Retired Marine Walter Smith Drowned Girlfriend Nicole Speirs in Bathtub and Blamed Post Traumatic Stress; Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison (2006)

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Nicole Speirs

In August 2004, hard working Walter Smith was managing a photoshop at a local department store in a town outside Salt Lake City, Utah. Walter met the future mother of his children Nicole Speirs on a social media site. Nicole was a tomboy, she was into skateboarding, adventure, and the two appeared to get along really well. They went out on a couple dates and spent the night together. But Walter was not sure how close he wanted to get because he had other things on his mind. He only recently returned home after a tour of duty in the Marine Corps. He joined the Marine Corps after high school and in early 2000, he was at boot camp in California. One of his Marine friends spoke highly of him and shared that one wanted to spend time with Walter because he was very interesting. Then September 11, 2001… Of course the Marines were deployed to Iraq and in February of 2003, Walter and and his team were some of the first on the ground during Operation Iraqi Freedom. This was war and the possibility of dying was something they had to accept after witnessing many of their own die around them.

In the summer of 2003 after six months in Iraq, Walter returned to Utah for a visit and then was sent to a marksman training course in Virginia. While on a rifle range, the sounds of munitions were giving Walter flashbacks and he thought he was shooting at people in Iraq. According to a comrade, something was triggered inside him and he just lost it. The was the beginning of his medical discharge. He was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and medically discharged from the USMC. One of Walter’s Marine friends shared that most begin to experience the PTSD after they get out but they don’t push the subject with one another. But everyone recognized that Walter was depressed; he wasn’t the same person he was when they met him. Walter met Nicole Speirs shortly after his military discharge. Although after a few dates and intense nights spent together, Walter retreated. In the meantime, Nicole called Walter to let him know that she was pregnant. He went to the first doctor visit with her and they found out together they were having twins.

Walter wasn’t sure he was ready to have a family. He also learned that his parents were getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage. It rocked the foundations of all of the siblings. Walter retreated completely after the doctor visit with Nicole and requested a DNA test to prove they were his children. Nicole had to accept Walter’s decision; she didn’t know that he was struggling with PTSD. Walter became quiet and withdrawn. Once harmless, the civilian world now had several threats everywhere after his return. Walter’s family couldn’t understand what he had been through. Walter’s comrades shared that he engaged in one of the most violent fights during the deployment in Iraq. They were hit with an RPG and three guys were hurt. The enemy was packing families in cars and driving right at them. Walter had no choice but to use the gun to stop the existing threat. They had a hard time witnessing the innocent children die. The Marines in Walter’s company were never the same.

Now that Walter was back in Utah, his depression was getting worse. He was downward spiraling. By September 2004, Walter’s dad moved in with him. The family was concerned for them because they both were feeling extremely depressed. Walter’s dad shared that his own father committed suicide when he was young because he felt that he was a burden to the family. On June 30, 2004, Walter reached a breaking point. His thoughts were more distorted. Walter Sr. didn’t know it but Walter was experiencing violent tendencies. He feared for his own father’s life. He left their home before he harmed his father and made a decision to kill himself with a shotgun. He called some family to say goodbye but before he could pull the trigger, a friend contacted the local police to intervene. As a result, Walter was admitted into a psychiatric ward. He was diagnosed with PTSD, severe depression with psychosis, and alcohol dependency. Meanwhile, Nicole was on bedrest with a difficult labor and gave birth a month earlier then expected.

Nicole’s babies were both underdeveloped and needed to remain in the NICU for over a month but they finally got the green light to take them home. Nicole had a girl and a boy. Walter never went to visit Nicole at the hospital. By the time the children were five years old, Nicole filed for child support. Meanwhile, Walter looked at Nicole’s pictures on social media and could tell that the children were his right away and wanted to see them. This time, he told her the truth about the PTSD. Walter met the children and things seemed really good. Nicole was a phenomenal mom and this appeared to help Walter cope better too because she was calm and caring. Nicole was really excited that Walter came back. But Walter still doesn’t feel the same way as Nicole and wasn’t sure that he ever would; he had his own demons to contend with. But, they were both trying to strengthen their relationship for the sake of the children.

On March 9, 2006, Nicole was feeling dizzy so she left work and went home to rest. Two weeks later on March 24, 2006, Nicole and Walter were up late after a relaxing evening together at home. They made love and got in the bathtub to get cleaned up. Nicole asked Walter what she thought about their future; she wanted to get married. Walter said he needed more time and wasn’t ready to make that decision. He knew that he wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. She was upset about this but decided to play it out and see where things went. The next morning Walter and the children left at 5 am to visit his family. The rest of the grandchildren were going to be there for a group photo. Shortly after Walter arrived, he began arguing with a relative and acting erratically. The family eventually called the police on Walter because they were concerned about his behavior. Walter called Nicole and told her he was returning instead of spending the night with his family.

Walter entered through the garage around 1 a.m. like he usually did and put the children to bed. He went to the bathroom where he heard water running and found Nicole face down in the bathtub. She appeared to be dead. He called 911. He was rattled, couldn’t remember the address, he realized that she was dead and this appeared to deflate him. Walter was hesitant to do the CPR when asked by the 911 dispatcher but he did it and unfortunately it was too late. Nicole was gone. Police arrived to find Walter and Nicole’s dead body. The body had been in a cold tub which made the time of death difficult to determine. There was no clear sign of foul play. Walter was questioned and claimed that Nicole was taking an anti-depressant for depression. His demeanor striked investigators as guarded and numb. Walter was with his family so could corroborate his whereabouts. Walter made the dreadful phone calls to family members and loved ones but Nicole’s death didn’t make sense to any of them.

In the days after Nicole’s death, the police kept their eye on Walter Smith. They questioned neighbors who denied any knowledge of abuse or volatility in the relationship; as a matter of fact, neighbors observed that both appeared happy together. The Speirs family was concerned about when Nicole got sick and wondered if that had anything to do with it. And suicide was a theory that Walter planted until Nicole’s autopsy put an end to that. There were no drugs in her system but the manner of death was drowning; the cause of death was unknown. The big question was why and how did this happen? Walter and the Speirs family worked together to take care of the children over the next few months. But nothing could hold back the depression that Walter was fighting off. Sometimes he felt like the PTSD was going to break him.

On December 4, 2006, Walter drove himself to the Veterans Affairs hospital emergency room because he was feeling suicidal and homicidal. He called his Uncle Craig and told him he couldn’t live another day. After questioned by his uncle, Walter admitted that he had something to do with Nicole’s death. His Uncle Craig recommended he remain silent until he got there but Walter Smith already told the VA that he felt guilty about what happened to Nicole. The VA called the police department who showed up around the time that his uncle showed up. He was quiet initially but then told them he was responsible for Nicole’s death. It was not an accident; it was something more. He was arrested for suspicion of homicide and taken in custody. Walter Sr.’s heart was shattered and he was in absolute disbelief that his son could do something like this. Walter Sr. and Craig let Nicole Speir’s family know right away that Walter admitted to being responsible for Nicole’s death.

Two days later, detectives got a second crack at Walter. Walter explained that he was in the bathtub with Nicole. She was sitting towards the faucet with him behind her. She washed her hair and she had to bend forward to rinse it. He then pushed her head down in the water from the back until she drowned to death. He was emotionless, matter of fact, and flat when he talked about the crime. He admitted that they had not been arguing prior to the act. When asked, Walter said that Nicole did fight back to the best of her ability. The detectives did not believe PTSD was an excuse because he took advantage of her in the most vulnerable position. Investigators exclaimed that this was an intimate domestic violence encounter that could only be accomplished in that position of trust. Walter didn’t know why he did it; he couldn’t explain it to those who were questioning him. His reasoning for coming forward was because he wanted help; the crime had in fact eaten away at him. After his confession, Walter was charged with murder in the first degree. But the legal teams validated that PTSD is a legitimate mitigating factor to reduce a charge from murder to manslaughter.

The prosecution recognized and believed this murder probably would not have happened if not for PTSD. The Speirs family learned from the prosecution that there was a lack of physical evidence, that most likely a jury would be sympathetic to a war vet with PTSD, and that these factors could lead to a not guilty verdict. As a result, the family agreed to a plea deal and a sentence was negotiated; Walter Smith received 1 to 15 years in prison. The sentence automatically gave the Speir family custody of the two children. The family felt the sentence was weak but ultimately they wanted to protect the children. Detectives wanted the public to remember that this was still a homicide and the PTSD didn’t cause this. Walter began serving his sentence in the fall of 2007. Four years later, his family and the Speirs family attended his parole hearing; Walter wasn’t allowed to look at any of them. As he sat hunched and humbled, he was asked if there was anything he wanted to say. He was silent at first but then he finally said that he didn’t disagree with what the family wanted including spending all 15 years in prison because he deserved it. He also said he was truly sorry for what he did. Walter Smith’s parole was turned down and he will spend the entire fifteen years in prison.

Did the status as a Marine with PTSD shape the way this crime was handled?

Learn more: Complex Post Traumatic Stress and Dissociation in Military and Veteran Populations

The PTSD Defense:

  • Vet with PTSD dissociates, overreacts, self defense
  • Vet with PTSD dissociates, blames suicidal thoughts & pain, unravels
  • Vet who is violent criminal, doesn’t have PTSD, yet uses as defense
  • Vet who is violent criminal & has PTSD, yet would have committed crime regardless because violent criminal first (who happens to have PTSD)
  • How do we differentiate between dissociation & violent criminal activity?
  • When do we apply PTSD as a mitigating factor in homicide cases?
  • PTSD doesn’t cause crime, the propensity to harm is innate, can have both
  • Although manslaughter is lesser offense, it is still a homicide
  • Is it fair to use mitigating circumstances like PTSD, crime of passion, jealousy, etc. when the end result was murder? Impact on victim’s family.

Related Links:
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Woman’s body to be exhumed
Man Admits to Taking Part in Girlfriend’s Death 
Local Marine now accused killer
Man Accused of Murdering His Girlfriend Deemed Competent to Stand Trial 
Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend
Woman’s killer sentenced to prison
Man who drowned girlfriend sentenced to prison
Man Sentenced in Drowning Death of Girlfriend
Man who drowned girlfriend sentenced to prison
Ex-Marine gets up to 15 years for slaying girlfriend in tub
2006 slaying capped vet’s descent
Tooele woman’s parents want her killer to serve maximum sentence
An Iraq Veteran’s Descent; a Prosecutor’s Choice
Home from war, and traumatized Walter Smith killed a young mother, but was his treatment to blame?
The Case of Lance Cpl. Walter R. Smith
No parole for Utah Marine who drowned girlfriend
A New Theory of PTSD and Veterans: Moral Injury
Nicole Speirs murder 3/25/2006 Tooele, UT *Boyfriend Walter Smith charged with her murder*
Update: Nicole Speirs murder *Walter Smith convicted, sentenced to 1 – 15 years in prison*
Unraveled: Deadly Demons (Investigation Discovery)
Unraveled: Deadly Demons (ID GO)

“Walter Smith is a Marine Corps soldier just back from Iraq. Diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Walter finds comfort in the arms of young artist Nicole Speirs. But in the darkest recesses of the mind, their cruel fate is already decided.” -Discovery ID

Serial Killer Sheila LaBarre Murdered Army Veteran Kenneth Countie at Epping, New Hampshire Horse Farm; LaBarre Sentenced to Life in Prison for Two Homicides (March 21, 2006)

Kenneth Countie

Kenneth ‘Kenny’ Countie, U.S. Army Veteran

Epping, New Hampshire police were looking for a young man reported missing by his family. They searched for him at his last known whereabouts at Sheila LaBarre’s farm in March 2006. During the search of the farm, they found a burn pit still smoldering on the property and what appeared to be human bone and flesh in the burn pit. But, wouldn’t know for sure until it was tested. This was the first clue that a crime had been committed on this property. Epping, NH is typically a quiet New England town, until Sheila LaBarre showed up. Sheila was incredibly confident and charming and caught the attention of wealthy doctor Wilfred ‘Bill’ LaBarre. He placed a lonely hearts ad in a newspaper and Sheila responded with topless photos of herself. It wasn’t long before she moved from Alabama to Dr. LaBarre’s 100 plus acre horse farm in New Hampshire. After some digging, local reporter Kevin Flynn discovered Sheila was a demanding partner, she was a really mean person, and had an unnatural control over people. People in Dr. LaBarre’s life told him to ditch her but he just couldn’t. She took complete control over him and started asking for Power of Attorney and rewriting the will, eventually she was the executor. A few years later, the Doctor died of what the coroner called heart disease but Bill LaBarre’s family thinks Sheila used poison to speed up the process so she could get her hands on the farm, his Chiropractor business, and other properties he owned in New Hampshire. Despite never marrying Bill LaBarre, Sheila changed her name to his and inherited everything.

Soon Shiela started enticing young men to share the work at the farm, and her bed. Neighbors witnessed what they observed as badly beaten men walking up and down the road near the farm. District Attorney Kristen Wilson said the farm became a sadistic playground because it was isolated and with Sheila, it was always about control. Sheila took advantage of young men and men who were trusting and vulnerable. She went to a homeless shelter initially to find them. In February 2006, Sheila was on the prowl for a new victim, someone innocent and defenseless, someone like Army veteran Kenneth ‘Kenny’ Countie. Kenny’s mother shared that Kenny was indeed a kind and trusting soul. Unfortunately, he had a low IQ and a child like trust that led him into a deadly trap. Kenny called Shiela about work on the farm and after a few phone calls, he was serious about her. Sheila promised more than just work to entice him and picked him up at his home in Massachusetts. Kenny moved to her New Hampshire farm and was never seen again. Sheila used her seductive qualities to attract her victims, then she isolated them, and then she began the psychological and physical torture. A few nights before 24-year-old Kenny died, Sheila took Kenny shopping at a local Wal-Mart and the employees were concerned. Kenny couldn’t walk, he had bruises all over his face, and his complexion was an odd shade of green. Sheila was making a ruckus at the store so they called the police department but Kenny didn’t ask the police for help when they arrived because he was under Sheila’s spell. After the encounter in the store, Kenny was never seen alive again.

Late one night, Sheila called the police to report that Kenny Countie was a “child molester” and a “pervert.” She seemed frantic and from what the police learned, she obsessively recorded everything she did. She played some tapes for the police over the phone. It sounded as if Kenny was being interrogated and vomiting. Of course, Sheila said he was faking the vomiting and again accused him of being a “pedophile.” The reality was Kenny wasn’t a pedophile or pervert but Sheila had to fantasize that the men she killed were pedophiles so she could justify the murder. Police investigated the situation the next day but didn’t realize the missing Kenny was already dead. Prosecutors theorized that when Kenny finally stood up for himself, it most likely triggered Sheila into a homicidal rage. After police obtained a search warrant, they observed blood spatter and blood smears in the house but didn’t know who it belonged to until it was tested. They would eventually learn that Sheila calmly sat on the night of March 21, 2006 and watched Kenny Countie burn after she stabbed him, dismembered him, and set his body on fire in her backyard on a mattress. Despite Sheila trying hard to destroy Kenny’s body, forensic evidence gave her away. Police compared the blood spatter found in the home and the bone and flesh found in the burn pit with DNA the U.S. Army had on file and it was a match. During the search of Sheila LaBarre’s property, the police also found a wallet in the septic tank that belonged to Michael Deloge, another young man who had fallen prey to Sheila. In June 2008, Sheila LaBarre was convicted of the pre-meditated murders of Michael Deloge and Kenneth Countie and is currently serving two life sentences in prison. Although prosecutors only had evidence to convict Shelia LaBarre of two murders, it is believed there are more.


The mother of one of the victims of Sheila LaBarre is telling her son’s story, saying he was more than the pictures shown during the trial. -WMUR-TV (May 28, 2010)

Related Links:
Ex-husband: Suspect asked him to murder chiropractor
Family: State looking at autopsy report in horse farm murder case
Murder suspect found in Revere
Jurors watch LaBarre stroke rabbit in police interview tape while denying grisly events
LaBarre not insane when she killed 2, psychologist testifies
N.H. woman who killed 2 boyfriends sane, jury says
Woman found guilty of killing 2 boyfriends
New Hampshire jury says Sheila LaBarre was sane; sentenced to life in prison
The STATE of New Hampshire v. Sheila K. LABARRE (2010)
High court upholds Sheila LaBarre’s convictions
N.H. Court Upholds LaBarre’s Murder Convictions
Countie’s mother starts petition for justice
Sheila LaBarre case: Mother wants justice for her murdered son
Human toes found near Sheila LaBarre’s Epping horse farm may lead to new homicide probe
Mystery toes may be sole link to torture killer Sheila LaBarre’s latest victim: Cops (VIDEO)
Sheila LaBarre property could be a tough sell
Murderer Sheila LaBarre’s farm auctioned for $600K
10 years later, prosecutor reflects on Sheila LaBarre case
Remembering Sheila LaBarre case, 10 years later
Gold-digger turned gravedigger lures men to their deaths in small New England town
Wicked Intentions: The Sheila LaBarre Murders | Facebook
Killer Cougar : The True Story of Serial Killer Sheila LaBarre (book)
When Cougars Attack | Pretty Bad Girls | Justice Network
Deadly Women: Sheila LaBarre sentenced to two sentences of LWOP for the murders of Michael Deloge and Kenneth Countie
NH’s Rich History Includes These Murderers
Serial is over but here are seven true-crime stories to fill the gap
Sheila LaBarre by Kyle is haunted | Anchor (podcast)
Dear Sheila | Criminal (podcast)
Episode 10: Dear Sheila | Criminal (podcast)
Burn Farm: Michael Benson 03/23 by True Murder (podcast)
14 :: Sheila LaBarre Part 1 :: w\ Kate from Ignorance Was Bliss | Voice of the Victim Podcast
15 :: Sheila LaBarre Part 2 :: w\ Kate from Ignorance Was Bliss | Voice of the Victim Podcast

Video Links:
Searching For Sheila’s Missing Man
LaBarre Admits State Can Convict Of Two Killings
LaBarre Undergoes Third Psychiatric Evaluation
Sheila LaBarre Trial Begins With Trip To Wal-Mart, Farm
Jury Visits Wal-Mart, Farm On Day One Of LaBarre Trial
Part 1: Video Shows Interior Of Sheila LaBarre’s House
Part 2: Video Shows Interior Of Sheila LaBarre’s House
Part 3: Video Shows Interior Of Sheila LaBarre’s House
Part 4: Video Shows Interior Of Sheila LaBarre’s House
Part 5: Video Shows Interior Of Sheila LaBarre’s House
Prosecutors Make Opening Statements In LaBarre Trial
LaBarre Appears To Laugh As Recordings Are Played
Court Ends Early As LaBarre Has Reaction To Tapes
Rogers: LaBarre’s Conversations Had A Pedophilia Theme
Rogers: LaBarre’s Ideas “Outlandish”
Psychiatrist Explains “Rabbit Or Pedophile” Comment
Rogers On Progression Of Deteriorating Mental State
LaBarre’s Defense Makes Openings Statements
LaBarre’s Sister Testifies About Father’s Abuse
Sister Describes LaBarre’s Stay At Hospital
Noojin: LaBarre Thought She Was Reincarnated Witch
Sheila LaBarre Sentenced
Mother Says Countie Was Always Smiling
Lawyers Say Police Violated LaBarre’s Privacy
LaBarre victim’s mother accuses of police of negligence
Sheila LaBarre’s Farm Auctioned Off
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Book Trailer for “Wicked Intentions”
Kevin Flynn on Wicked Intentions, the story of Sheila LaBarre
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Killer Farm (S1, E4) | Killer Instinct | Amazon
Master Manipulators | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S4, E6)
Master Manipulators (S4, E6) | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery | Dailymotion
Master Manipulators | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Deadly Women Premiered ‘Master Manipulators’ on Investigation Discovery: Everything You Need to Know About Serial Killer Sheila LaBarre (September 16, 2010)

Army Pfc. Tina Priest Died From a Non-Combat Related Incident in Iraq; Death Ruled Suicide But Family Suspects Rape and Murder (2006)

Tina Priest

Pfc. Tina Priest, US Army

Army Pfc. Tina Priest, 20, died from a non-combat related injury in Taji, Iraq on March 1st, 2006. She was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the 4th Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Divison at Fort Hood, Texas. The Army ruled the death an apparent suicide but Tina’s parents dispute that finding based on the evidence and believe that she was raped and murdered. Tina reported a rape two weeks prior to her death. This case is no longer under investigation but considered a cold case because of the families concerns with the cause of death ruling by the Army.

Related Links:
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Army Pfc. Tina M. Priest
Tina Priest’s Death In Iraq Under Investigation
Did Army do enough to prevent soldier’s death? (2007)
Family disputes Army’s suicide finding in daughter’s death
U.S. Military Is Keeping Secrets About Female Soldiers’ ‘Suicides’
Pfc. Tina Priest’s rape and the Irony of the Iraq War
“Rape in the Ranks: The Enemy Within”
U.S. Military Covering Up Possible Murders of Female Service Members
Sisters in Death: The Systemic Misogyny of Militarism Leads To Deaths of U.S. Servicewomen and Iraqi Civilian Women
Is U.S. Military Covering Up Rape, Murder?
Hiding Military Sexual Trauma
A Shot Away: Personal Accounts of Military Sexual Trauma
Waging Gendered Wars: U.S. Military Women in Afghanistan and Iraq
Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Iraq)
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members
Stop Killing Us!!! (YouTube)
The Silent Truth (Documentary)


Ninety-four US military women in the military have died in Iraq or during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). ‘The Silent Truth’ tells the story of one of these women, PFC LaVena Lynn Johnson, who was found dead on Balad Air Force Base in Iraq. The army claimed she shot herself with her own M16 rifle, but forensic evidence, obtained by the Johnson family through the Freedom of Information Act, brings the army’s findings into question. The Army refuses to re-open LaVena Johnson’s case, leaving the family in limbo. ‘The Silent Truth’ follows the Johnson’s pursuit of justice and truth for their daughter. -The Silent Truth