Ten unsolved Colorado murders: Read personal stories of the victims
|Dorothy Howard's longtime gravestone.|
In 1954, Boulderites were shocked by the brutal murder of an unidentified young woman. After a futile attempt to establish her identity, as well as that of her killer, citizens donated funds for the woman's burial in Columbia Cemetery. She's still there today, with "Jane Doe" engraved on her headstone.
Police didn't have much to go on. Two male CU students hiking along Boulder Creek below Boulder Falls found her body lying on rocks at the bottom of a 29-foot embankment.
"At first we thought it was a store window dummy," one of the students was quoted as saying. "We didn't think it could possibly be a human body." But it was. They jumped in their car, rode into town, and returned with a skeptical sheriff.
All identification had been removed from the slender young victim, estimated to have been 20 years old. She had been stripped, beaten, and left to die, and then was exposed to the elements for three or four days. All that remained of her personal belongings were three bobby pins in her long reddish-blonde hair.
There were no fillings in her teeth, so there could be no dental records. The only clue was a scar from an appendectomy.
Police combed Boulder Canyon and nearby mountain areas for her clothing,but nothing was ever found. Requests for missing persons went out all over the country. Several parents, whose own daughters were missing, traveled to Boulder, but no one could identify her.
Note: Jane Doe was identified as Dorothy Howard more than a half-century after her death, and in 2010, a memorial service was held for her. Click to read the Boulder Daily Camera article on the commemoration.
Sidney "Sid" Wells
Sidney "Sid" Wells.
Sid Wells, 22, was a fifth year senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His dream was to be a broadcast journalist. Sid worked as a waiter and as an intern at Channel 7. He was real energetic and fun-loving but very serious about his school work and career. Sid's mother bought a condo at Spanish Towers, 805 29th St. in Boulder as an investment. Sid would live there through college, sharing it with two other young men. But one of the others graduated early so Sid moved upstairs with his girlfriend of three years, Shauna Redford, and advertised for another roommate. Thayne Smika answered the ad and moved in. Sid described Thayne to his mother as "rather strange, from Akron, CO." Smika kept to himself and had occasional seizures. Sid had trouble collecting his rent. On August 1, 1983, Sid was to meet his mother for lunch but did not show. At 4 PM Boulder police walked in and asked her "Is there any reason your son would have committed suicide?" Sid had been shot in the back of the head. Smika, a suspect, was found at his parent's house in Akron. He reportedly asked police "What took you so long?" The shell from the bullet that killed Sid matched the gun found in Smika's parents' home. Smika was arrested. Because he believed evidence was mishandled by police, D.A. Alex Hunter refused to take the case to trial. Smika was released and never prosecuted.
Note: In 2011, an arrest warrant was finally issued for Smika, although his whereabouts remain unknown. Read more in "Sid Wells murder: Arrest warrant for Thayne Smika issued in notorious 1983 Boulder murder."
More from our Mile High Murder archive: "Ten more unsolved Denver murders: Read victims' personal stories."