August 26, 2019 | By Kayla Hartigan
This story is part of a collaborative project between Project: Cold Case and a University of North Florida Journalism class. The student credited above wrote this story as a class project.
Birthdays are typically a special celebration, but some are more difficult than others. When Christopher Beaumont turned 37, he couldn’t help but think of his father, Bill.
William “Bill” Smith was 37 when his life was taken.
Bill Smith was born on March 27, 1958 in New Jersey and raised near the Bertrand Island Amusement Park in Mt. Arlington. As a kid, he enjoyed fishing, hunting, playing baseball, and spending time with his family and two older siblings, Kathy and Art.
He liked to listen to music and go to the movies. He especially enjoyed the 1968 hit “Bullitt” featuring Steve McQueen.
“For 13 weeks straight, we went to see that movie every weekend,” Art recalled of his younger brother.
Bill had a knack for drawing and creating things, a skill he used as a sign designer later in life.
“He was very artistic,” Shawna Hodge said of her father. “I still ride by his signs and see them.”
He met Nancy Beaumont in June of 1981 and they were married six months later. Bill accepted Christopher, who was six months old at the time, with open arms and immediately found his groove in fatherhood. The couple had their daughter, Shawna, two years later. Bill loved being a dad and spending time with his kids.
“He was my best friend,” Shawna said. “We did everything together.”
Bill was known to be a jokester. He loved to laugh and make others laugh.
“He was the funniest person I’d ever met,” Kathy said of her brother.
Then, the humor was gone.
Bill Smith was found severely beaten in the parking lot of an American Legion in Riviera Beach, Florida on April 13, 1995. At least two men were seen hitting Smith with a baseball bat. They were spotted fleeing in a dark colored pick-up truck with a white stripe along the side.
Bill was rushed to St. Mary’s Medical Center that night. He would succumb to his injuries on May 6 after spending 23 days in a coma.
The original detective on the case, Pat Galligan, told The Palm Beach Post following Bill’s passing that “no one is saying anything, and there isn’t a lot of traffic in that area. The parking lot lighting is extremely poor,” making this a difficult case to solve.
Shortly after his father’s passing, Christopher enrolled in the Police Explorer Program at Stuart Police Department. He is currently a lieutenant in the Indian River Shores Public Safety Department.
“I think this was my driving factor for wanting to get into law enforcement,” Christopher said.
Kathy and Nancy were proactive from the get-go; the two went around Riviera Beach every day asking people questions.
Bill was known to suffer from addiction issues. The family fears his case wasn’t given the attention it deserved for that reason.
“I don’t think the Riviera Beach Police Department did what they would do if he were a wealthy community member,” Nancy said. “I believe they just said ‘Oh, he was on drugs.’”
“We used to go around and hang up reward posters,” Christopher remembers.
After all this time, the Smith family still doesn’t have the answers they desperately seek.
“I don’t have closure,” Shawna said.
Bill’s death still weighs heavy on everyone’s minds. He wasn’t there for his kids’ graduations or weddings and he’ll never get to meet his four grandchildren.
“It still hurts,” Nancy said. “It hurts so deeply.”
Anyone with information about this case, the identity, or location of the suspect(s) is asked to contact the Riviera Beach Police Department at 561-845-4123.
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