Background photo of the beach at Whale Cove was made by Bryce Buchanan in 2004. (Via WikiMedia Commons, cc/by/SA)
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So, Wolf said, Marjorie hatched a plan to get that money by having her reconcile with Kermit and remarry him; after that, Wolf would murder him, and Marjorie would collect on his life insurance policy, and then the two of them would be off to Alaska.
According to a front-page article in the Oregonian, this plan was implemented forthwith, and the Smiths were remarried on Feb. 4, 1955.
“Wolf said that as soon as she was married again to Smith she denied Wolf her favors until he should kill Smith according to the plan,” the article continues — being rather blunt about such things for a 1950s newspaper article.
Wolf told the cops Marjorie gave him a .38 Special to kill Kermit with, and he lurked in the bushes waiting for him with it on March 10; but at the last minute he “lost his nerve” and tried to murder Kermit with a heavy bottle wielded like a blackjack instead. That, of course, hadn’t worked; so the two of them had hatched the dynamite plan. He said he’d wired the bomb up in Kermit Smith’s own garage one day while Smith was out.
He’d bought the dynamite in two different stores near Molalla, and he and Marjorie had traveled to Ridgefield, Wash., to buy the detonators, he said. They’d stopped along the way for a picnic lunch, and he’d cut a bouquet of pussy willows for her.
It was probably the pussy willows that made the detectives sit up and take note. They had, of course, searched the house by this time; and there was a vase with pussy willows in it in the house.
Police found more evidence, too. Police, examining the .38 Special that Wolf said Marjorie gave him to kill Kermit with, discovered it was the service revolver that had belonged to Kermit’s father when he was working as a police officer. They also found a set of keys to the Smith home on Wolf. And when he guided detectives to the spot where the picnic happened on the way back from Ridgefield, detectives found cut-off pussy willow stems that matched the ones in the vase, and discarded dynamite caps lying around where they had played with them like firecrackers.
Marjorie Smith continued to indignantly deny everything. There was rather a lot of evidence against her — but all of it was circumstantial, and could be explained in other ways. In the end, the jury at her trial didn’t find it convincing enough to convict, and she was acquitted.
As for Victor Wolf, he had confessed, and some of the evidence against him — fingerprints, things left in his car, etc. — was far more than circumstantial. In the end, he drew a life sentence, and was probably very happy to get it; in 1954, the gas chamber was a real possibility in a case like this.
Kermit Smith, by the way, was an interesting man, and one we probably would have heard more about had he not been killed. He was a World War II vet, fought in the Battle of the Bulge, made First Lieutenant, transferred to the Army Air Corps and finished the war as a captain, with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star on his record. He ran for the Republican nomination for a State Senate seat in 1950.
So, what was the real story? Did Marjorie Smith vamp Victor Wolf to get her husband murdered, like a real-life version of Nicole Kidman’s character in the 1996 Gus Van Sant movie “To Die For”? It sure looks that way at first glance. But the jury in Marjorie’s case didn’t agree, and there are aspects of the case that don’t make much sense; it seems likely we’ll never know the full story.