NJ man disappeared nearly 2 months ago — His parents try to unravel the mystery
PILESGROVE — A reward is being offered for a man who went missing after telling family he was going to visit a friend in Maryland last month.
David Gipson Smith, 28, was last heard by his family on Aug. 6 when he left his family's home to go to Maryland. He is described as about 6 feet 4 inches, 230 pounds with blond hair and brown eyes. A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for anyone who can help find him.
According to a Facebook post by the Howard County Police Department, they believe Gipson Smith was using heroin the day before his disappearance. They also said that Gipson Smith had packed "many of his belongings" before leaving for Maryland and had taken what he could carry from the car before disappearing while leaving the rest behind.
"Investigators have learned that Smith has left home in the past for weeks or months at a time and believe it's possible he may have traveled away from the Maryland area after he went missing," police said.
"Detectives are concerned for Smith's welfare due to the duration of his absence and his history of drug and alcohol use."
Smith's father Doug told New Jersey 101.5 on Tuesday that while his son "has had an addiction history," opioids "were not David's drug of choice as far as insobriety."
"The characterization has been made that this is just sort of a situation where David is on a binge, or David is on some sort of tear is tremendously out of character," he said. "As a result of that, that's what makes this so complicated."
Smith's father also said that while his son has gone as many as five days without contacting his family in the past, being gone for this long is not something he has ever done, nor something he would expect his son to do under any circumstance. He said even when his son did not have access to a phone he would reach out through the internet at places like public libraries.
A statement from the police in response to the father's comments said detectives "have been in very regular contact directly with the Smith family," and that information provided came from detectives on the case with the approval of their commanding officers.
The Maryland police department said there has been no activity on his phone, credit cards, or social media accounts since he was reported missing and that they have "followed up on reported sightings of Smith and checked with local hospitals and shelters, but none have been viable leads."
Police say they do not suspect foul play, but are "considering every possibility."
On Monday, Smith's mother posted on Facebook about her son's disappearance. She said he had planned to visit a friend in Catonsville, Maryland, and in his last text message with his father confirmed he had arrived. Julie Smith said the friend he had planned to meet had a change of plans and had arranged to set him up with someone else for the weekend.
Julie Smith said her son had gone to Ellicott City to meet the woman and stayed overnight on Aug. 5. She said her husband tried unsuccessfully to reach her son the following morning.
"We did not have the name of this new friend, nor did we have contact information for his friend in Catonsville," she said.
The last known text message David sent was to his friend at 12:19 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 6, his mother said. After she responded, they spoke on the phone at 12:36 a.m. He then received a call from the woman in Ellicott City at 4:10 a.m. that lasted just two minutes, according to phone records pulled by his mother.
Days after he had left, Gipson Smith's parents contacted the two women in Maryland.
The Ellicott City woman met David's parents "at an abandoned piece of property in Lisbon that her uncle owned and where she had dropped David off on Sunday, August 7."
Julie Smith said the woman told them they had spent Sunday together and "she actually told us that she mentioned to David that if he saw the uncle on his property, David should hide and keep out of sight."
The woman left David on the property on Sunday "with nothing — no food, no water," and did not return until Wednesday. She said she returned with a "tub of supplies" for him, but he was nowhere to be found. Returning two days later she said the supplies had not been used.
The mother said the woman showed them the supplies she had left, but that after meeting her she wondered about the veracity of her story.
"I'm not sure she even checked on him on Wednesday or took the tub to him until Saturday morning when she knew we were on our way," she said. "I also assume she cleaned up as much of the campsite as she could of any evidence of them having been there because of the threat of the uncle. But there were some fresh bottles left there, empty and in plain view."
The family said in their statement that they spent 45 minutes searching the expansive property before calling the police. When police responded to the scene she said they used a helicopter and a cadaver dog to try to locate David.
She says she was notified Aug. 13 by police that the case had been transferred to the criminal missing persons division.
"On Monday the lead detective called us and was unhappy that the car had been brought home, so on Tuesday the Woodstown State Police Troopers came to process David's car," she said.
Julie Smith said that she was thankful for the support the family has gotten since David went missing, but said there had been little progress made since the initial burst of activity.
With his son missing for almost two months now, Doug Gipson Smith said his family is aware of the reality of how dire David's situation could be.
He also said it would be "highly highly unlikely, and dramatically uncharacteristic," for David to decide to "walk away in some capacity." The father, who is also a pastor, said he also did not believe his son's addiction had gotten the better of him.
"To be 50 days into this thing there is very little to say and we don't have many answers to questions as to why this is," he said. "Last Tuesday when we met with the authorities they said 'we are still working with you to try and find your son.' We hold onto those things and we hold onto hope and recognizing that our faith plays a large part right now in where we are in the midst of this."
The department is asking anyone with information about his whereabouts to call 410-313-STOP or email HCPDcrimetips@howardcountymd.gov.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com