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Man Found Dead on Tracks



Thursday, October 02, 2014
White River Junction — Police are investigating the death of a 52-year-old homeless man whose body was found on the railroad tracks about 100 yards south of the White River Junction Amtrak station early Wednesday morning.

Evidence suggests that Scott R. Smith was hit by an unknown train, but an autopsy is planned to determine the cause of death and whether Smith was struck before or after he died, Hartford Police Chief Brad Vail said in an interview on 
Wednesday.

“I think it will be hard to determine whether his death was accidental or a suicide,” Vail said.

Individuals aboard a slow-moving northbound train owned and operated by New England Central Railroad reported Smith’s body.

Freight cars that frequent the tracks through White River Junction are being searched for evidence, Vail said, noting that authorities don’t believe that a passenger train was involved.

The executive directors for Listen Community Services and the Upper Valley Haven both said Smith utilized support services from the agencies during the month of 
September.

“We found him to be most pleasant and focused in the management of his life,” said Sara Kobylenski, the Haven’s executive director. “He is a person who chose to live outdoors and he explained to us that he had for many years moved back and forth between the states of Vermont and Florida depending on the weather and the 
seasons.

“We are most saddened to hear of this tragic death. There was certainly nothing in our encounters with him that would suggest that such a thing would happen in anything except a totally accidental way,” Kobylenski said. “He was just a very nice person who was most welcome 
here.”

The investigation into the incident is ongoing, and police are urging anyone who had contact with Smith in the hours before his death to call police at 802-295-9425.

At the Listen at River Point Plaza Community Dinner Hall on Wednesday evening, a few people said Smith was an acquaintance, and described him as a “nice guy” who often kept to 
himself.

“He was a happy-go-lucky person,” said White River Junction resident Joanne Demers, who said she knew Smith through a mutual friend.

However, Ray Pecor, the food programs manager for the dinners, said he had to ask Smith to leave the dining hall on Tuesday night — the same night that he died — because Smith was “extra drunk and very mouthy.”

That was a departure from Smith’s typical demeanor, Pecor said, noting Smith had attended the dinners five nights a week for the past month.

“He was always respectful and always decent and he kept wanting to volunteer,” Pecor said. “He comes here at 5 p.m. and eats a meal often and has always been pleasant. But last night I knew something was wrong.”

Niles Kelly, of Lebanon, who was painting the window casings at Elixir Restaurant in White River Junction on Wednesday, said he had seen Smith around town within the past couple of weeks.

He characterized him as a “quiet and nice guy” who was a “by-himself type of person.”

Kobylenski said Smith came to the Haven to use the public shower and pick up items to supplement his food supply. She said the organization was able to provide him with some camping equipment as 
well.

The Haven offered Smith accommodations at the shelter, though Kobylenski said, “he did not either need or want that.”

Vail said Hartford police previously issued a verbal trespass warning to Smith after authorities found him on railroad property on Sept. 25.

Police found Smith in the yard again two days later and issued him a criminal citation for unlawful trespassing.

A clerk at Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction on Wednesday said Smith’s record was otherwise clean.

“The Hartford Police Department would like to take the opportunity to remind all citizens that all railroad property is privately owned and that entering upon it without authorization is extremely dangerous and constitutes the crime of unlawful trespass,” the news release stated.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.