Details of Disappearance Smolinski was last seen at his residence in the vicinity of the 100 block of Holly Street in Waterbury, Connecticut between 3:30 and 3:45 p.m. on August 24, 2004.
He went to a neighbor's residence and asked her to take care of his German Shepherd dog, as he was leaving for three days to see about a car. He was supposed to give his keys to her so she could go inside and feed the animal, but he never did.
Smolinski has never been heard from again. All of his personal belongings, including his white late 1970s or early 1980s Ford pickup truck, were left behind. His wallet and keys were inside the truck.
Smolinski had no history of drug use and no police record, and he drank only on a social basis at the time he vanished. He held several jobs at the time of his disappearance: he worked for Midland Heating and Air Conditioning full time as an apprentice technician, had a part-time job driving a tow truck with Durable Towing, and mowed lawns and plowed driveways for side income. He was considered a dependable worker and had just been offered extra hours at one of his jobs after being laid off at another job.
Smolinski deposited most of his last paycheck in the bank prior to his disappearance; his bank accounts have not been accessed since then. At the time of his disappearance, he was prepping his house to be painted. His parents sold the house after he went missing. Smolinski's Social Security number has not been used since his disappearance.
A man called Chad Hanson told investigators Smolinski had been murdered and he knew where the body was. He claimed a man named Shaun Karpiuk had beaten Smolinski to death and Hanson helped him bury the remains, which were wrapped in carpet. Karpiuk died of a heroin overdose in 2005.
Hanson's tips resulted in authorities searching locations in Seymour, Connecticut in 2008, in Naugatuck State Forest in 2010 and Oxford, Connecticut in 2011, looking for Smolinski's body. The Oxford search lasted ten days and cost more than $100,000.
A photo of Hanson is posted with this case summary. In 2011, he was charged with interfering with police and making a false statement. Authorities stated he'd deliberately lied to them in order to mislead the investigation.
The charges could have resulted in a sentence of seven years in prison. In January 2013, Hanson pleaded guilty to one charge of making a false statement concerning injury or death and was sentenced to four and a half years. He has twelve prior criminal convictions.
Both Hanson and Karpiuk are considered persons of interest in Smolinski's disappearance. Witnesses told police Hanson had bragged about killing Smolinski with Karpiuk and said his body would never be found. Hanson, a habitual drug user, was usually under the influence of heroin or crack cocaine at the time he allegedly made these statements. Hanson maintains his innocence in Smolinski's disappearance.
Karpiuk was the son of Madeleine Gleason, Smolinski's former girlfriend; they dated for one year and broke up shortly before his disappearance because Smolinski believed she was seeing another man. Smolinski was at her residence early in the morning the day of his disappearance, and she said he seemed "a little depressed" when he left.
Karpiuk was dating Chris Sorenson, who lived in Woodbridge, Connecticut. Sorenson told police Smolinski had called him that day and told him to "watch your back at all times." In fact, the last three phone calls Smolinski made were to Sorenson.
After Smolinski's disappearance, Gleason sued his relatives, claiming they had harassed her and falsely accused her of being involved in his case. A judge decided in Gleason's favor and awarded her $52,000 in damages; the verdict is under appeal. Smolinski's mother believe Hanson may in fact be telling the truth about her son's supposed murder and helping him dispose of the body, is only lying about its location.
Smolinski's family fears for his safety as he rarely travels anywhere and it is uncharacteristic of him to leave without warning. Authorities initially believed he'd left of his own accord, but foul play is now suspected in his case.
He enjoys fishing, hunting, horseback riding, demolition derbies, and snowmobiling. He studied auto mechanics at Naugatuck Valley Community College for one year and had considered a career in law enforcement. Smolinski's case remains unsolved.
- Waterbury Police Department
Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 8, 2013; details of disappearance updated.