Death row Canadian’s father breaks silence weeks before dying

Ronald Smith has been in U.S. prison for 35 years. His dad recently died after finally speaking out

Ronald Smith’s father still had a bedroom and a vintage car waiting for the day his son might come home to Alberta from the Montana prison where he has been on death row for 35 years.

Nelson Smith will never know if the 60-year-old convict who pleaded guilty to two murders will ever sleep in his own bed or take the mint 1948 Chrysler out for a spin.

Smith died on April 10 just weeks after breaking a decades-long silence and voicing what would be his final wish — to see his son beat the death penalty.

“Hopefully what little bit I do have to say will go along with his someday being released. He’s spent 35 years of his life in there and it’s about long enough to sit in a place like that,” Smith said in a March 22 interview with The Canadian Press in Red Deer, Alta.

“They should pretty well load him on an airplane and send him home.”

Letter: Canada should bring back capital punishment

Ronald Smith has been on death row since 1983 after fatally shooting two young men while he was high on LSD and alcohol near East Glacier, Mont.

After refusing a plea deal and pleading guilty, his request for the death penalty was granted. He had a change of heart and has fought for his life ever since. Five execution dates have been set over the years and each has been overturned.

The Canadian government sent a letter to Montana Gov. Steve Bullock in 2016 asking for clemency.

“All these years I’ve never, ever told anybody about this situation. Nobody knew that I was Ron’s dad,” Smith said. “Once this goes through, everybody’s going to know who I am.”

Smith, who was 83, sat in a recliner during the interview with his constant companion of the last 13 years on his lap. Queenie, a black miniature poodle, had been with him since his wife, Deloris, died in 2011.

His health was failing. He required a constant supply of oxygen fed to him through a long hose which allowed him to navigate his home.

Initially horrified by his son’s actions, he said he eventually made peace with him and was hoping that the intervention of the federal government would lead to his release.

“There just might be a light at the end of the tunnel you know? It would be nice to have him home for Christmas. My breathing is getting so bad. I don’t know how many more Christmases I’m going to get in. I’ve even got a room for him.”

Smith, who worked in the oil industry before he retired, said his son had a normal upbringing, but was constantly in trouble.

“He was a big problem and it was tough. His mother looked after Ronald while I was chasing the oilpatch. I was all over the place and it was hard for me to try and control him.

“He started getting into trouble about the time he was 15 years old and he just never flattened out until he wound up there down in the (United) States.”

Ronald Smith and Rodney Munro admitted to marching cousins Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into the woods by a highway in 1982 and shooting them both in the head with a sawed-off .22-calibre shotgun.

They wanted to steal the men’s car, but Smith also said at the time that he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone.

“I went for a long time and never had anything to do with him,” his father said. “Then I got to thinking there’s all kinds of people out there doing the same thing, or a lot worse, and are back out on the streets.

“I certainly wasn’t proud of what he had done. It was tough. Really tough.”

Munro accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced to 60 years in prison, but he was returned to Canada and released in 1998.

Smith said his son has changed.

“He’s paid his debt. Do I think Ron’s a good man? Oh yeah. He’s as good as you’re going to find. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my son.”

Two members of Smith’s family, including his daughter, testified at his clemency hearing in 2012 to support him. Relatives of the two victims also gave emotional testimony urging that there be no leniency.

“The decisions he made, he has to pay for,” Running Rabbit’s son said. “He had no mercy for my father.”

The clemency request has yet to be ruled on.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Q&A: Mayoral candidates provide their insights on the city’s top issues

Cobb and Rathor talk about Williams Lake’s crime rate, the economy, burning rail ties and more

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

392 of 28,890 eligible voters have cast ballots so far, says Cariboo Regional District

The last chance to vote is on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Advanced voting taking place at Williams Lake city hall Wednesday

Polls at city hall will be open until 8 p.m.

Williams Lake make 29 arrests during three-week effort to combat break and enters

Police said there are 27 potential charges as a result

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Manhunt in Crimea for possible accomplice in school attack

An 18-year-old student, who later killed himself, was initially believed to be the only one involved

Police hand out a few hefty fines for allegedly violating Cannabis Act

Police in Canada posted a photo of a $215 ticket given to someone who allegedly had a baggy of marijuana in their car

Great British Columbia ShakeOut earthquake drill reminder

Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in the Great ShakeOut

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

BC Ferries begins taking debit in two-month pilot project

Company is giving customers option to use Interac on two-month trial on select vessels

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Most Read