Palm Bay family seeks clues in hunt for man's remain

BY JOHN A. TORRES

Candice Thompson said she will search for her father's remains until the day she dies.

The suspected killer, who promised police he would help them find Edwin Smith's remains, is scheduled to go on trial today for first-degree murder.

Relatives of the retired federal prison guard say they are pleased the 1988 killing may soon be resolved, but they're disappointed Smith's body wasn't found.

Charles Harris Schuhart, 49, faces life in prison if convicted of the murder of Smith, who was 51 and living in Palm Bay when he disappeared.

"We want to put our father in a final resting place, a cemetery, where we can go and grieve," said Thompson, who lives in Fairfax, Va. Along with her sister and mother, Thompson has made more than 50 trips to search for her father's remains since 2007.

They have paid for their own cadaver dogs and enlisted the use of psychics over the last two years as they search the Bull Creek area in Osceola County, where they believe Smith's remains are hidden. Thompson credits a retired detective with never giving up on the case. Retired Florida Department of Law Enforcement Detective Tom Davis promised Thompson in 1992 that he would find her father's killer.

"She has remembered that and so have I," Davis said. "It has been a long, drawn-out process and I have fought many battles administratively to be allowed to continue to work the case. In my 40-year career in law enforcement, I always tried to work for the citizens who paid us like I would want the police to work if my family was a victim."

Davis' work on the case always led back to Schuhart, a con man with a long history of fraud and theft. Police always believed Smith was taken to a wooded area by Schuhart and another grifter.

At the time, Schuhart told police that Smith packed a suitcase filled with cash and purposely disappeared in the Caribbean islands. Police arrested Schuhart three months after Smith disappeared and charged him with forging Smith's checks and cleaning out his bank account of nearly $200,000.

Schuhart denied knowing what happened to Smith until 1995, when he promised Davis he would help locate the body in exchange for reduced charges in another fraud case. Since then, he has only taken investigators to the general area where he said he helped bury the remains. He refuses to be specific.

Investigators say there is little doubt that Schuhart is guilty, even without the remains.

"Schuhart indicated in his confession that he was there when Smith was killed and helped bury the body," said Wayne Ivey, FDLE's Resident Agent in Charge of Brevard and Volusia counties. "He also told us that he participated in the scheme to lure Smith to that wooded area."

Schuhart's apparent confession is not enough to satisfy the family, Thompson said. "We will not be satisfied until we have a resting place and the people involved are convicted."

Investigators say the area Schuhart pointed them to is vast and prone to flooding, making searching very difficult.

"It's been trying," Thompson said. "It's like a second full-time job. But I will search right up until the day I die. When my father was killed a piece of me died as well."

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