Betty Fran Smith

Betty, circa 1991; John David Smith III; Janice Hartman Smith, circa 1970s; Unidentified women found in John's photo collection

  • Missing Since 10/04/1991
  • Missing From West Windsor Township, New Jersey
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 08/04/1942 (81)
  • Age 49 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'2, 100 - 115 pounds
  • Medical Conditions Betty was recovering from a broken right hip at the time of her October 1991 disappearance. A pin had been surgically inserted to repair the bone.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Betty has a scar on her left knee and a hysterectomy scar on her abdomen. Betty's upper front teeth had been replaced by temporary caps, which were slightly yellowed at the time of her 1991 disappearance. She broke her right hip in 1990 and has a pin implanted there a result. She does not have a bone in her right foot's little toe. Betty goes by her middle name, Fran. Her last name prior to her 1990 marriage was Gladden. Betty has breast implants.

Details of Disappearance

Betty was married to John David Smith III at the time of her 1991 disappearance. The couple met in Betty's native Niceville, Florida in 1990 and married that same year. A photo of John is posted with this case summary. He filed for divorce from Betty in January 1991, but the couple reconciled in May and moved to New Jersey. Betty's family told authorities that John had seemed to be mild-mannered prior to Betty's disappearance, but they later learned he was abusive towards his wife.

Betty called her daughter at approximately 8:30 a.m. on October 4, 1991 from the couple's West Windsor Township, New Jersey residence. Betty gave no indication that anything was amiss and did not mention any travel plans. She was recovering from a broken hip at the time, which would have made traveling difficult. Betty has never been seen or heard from again.

John told Betty's family that he believed she went on an impromptu trip. Her relatives did not believe this claim and began to investigate her disappearance themselves. They learned that John had previously been married to Janice Hartman Smith from 1970 to 1974, while he initially told Betty's family that their marriage was his first.

Janice vanished from Ohio in November 1974, just days after her divorce from John had been finalized. John reported Janice as a missing person two days later. Janice's case remained unsolved until 2000. her photo is posted with this case summary.

John was never charged in connection with either of his wives' disappearances in the 1990s and moved to California after Betty vanished. He married for a third time in 1998. Janice's remains were located in an Indiana roadside ditch in 1980, six years after she was last seen. Her legs had been cut off below the knees. She was not identified until 2000.

John, who had by then moved to California, was charged with aggravated murder in Janice's case in the fall of 2000. His third wife initially supported him, but filed for divorce and a restraining order shortly before his arrest. She learned about John's abusive background and also cited the murder of his first wife and unsolved disappearance of his second spouse.

John was found guilty of Janice's murder in 2001; the jury rejected the aggravated murder charge and convicted him of simple murder instead. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison and is currently incarcerated in Ohio. John was found liable for Betty's wrongful death in a civil suit in 2002 and was ordered to pay $1 million to her family. It is unlikely that her family will be able to collect on the civil action.

In November 2019, John was charged with first-degree murder in Betty's case. The prosecution hoped to introduce evidence about Janice's death at the trial, but this was disallowed by the judge in 2022. The prosecution offered to drop the charges if John admitted to the murder and revealed where he'd put her remains. The deal did not require a full confession or corroborating evidence. John stated he'd wrapped Betty's body in a blanket and left it in a dumpster at the factory where he worked in New Jersey.

The FBI is attempting to identify two women pictured in photographs found in John's collection at the time of his 2000 arrest. Investigators would like to ascertain the women's whereabouts, given John's history. Their photos are posted with this case summary.

Foul play is suspected in Betty's disappearance due to the circumstances involved.

Investigating Agency

  • West Windsor Township Police Department 609-799-1212
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation 202-324-3000

Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated April 29, 2024; details of disappearance updated.