Smith was accused of the brutal murder of three-year-old Myrtle Vance, the daughter of a policeman known for mistreating prisoners. Smith was among those who had previously been beaten by Myrtle’s father, after he had been arrested for drunkenness.
He was a neighborhood handyman and known alcoholic. When the police found no clues to the child’s death, people in the area decided Smith must have committed the crime. After Myrtle’s body was found, Smith continued life as usual, but upon hearing a mob was after him, he fled to Hope, Arkansas.