Thayne Smika Has Been On The Run Since 1983 When He May Have Murdered His Roommate
According to investigators, Sid Wells told Thayne Smika he needed to step up and pay for his portion of the rent, and a specific date was given for Smika to hand the money over: August 1, 1983 — the same day Wells was murdered.
BOULDER, CO — It's been years since David Hayes was a police detective, but there's one case he will never let go. It's the murder of a Colorado student, 22-year-old Sid Wells. All these years later the cold case continues to haunt Hayes.
Sid was viciously gunned down inside his own Boulder, Colorado, home. Now, Hayes' journey over the years has finally led to a first-degree murder charge and warrant for the suspected killer, Thayne Alan Smika.
In Pursuit With John Walsh’s Callahan Walsh sat down with Rob Wells, Sid's brother. Wells opened up to Walsh about his beloved brother who was born with a go-getter type of personality. "Sid was funny, teachers loved him, he was very easy to get along with,” he said. “We were always in the mountains. Dad was taking us fishing, he was taking us camping... Sid's whole focus was college and he had a thing for the Navy."
At the University of Colorado, where Sid shined as a student, he had a passion for many career paths. The two that stood out the most for him, according to Rob, was becoming a pilot and becoming a journalist; ultimately he chose the latter.
As Sid majored in journalism at the University of Colorado–Boulder, he was also enrolled in the Navy ROTC and even interned for a local TV station. It's a wonder he had time for a personal life, even to date anyone. But somehow Sid found that extra time when a gorgeous blonde named Shauna crossed his path. Shauna Redford lived in the same apartment complex and the pair hit it off instantly. Little did Sid know in the beginning that Shauna was the daughter of Hollywood movie star, Robert Redford. "They were just so good together. Such good positive energy in the two of them, it was a beautiful thing," Rob added.
Although Sid's love and personal life was taking off, he didn't let the pain he must have felt within show. A few years before Sid met Shauna, his father was killed by a drunk driver. With the money Sid's mother received from an insurance pay-out, she purchased a condominium for Sid and his other brother Sam to live in while Sid was in college.
Although Sid had his share of the rent taken care of, he had to look for a trustworthy roommate to share the other bedroom. Sid placed an ad looking for someone to move into his apartment for $300 a month, and it didn't take long for someone to respond.
A promising 24-year-old named Thayne Smika interviewed for the room. Sid and his brother Sam instantly thought Smika would make a great fit, Rob remembers. Smika was a member of the Future Business Leaders of America, he appeared to be studious, and most importantly, quiet. The brothers quickly offered the former track runner a place to live, and the best part? Smika had money, or so it seemed. Sid's brother Rob tells In Pursuit, "He came with cash in hand, he had money for several months rent in advance. I think that's one of the reasons Sid took him in."
Once everyone was settled, it didn't take long for things to take a left turn with Smika. Smika was a hermit, and never seemed to have any desire to leave the condo. He didn't socialize and was up all night making noise. Eventually Smika stopped paying rent and fell behind. If Sid were independently wealthy, then it wouldn't have been an issue, but he needed the money to help his mom pay the mortgage.
According to investigators, Sid told Smika he needed to step up and pay for his portion of the rent, and a specific date was given for Smika to hand the money over: August 1, 1983. At some point between that conversation and when Sam, Sid's brother returned to their Boulder home from a camping trip, Sid was found murdered.
Sam had to make the devastating call to 911: "Yes, this is Sam Wells, over at Spanish Towers. I just walked in from a camping trip ... and it looks like... it looks like my little brother is laying here dead. I don't know what happened."
SHOT IN THE HEAD
When Detective Hayes arrived on the scene, he found Sid face-down on the rust-orange carpet in the condo with blood on the back of his head. The crime scene photo shows Sid's head lying slightly under the couch, his foot resting up next to a red house phone, and the wire for that phone found tangled under him. There's a TIME magazine on the coffee table and one corner of the coffee table is pushed away from the couch.
Sid had a gunshot wound, and Hayes learned through his investigation that a 20-gauge shot gun was used. Looking around the condo, Hayes concluded there was no forced entry; Smika was the third person living in the condo. So, the first people Hayes wanted to speak with and confirm alibis were the roommates who lived there.
Also inside, one other clue on the coffee table: a note. Hayes said the message, which was written on an envelope, said Smika went to visit his parents in Akron. That note was found on top of the blood, investigators say, which means it was left after the murder and possibly by the killer.
Smika was tracked down to his family's home and quickly questioned. Smika told detectives he had no idea Sid had been murdered and he was willing to speak. Retired Detective Fred Neitzel taped that interview with Smika. He told Neitzel that before the murder, he saw Sid and gave him the rent that was due. Smika claimed he left the apartment around 11 A.M. and that Sid left before he did.
Neitzel said when he searched a bedroom closet belonging to Smika he found a 20-gauge shotgun and a box of 20-gauge rounds, three rounds of which were missing. Smika's sister reportedly told investigators her family recently cleaned the room and the gun wasn't there before. Neitzel said, "That was my smoking gun. If I could take pellets out of Sydney Wells head ... and take pellets from a round that Thayne Smika had in his possession, and they match? That's a good place to start."
Neitzel reported that when the testing of the gun and ammunition was complete, it was an exact match.
The detectives learned from Sid’s friend Jeff that Sid had begun selling small amounts of cocaine, and he believed Thayne was stealing drugs from him. Putting the pieces together, Hayes surmised that when Sid went to collect Smika’s past-due rent money, Smika didn’t have it or the drugs, and resorted to shooting Sid in cold blood.
Two months after the murder, October 6, 1983, Smika was arrested, but little did investigators know something out of their control was going on behind the scenes. The district attorney decided not to hold Smika - instead they let him go. Rob said, "They had him and the DA let him go, it wasn't the police department, it was the district attorney. Unbelievable."
AGREEMENT NOT TO INDICT
A grand jury convened on the case, but after two years, the grand jury expired and no indictment was sent down. Hayes said after the grand jury closed, boxes were sent back to the police station. Hayes didn't waste any time going through he boxes and inside one he made a shocking discovery. "One of the things that was in that box was an agreement that was signed by the then district attorney ... and then based on the date of that agreement ... it appeared they had agreed in advance that there would be no indictment from the grand jury." The former District Attorney who handled the case at the time was Alex Hunter. It's unclear to this day why such an agreement was made.
Neitzel shared the extreme disappointment and his feeling that all of that work was buried: "It bothered me so much that the DA had no intentions of ever charging this guy with murder ... and going into a contract with Smika and the public defender. All that work was for nothing."
Rob says the secret agreement has many reeling: "The question is why? Was he put on a witness protection program? Was there information that was given to him, to buy him, that gave him a get out of jail free card for murder?"
In 1986, there was a brief break in the case, when Smika was wanted for felony theft and forgery, reportedly for writing unauthorized checks during his job as a bookkeeper. A warrant was issued, but Smika was nowhere to be found. In fact, there have been no credible sightings of him since.
At one point, he had connections to Beverly Hills, California, where his father lived — and where his vehicle was found abandoned with stolen plates. A tip at one point said he was seen in Ventura, California, and it’s possible he could still be in that state. There was also a possible sighting of him in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; and he may have ties to Costa Rica.
Wherever he is, it’s possible that he could be working as a bookkeeper or an accountant.
He wasn't charged again until 2010. There was a new DA in office who was finally willing to take the case head on. Rob remembers, it wasn't long after the new DA took office before there was an arrest warrant issued for Thayne Smika.
Every single person who knew Sid was impacted by his untimely death. His own mom did not have a chance to see justice served for her son. She passed away in 2014 after a long battle with cancer.
Rob told In Pursuit he prays for a resolution and the capture would bring him, "A little bit of resolution, you aren't ever going to have closure. Sid is never coming back. It forever changed the lives of my mom, my brother Sam and I ... forever changed. Thirty-four years, you know — those of you who think it can be gotten over, you can’t. It's just something you learn to live with."
Thayne Smika is wanted for first-degree murder and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. He should be considered armed and dangerous.
TRAITS & CHARACTERISTICS:
- Height: 5 feet 11 inches
- Weight: 140 pounds at the time of the incident
- Sex: Male
- Race: White
- Eyes: Hazel
- Place of Birth: North Dakota
- Hair: Brown, could be sun-bleached
- Date of birth used: February 27, 1959
- His appearance has likely changed dramatically over the years
- Aliases used: Jungle Mike, Thaymes Micah
- Known to speak Spanish and English
If you know anything about this case or where Smika could be hiding out, please contact our hotline at 833-3-PURSUE or Submit Your Anonymous Tip Online.
For more on this case, watch the “Campus Tragedy” episode of In Pursuit With John Walsh on Wednesday, January 16 at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery! Or catch up on ID GO.
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