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Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Willamette student arrested on murder charge

This story was originally published in The Willamette Collegian on November 18, 2014. It was written by Collegian Editor-in-Chief Zane Sparling and writer Bronte Dod of Willamette University. This story is printed here through the Northwest News Network, a collaborative project between many northwestern collegiate newspapers.

No bail is set for Beau Wesley Smith, a 21-year-old Willamette University student charged in the murder of a Salem man. Smith may enter a plea during his next court appearance, or his attorney could ask for more time to put together a defense.

Smith’s next court date is slated for Dec. 11 at 8:30 a.m. Until then, Smith will remain in the Marion County Correctional Facility.

A trial has tentatively been set for Jan. 20.

Salem police and the Marion County District Attorney’s office say Smith killed Michael Hampshire, 66, early in the morning on Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Police responded to a 911 call made shortly before 4 a.m. that day stating that a body was found near Winter and D streets, a residential neighborhood about six blocks northeast of campus. The body was later identified as Hampshire’s.

The cause of death was homicidal violence, including blunt force injuries to the head, according to State Medical Examiner Christopher Young.

Public Information Officer Lieutenant Dave Okada could not confirm whether Smith made any statements to police when he was arrested.

“[Smith] was found a couple blocks from the scene,” Okada said.

When asked if police tested Smith or Hampshire for alcohol or other intoxicants, Okada declined to comment.

Will Pahrman, a local landscaper and neighbor of Hampshire, said he knew the Salem resident for over 20 years.


“I need time to grieve,” Pahrman said. “I wish [Smith] well. I know he was a student and a classmate of yours. That’s all I know. I only know about Michael, and Michael’s gone.”

State to investigate further

Smith was arraigned in court on Thursday, Nov. 13. He did not speak, and was separated by a glass partition from the rest of the courtroom while Judge Donald Abar read the murder charge to him. If convicted, Smith faces a potential maximum sentence of life in prison, Abar said in court.

A 1994 Oregon citizens’ initiative requires a minimum sentence of 25 years in murder cases. Governor John Kitzhaber placed a moratorium on capital punishment in 2011, calling for a review of the death penalty system.

Abar also granted a request from Deputy District Attorney Doug Hanson, who asked that no bail be set, in accordance with Oregon’s law for murder cases.

Smith complied with Salem police during the investigation, according to his lawyer Walter Todd. But Todd said that he would not characterize any statements made as a confession.

“He fully cooperated with the police, and he made a full statement to the police,” Todd said. “The state of Oregon would perceive it to be that some admissions were made.”

Todd, a 1981 graduate of the Willamette College of Law, waived the right for a preliminary hearing at the arraignment on Thursday in order to provide “further information to the state.” He said he is still waiting to receive the police report from the district attorney.

“He was a real good student in high school and a star football player and we’ll [provide] more information about his character, and the state wants more time to investigate the circumstances fully,” Todd told reporters after the arraignment.


The senior chemistry major’s parents visited Smith in jail on Friday, Nov. 14, according to Todd.

He is allowed visitors once per week, one person at a time.

‘No easy resolution’

First news of the incident arrived on campus around 3 p.m. on Nov. 12, after Dean of Campus Life David Douglass sent a campuswide email stating that a “student is being held as part of a criminal investigation into an off-campus incident.”

Douglass did not release the name of the student or the nature of the crime in his message. That information was announced by the Salem police department in a press release sent around 5 p.m. later that day.

In the days that followed, calls for compassion, support and campus unity were disseminated through email by a number of sources, including ASWU President Andrés Oswill and University Chaplain Karen Wood.

Wood has spoken with faculty, staff, students and parents about the incident. She said that there has been “a lot of concern.”

“The fact that there is no easy resolution makes it hard,” Wood said.

Students enrolled in the chemistry department attempted to visit Smith in jail on Monday, Nov. 17, according to an email sent by Professor of Chemistry Todd P. Silverstein.

That visit was later canceled after Smith’s lawyer asked that students reserve the visit for his family, according to an email sent by Smith’s adviser, Chemistry Professor and Department Chair Sarah Kirk.

In a separate email, Kirk said that Smith’s lawyer has asked students to write letters testifying to Beau’s character. Kirk said those letters could be submitted to her, and that she would ensure Todd, the attorney, would receive them.

Kirk did not return a phone call requesting an interview. In a separate email sent to senior chemistry majors, she praised “the care and support that you have shown for one another through this difficult time.”

beau smith 3

Violent crime increasing in Salem

The University may perform some type of a student conduct investigation, according to University spokesman Adam Torgerson.

“We’re assessing the best way to proceed regarding any potential administrative adjudication given the complexities of this situation,” Torgerson said. “All adjudication processes are confidential, so we’ll be unable to share information about any particular student’s case.”

Between the active investigation and legal requirements that protect a student’s personal information, there are not many details that can be revealed at this time.

“Student conduct cases are confidential,” Torgerson said. “In all cases, we consider whether administrative actions are appropriate and will take necessary steps to ensure students a fair and just process.”

According to the FBI Uniform Crime reports, Salem’s violent crime rate had been dropping since the mid-1990s, but increased by 7.9 percent between 2011 and 2012. There were seven murders in 2012 and 2013, up from three in 2011.

Violent crime rates on college campuses have not significantly changed in the last decade, according to the American Council on Education.

Smith, a wide receiver on the football team, scored three touchdowns this season. His arrest occurred just days before the team’s final game, a home match against University of Puget Sound on Saturday, Nov. 15 at McCulloch Stadium.

Willamette lost the game 14-27.

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