Mainer may face trial for 1976 Fla. murder Standish woman being held in Portland

This story was published on Oct. 13, 2004 on Page B1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

PORTLAND – A Florida prosecutor says he is confident that his state can mount a strong case against a Standish woman arrested last week in connection with a barroom slaying in Miami Beach more than a quarter century ago.

Lynn Smith, 51, has been held in the Cumberland County Jail since her arrest Friday evening at a mobile home.

Smith appeared in Portland District Court on Tuesday but there was no decision on whether she’d fight extradition. She was ordered held without bail and another court hearing was scheduled for Thursday.

Smith’s arrest came after Brunswick police discovered that Smith’s fingerprints, submitted as part of a public housing application, matched those of a fugitive wanted in the fatal stabbing of Elbert McKenzie.

In Miami, Assistant State Attorney Joshua Gradinger said a check through old files and a visit to the crime scene left him assured that the prosecution could successfully press its case against Smith.

“Almost everybody involved in this case is still alive. I was amazed,” said Gradinger, who was in first grade the night of the stabbing. “I wouldn’t have brought her back if I didn’t think we could prove it.”

Gradinger said Smith, then 28, was drinking at Howie’s Bar in Miami Beach on Dec. 11, 1976, when, according to witnesses, she began kicking and punching a man who had walked into the bathroom she was using.

When Elbert McKenzie, another bar patron, reached out and grabbed her shoulder, Smith grabbed a knife and stabbed him in the belly, Gradinger said.

After being interviewed by police, Smith claimed that McKenzie had grabbed her breast and admitted to stabbing him, Gradinger said. She was charged with second degree murder and released on bail. She failed to appear in court for her trial on Feb. 3, 1978, and has been a fugitive ever since.

It was unclear how long Smith, known in Maine as Lynne Harrison and Lynne Pottle, lived in the state before her arrest.

Neighbors in Standish said she had lived with a man there for only a few months.

“We didn’t bother them and they didn’t bother us,” said Connie Splude. “They just kept to themselves.”

John Byrd of Topsham said Smith lived next door to him for about a year, in a mobile home.

“We all have our faults, but to be honest when I heard about her [from TV] I was shocked. I thought she was a fine person,” Byrd said.