Misguided searches mire Smolinski case

Eight years ago this week, Billy Smolinski of Waterbury disappeared. He would be 39 years old now, and the search for Smolinski has taken investigators into the Valley region again and again over the years.

Smolinski’s family believe he was murdered, and police consider the case a homicide.

Seymour resident Chad Hanson, 33, who appeared in Derby Superior Court on Aug. 17, has led state police on fruitless searches in Seymour, Shelton and Oxford over the past five years.

He’s charged with interfering, making false statement in the second degree and falsely reporting an incident concerning serious physical injury or death.

Judge Burton Kaplan continued Hanson’s case to Sept. 25, so the state can investigate the cost of the searches.

The most recent searches occurred in a wooded Oxford property between Oct. 7 and 17, 2011, according to the state police arrest warrant submitted in June 2012.

Hanson claimed he assisted Shaun Karpiuk bury Smolinski’s body near the area of Prokop Road and Woodruff Hill Road.

Hanson said he believed the body was that of Smolinski and that it was in a rolled up carpet that “appeared to be heavy and had a smell that he would never forget.” He said he felt they had buried a body.

But excavations at the site conducted by state Department of Environmental Protection officials, Western District Major Crime Squad Detectives and State Police K-9’s uncovered no evidence.

“The lack of results from the excavated property raised suspicions with Hanson’s credibility, considering his past,” according to the arrest warrant.

Hanson later admitted that he provided the wrong location on the Oxford property to state police.

In 2010, the Shelton Police Department used Hanson as a source and subsequently arrested him for providing a false statement. The arrest was the result of information Hanson provided for a search on a Bungay Road farm in Seymour in 2008, according to the state police arrest warrant.

Prior to the search, Hanson told state police and Shelton detectives that he helped Karpiuk bury Billy Smolinski’s body in August 2004.

Karpiuk died in 2005, according to the warrant.

In 2010, digging resumed at the Bungay Road site, where Seymour Public Works Department staff dug up a large portion of the property.

The digging produced nothing at the site, Seymour police said.

A digging operation also occurred in Shelton in May 2007, when federal and state police conducted an excavation under the driveway of a private home and at other locations.

“In considering the emotional distress to the Smolinski family and the allocation of police resources, Hanson has interfered with a police investigation, provided a false statement and conveyed baseless reports to law enforcement of an incident which did not occur,” according to the June 2102 warrant.

At the Aug. 17 court session, Kaplan denied Hanson’s motion for a speedy trial, because the motion has to be filed by his attorney.

Attorney Bruce Weiant is defending Hanson, but declined to talk to reporters about the case following the court appearance.

Attorney Marjorie Sozanski is prosecuting the case.

A family continues its search

Sources on websites devoted to Smolinski stated at the time of his disappearance that he might have been ensnared in a love triangle and that he had lost his job shortly before he vanished.

He was working as an apprentice heating and air conditioning technician, and as a part-time tow truck driver.

On Aug. 24, 2004, he asked a neighbor in Waterbury to watch his dog for a few days while he went to look at a car he thought he might wish to purchase, according to the FBI missing person website.

When no one heard from him for a few days, his family contacted Waterbury police and reported him missing.

Smolinski left behind his vehicle, wallet and keys.

His mother, Jan Smolinski, has waged a campaign in the courts, in the media and on the streets up and down the Naugatuck Valley to find out what happened to her son.

She said Tuesday she hasn’t stopped her efforts.

She and her husband feel that Hanson should pay for the cost of the fruitless excavations.

“I don’t think it’s fair that the state should pick up the cost,” she told The Valley Gazette.

The Smolinskis have worked to change Connecticut laws regarding missing adults.

“People tend to think they just walk away,” Janice Smolinski said in an earlier interview.

Now, with the new legislation, police have to properly evaluate each missing person situation and take immediate action, she said.

Many police departments are adhering to the new laws.

“I’m happy to see that,” she said.

A candlelight vigil that’s open to all families of missing persons in Connecticut will take place Sunday, Aug. 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the Naugatuck Green, she said.

State police, a state victim’s advocate and legislators are slated to speak at the event.

“It will be a night of hope,” Smolinski said.