Details of Disappearance Hafer was last seen in Grants Lick, Kentucky sometime during March 1989. His family didn't report him missing until June 1992, because they thought he had left of his own accord. He was going through a contentious divorce at the time of his disappearance and expected he would have to pay child support.
In June 2008, police charged David Lee Smith with complicity to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence in Hafer's case. They believe Smith, Hafer's brother-in-law, helped Rick Lear, Hafer's wife's lover, in the killing. A photo of Smith is posted with this case summary.
Clues were uncovered beginning in 1995, when Smith's ex-wife went to the police and said he had been involved in Hafer's disappearance. She agreed to wear a recording device and talk to Smith and Hafer's wife, Linda, who later remarried and took the last name Meyer.
On the recording, Meyer and Smith admitted Hafer had not run away in 1989 and that he was deceased, but neither actually confessed to causing his death. Investigators decided they didn't have enough evidence to file charges, even after another of Smith's ex-wives told them in 2002 that Hafer's body was buried along the Licking River.
In March 2008, however, a tip came that there was a third witness to the disposal of Hafer's body. When police interviewed Meyer again, she admitted her husband had been murdered inside their residence on Boone Smith Road.
Meyer stated Smith began talking to Hafer inside the the home and during the conversation, Lear hit Hafer with a blunt object, possibly a baseball bat, club or shovel. Smith held Hafer down while Lear took a couch pillow and smothered him. Meyer was supposed to shoot him, but she refused to do so.
Smith admitted to witnessing Hafer's murder and helping to dispose of his body, but he denied having any part in Hafer's death. By the time he was ready to go to trial, Lear had died of brain cancer and Smith's defense planned to blame him for the crime.
Prosecutors were uncertain if they could prove Smith's role in Hafer's death, so they reached a plea bargain with him on the eve of his trial. He pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and the complicity to commit murder charge was dropped.
He was sentenced to the maximum, five years in prison. Hafer's family criticized the plea agreement, saying it was too lenient.
Hafer's body has never been found. He left behind two young daughters. It's likely no one will be prosecuted in his presumed homicide, but foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.
- Campbell County Police Department
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated September 9, 2017; height, weight and clothing/jewelry description added, distinguishing characteristics updated.