they were much older than my Parents... they were lovely people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm certain I'll finish writing it because I have a great support system.

      That just proves what a small world we live in. There was Dow Air Force Base, but that's in Bangor. I'll have to put my thinking cap on. The Native American Reservation was located on Indian Island in Old Town. The name Etta Clark sounds familiar....maybe one of my older brothers have had her as a teacher.

      Delete
    2. It is indeed a Small World sometimes! We lived in the bottom portion of an Old House that also rented the Upstairs portion, it was near the Woods. An Old Guy named Sonny lived next door and rolled his own Cigarettes, as Kids we thought that was very Entertaining! *LOL*

      Delete