“We have not forgotten,” said Lori Brave Rock of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana.
She was reminding Red Deer’s most infamous killer, Ronald Allan Smith, 53, now rumoured to be a grandfather, he has left a gaping wound in the hearts and souls of her people.
Brave Rock was commenting over the Internet on Smith’s Jan. 31 date for execution date by lethal injection, after years of legal wrangling.
“Finally,” Brave Rock said, “(the victims’) families will have justice after 26 years.”
Smith murdered two young men from Brave Rock’s Blackfeet Indian Reserve in Montana.
“He took their lives, their futures, while he wanted to have one of his own (a grandfather now, I hear),” wrote Brave Rock.
On Aug. 4, 1982, Smith and two friends went on an LSD-laced drunken road trip, hitchhiking from Red Deer to Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana, where they were given a ride by cousins Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, driving their grandmother’s car.
Something went horribly wrong down the road. The cousins were marched into a bush, stabbed, then shot in the head by Smith, who was brandishing a sawed-off rifle.
Two days later, driving the stolen car, Smith and his pals Rodney Munro and Andre Fontaine were arrested after a botched robbery in Eureka, Calif.
Smith later told authorities he wanted see what it felt like to kill somebody. He pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping and asked for the death penalty, rejecting an offer of life in prison.
“He wanted to know what it felt like to take these young men’s lives, and now he will get what he asked for, which was the death penalty,” said Brave Rock.
Smith later decided against execution — and years of legal wrangling began.
Should Smith die?
One side says an execution to right two wrongs is morally reprehensible. The other side says justice should be allowed to take its course.
Lost in the debate to spare Smith are the families and friends of the victims, still dealing with a horrible loss.
Laws are to protect the innocent, to reflect society’s abhorrence to certain criminal acts, and to also assess the offender’s remorse and propensity to re-offend.
Is Smith remorseful? After learning the Canadian government was washing its hands of his fate, the now-arrogant murderer lashed out in an interview.
“I was kind of dumbstruck,” said Smith. “What the hell is going on? If we are a civilized society, then why would we sanction murder? It (the death penalty) is retaliation killing. You kill me. I kill you. That’s all it is, (wild) west mentality.”
Pleading for mercy, and to be transferred to a Canadian prison, Smith said he respects Canada’s prison system. He said it tries to rehabilitate prisoners.
“Why shouldn’t I have that opportunity, just because I came down to the United States and killed somebody? What difference does it make? If anybody else deserves an opportunity, then I should as well — I’m a Canadian citizen.”
Asked if he was still capable of murder, Smith responded: “I wouldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t punch somebody in the mouth, but that’s a long way from killing somebody.”
That’s reassuring. Prior to the murders, Smith, a repeat offender, spent 10 years in Canadian jails.
He’s had his chance. Now it’s up to Montana’s justice system to deal with his fate as it sees fit.
Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.