PITTSBURGH – A man who police believe killed his wife and a state trooper before committing suicide had a history of substance use and violence and threatened to kill her in a phone conversation with a relative, according to old and new court documents.
Police expect autopsy and ballistics tests will confirm that Michael J. Smith shot his wife, Nancy Frey-Smith, and Trooper Paul Richey before he shot himself on Wednesday, Smith's 44th birthday.
Richey, 40, of Franklin, was one of two officers sent to the Smiths' home near Oil City after Frey-Smith's sister called police late Wednesday morning.
The sister, Cheryl Rodgers, said Frey-Smith told her in a phone call earlier in the morning that she wasn't going to work because Smith was in "one of his moods," according to a police search warrant affidavit.
Rodgers then spoke to Frey-Smith's boss, who said she reported having been assaulted by her husband. Rodgers called back and spoke to the couple, saying she was bringing them cigarettes and telling Smith she wanted to see her sister.
Rodgers said Michael Smith told her "she shouldn't bother coming and that she had 'just signed Nancy's death warrant,"' the affidavit said. Rodgers then called police.
State police Lt. Col. Lenny Bandy said Wednesday night that Smith had at least three "long guns," but Bandy wouldn't describe them or say which one police believe he used to ambush Richey as he approached the house about 11:45 a.m.
Police also haven't said whether they believe Smith shot his 53-year-old wife or the trooper first. Officers found the couple's bodies after forcibly entering the Cranberry Township, Venango County, home Wednesday evening. Both had been shot. Autopsies were being conducted Thursday.
This week wasn't the first time Michael Smith threatened to kill his wife or the first time that her employer, A. Crivelli Chevrolet in nearby Sugarcreek Township, was made aware of her husband's violent ways, according to 13-year-old court records.
On March 28, 1997, Michael Smith went to the dealership looking for his wife with a loaded rifle, according to a criminal complaint from that year. The complaint provides few details, except to say that Michael Smith threatened himself and several officers before he was arrested.
Prosecutors later dropped all charges, except a stalking count to which Smith pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to probation.
A companion protection-from-abuse request filed by his wife in 1997 said Smith, a day after going to the car dealership, put a gun in his mouth and "attempted to get in the door where I was."
"Prior to the incident, he had told me on the phone that he intended to get drunk and do some coke," Frey-Smith said in the PFA request, which was granted.
Frey-Smith was a customer delivery coordinator for the dealership and had worked there for 16 years. Michael Crivelli, whose father owns the business, said he wasn't aware of any problems between the couple beyond the 1997 encounter and Wednesday, when she told him that Michael assaulted her.
"It may seem odd, but as far as her bringing any personal problems into the store, there wasn't any. Whether she had any problems at home, I don't know," Crivelli said Thursday. "As far as what was shown here at work, I didn't see anything."
The 1997 court records show that Michael Smith entered a drug treatment center and that his wife was petitioning the court by May 1997 for permission to see him and to meet with a marriage counselor. Two months later, his in-laws asked that the protection order be lifted, saying, "We intend to support our son-in-law in his recovery."
Nancy Smith's sister did not immediately return a call for comment and a number listed in her parents' name was disconnected.
Trooper Richey is survived by his wife, Carrie, and two children, Connor, 9, and Catherine, 6. Gov. Ed Rendell ordered flags on state buildings be flown at half-staff in Richey's honor.