Halloween Cold Case Murder Arrest Made 41 Years Later, on Halloween

Ronald Jack Anderson, 61, was charged with murder in connection with the death of Clifford Smith, who was fatally shot on Oct. 31, 1982

<p>Indiana State Police (2)</p> Clifford Smith and Ronald Jack Anderson

Indiana State Police (2)

Clifford Smith and Ronald Jack Anderson

The Halloween murder case of Clifford Smith went cold almost as soon as he was shot in the head, his body left along the White River in rural Indiana in the early morning hours of Oct. 31, 1982.

Smith’s wife reported him missing four days later and his body was found by animal trappers a month after that. But no arrests were made in the killing of the 24-year-old and the case passed between state police detectives with few leads for more than four decades.

Then on Halloween 2023 — 41 years to the day of the murder — detectives from the Indiana State Police-Versailles Post arrested Ronald Jack Anderson, 61, at his home in Seymour, Ind. “without incident,” state police announced in a detailed press release of the decades-long investigation.

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Anderson is behind bars at the Jackson County Jail, where police said yesterday he will be held until making his first court appearance in Jackson County Circuit Court.

<p>Indiana State Police</p> Clifford Smith

Indiana State Police

Clifford Smith

Anderson and Smith were among a group of people who gathered at a residence on East 13th Street in Seymour, Ind. in the late hours of October 30th, 1982, according to police. 

Before the two men left together sometime nearing midnight, police allege that Anderson took a shotgun from the house and loaded it. That was the last time Smith was seen alive.

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Sergeant Stephen Wheeles of the state police tells PEOPLE that investigators believe Anderson shot Smith in the first hours of Halloween 1982 — although his body was not found until Dec. 1 of that year.

Investigators determined that Smith died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Anderson later dropped off the shotgun at the residence on 13th Street, and, within a few days of the killing, Wheeles says he returned to the scene of the crime to hide additional evidence.

<p>Indiana State Police</p> Arrest photo of Ronald Jack Anderson

Indiana State Police

Arrest photo of Ronald Jack Anderson

There was no one “big break” in the case, Wheeles tells PEOPLE.

Instead, in September 2015, Sergeant Kip Main decided to retrace the steps of the detectives before him: re-interviewing witnesses and re-examining evidence, Wheeles says, noting that unlike many cold cases broken decades later, this case was not reliant on new technology.

“It just took the right investigator at the right time,” Wheeles says.

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office signed off on Anderson’s arrest last week, Wheeles says. He was arrested on the anniversary of the murder he is now accused of committing.

“Obviously we’re dealing with the Smith family who hasn't had justice in all these years,” Wheeles says. “We could not let another anniversary of Clifford’s death go by without giving his family answers to what they’ve dealt with for decades.”

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