CONWAY — A local man accused of being part of a group that stole guns and jewelry from his father was ordered held on a higher bail last week after a county prosecutor presented audio of the man asking his mother for bail money so he could flee.
Paul Smith, 27, of Conway, was charged with 16 counts of theft and 11 counts of felon in possession of a dangerous weapon.
The alleged crimes took place between Oct. 14-24 at the Center Conway home of Smith's father, Robert, who reported the guns stolen after returning home from a trip.
Other suspects in the case are Michelle Harris, 32, of Conway; Kevin Conner, 28, of Tamworth; and Brock Lessard, 29, of Fryeburg, Maine.
Smith and Harris were taken into custody without incident on Nov. 12 at about 6 p.m. during a motor vehicle stop on East Conway Road.
They were held on $1,000 cash, but Paul Smith's bail was raised to $10,000 on Nov. 19, when he went before Carroll County Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius for a bail hearing.
Assistant County Attorney Thomas Palermo presented an audio recording of a jailhouse phone call Smith made to his mother over the weekend, in which Smith asked her for $1,000 bail money so he could “f-ing run.”
Palermo said Smith was prepared to head to prison on other older cases and probably thought he would have little to lose by fleeing.
He played the full seven-minute call in the courtroom.
Smith’s mother was somewhat audible but Smith's side of the conversation was impossible to hear from the gallery. But Smith was quoted in Palermo’s emergency motion to revoke bail.
After Smith’s mother said there was not much they could do for him, Smith allegedly replied, “Well, you could put up the $1,000 so that I can bail right now and f-ing run.”
Smith’s mother rebuffed the request, telling him she loved him but that jail was the best place for him to be.
Smith’s private attorney Michael Zaino of Hampton appeared by teleconference and said Smith’s remarks were simply sarcasm.
He suggested the judge either keep the bail the same or, if she upped it, to allow it to be converted to personal recognizance in the event Smith got into a treatment facility.
“If the argument is that’s just sarcasm or frustration or just a joking nervous comment, something like that, that’s not what I hear," Ignatius told Zaino. "That’s not remotely what I hear."
The judge said she almost always approves requests to convert bail to personal recognizance when someone gets into a residential drug treatment program. But in this case, she said, she was going to reject it because there was no guarantee Smith wouldn’t flee. She then raised the bail amount to $10,000 cash.
Conway Police Officer Chad Smith investigated the case, according to the probable cause affidavit by Detective Sgt. Ryan Wallace.
"(Robert) Smith stated on Oct. 13, 2019, his son, whom he identified as Paul Smith, had asked him to borrow $100," wrote Wallace, adding that the father refused his son.
"Smith stated that Paul Smith became angry and said that he shouldn't be surprised that when he comes back from Florida and all the guns are gone."
The Conway police said Paul Smith had been staying in a camper parked on Turkey Street in Tamworth. There they met a man named David Petrie, 19.
The probable cause affidavit says Petrie told police he had been staying at Murphy's camper. On the morning of Oct. 24, around 2 a.m. Paul Smith, Harris and Lessard came to the camper with the guns and jewelry, Petrie told police.
Lessard was to be arraigned Nov. 21 on one count of theft. Lessard is accused of driving Paul Smith to the Smiths' home in a "conspiracy" to steal guns and jewelry and then also driving Smith and Harris back to Tamworth to hide the guns.
"Petrie stated that they made the guns look like luggage and that Tamworth PD was standing beside the guns the day they searched the camper, states the affidavit.
According to Petrie, Smith cut the back of the safe off and then slid the safe back into place after taking the contents.
"Petrie went on to say Paul Smith gave him a ride to Manchester on Oct. 26, 2019, and that Paul had stolen a car to do so," said Wallace, adding Petrie said the guns were in the car at that time. "Petrie stated that Paul Smith was taking the guns to Lynn, Mass., to trade for five fingers of heroin."
Police heard from Petrie that after Paul Smith picked him up, Smith told him that the guns were traded. Petrie said he didn't see the drugs but the guns were no longer there.
According to Petrie, Paul Smith made a deal with a woman, Patricia Baranski.
Baranski confirmed to police that she bought some jewelry and a pepper spray gun from Smith even though she had suspicions that the items were stolen.
On Oct. 30, the camper's owner told police that the camper had been moved to Parsonsfield, Maine, where a friend of Harris owned property. When police searched the property, they allegedly found some of the guns and assorted items in a duffel bag in the bed of a pickup truck.
Harris is charged with 14 counts of felon in possession of a dangerous weapon and one count of theft.
Post-arrest interviews with Paul Smith and Harris led to the arrest of a third person, Kevin Conner, 28, of Tamworth.
Smith and Harris apparently told police that Conner helped them take the guns, jewelry coins and belt buckles from the safe. Paul Smith said that Conner was storing the guns at his home in Tamworth and trying "get rid" of the guns in Manchester and Rochester but that Conner said he was having a hard time doing so.
Smith told police he took five guns from Conner and brought them to Maine to trade three for one gram of heroin.
On Nov. 13, Paul Smith took police to Hiram, Maine, where he said he hid two guns in the woods.
Conner was charged with one count of theft. He was ordered held on $1,000 cash bail.