30th anniversary of CU student murder; Former roommate on the run

Arrest warrant out for Thayne Smika in 1993 slayin

BOULDER, Colo. - Boulder police are hoping the 30-year anniversary of a University of Colorado student's murder will bring new attention to the hunt for his former roommate.

The body of Sid Wells, a 22-year-old journalism student and 7NEWS intern, was found by his brother, slain execution style inside his Spanish Towers condo, on Aug. 1, 1983.  An autopsy showed Wells was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head.  The case received prominent media attention because at the time of his death, Wells was dating actor Robert Redford’s daughter, Shauna, who also attended CU.

Wells had been killed with a blast from a 20-gauge shotgun. Police suspected Wells’ roommate, Thayne Smika, and found him at his mother's home in Akron, Colo. Smika was arrested a few months after the homicide when investigators developed information that linked him to the murder. Police also recovered a 20-gauge shotgun belonging to Smika.

Smika was never prosecuted because the Boulder district attorney at the time, Alex Hunter, declined to take the case. Smika was released and left the area and in 1986. His abandoned car was found in Beverly Hills, Calif., in October 1986 and that is last trace of him.

A police officer, posing as a journalism student investigating the Wells murder talked to Smika's mother in 1997 who said her son had changed his name because he was afraid for his life from knowing who the real killer was. She also said she didn't know where he was living.

In 2011, the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office agreed to review the case and approved an arrest affidavit for Smika charging him with first-degree murder.   

Unable to locate Smika, police are again asking for the public’s help finding him. Investigators believe Smika is living under an assumed identity.  His relatives -- several of whom still live in Colorado --  have not been cooperative with the Boulder Police Department.

One of the first detectives to investigate the case in 1983, is hoping that someone can provide information about Smika’s whereabouts.

"It’s past time for justice for Sid Wells and his family," said Deputy Chief Dave Hayes. "Thayne Smika escaped a first-degree murder charge, and has likely been living a life of freedom while the Wells' family has been grieving for three decades."

Wells' mother, June Menger talked 7NEWS Reporter Marc Stewart Wednesday about her son's untimely death.

"It's such a waste of a life.   He had so much going for him.  And he was such a dedicated student," she said.  "He was just a great kid, Very happy, Had a lot of friends.  It was a joy in our family."

She said the suspect in her son's death may have had help after he disappeared.

"I think the reason that he hasn't been brought to Colorado, I think he's had a little help in staying in the cover," Menger told 7NEWS.

"It's so important to solve cases, because so often when you solve a cold case, you're solving more than one and maybe keeping others from happening," she said.

Thayne Smika would be 54 now. Police released his 1983 mugshot and an age-progressed image of what Smika might look like today.

Investigators are asking that anyone with information about Smika, or where he might be living, to contact them.  Detective Tom Dowd may be reached at 303-441-3385. Those who have information but wish to remain anonymous may contact the Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or 1-800-444-3776. Tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimeshurt.com. Those submitting tips through Crime Stoppers that lead to the arrest and filing of charges on a suspect(s) may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 from Crime Stoppers.

Read the 44-page arrest warrant: http://ch7ne.ws/13wjdIT