Buried Not Forgotten podcast explores alleged 1975 murder-suicide
Joe can remember the night that his neighbor Doug told him the story about Walter Smith and Peter Hauer, a real live murder mystery set in Pocahontas County.
“He’s the one who actually told me the story the first time I’d heard it and it was at the end of playing music one night,” said Joe. “And it’s the type of story that just sticks with you.”
In the summer of 1975, Walter Smith was a teenager working at Watoga State Park in Pocahontas County. But one afternoon, he didn’t return home from his job. Following an extensive search, his body was found in a cave on private property. The property owner, Peter Hauer, was questioned by investigators, then within a week, he disappeared. It was widely thought that Hauer had killed Smith, then, took his own life.
As Joe listened to Doug’s recollection, he decided he wanted to look more deeply into the story. He enlisted the help of his friend Angelo who was then working at the local newspaper. It was a long and difficult process of gathering interviews and information through Freedom of Information Act requests. Joe explains what kept them involved in the process.
“First off, it started as a curiosity, secondly we thought maybe this will be a book. The interviews are really good which is why it is a podcast because we can’t say what we heard better than just listening to it.”
Angelo said they recorded every interview that they did for the project. That allowed them to pivot from producing a book to producing a podcast. The first episode was released on April 14th. It introduces some of the folks who knew Walter and/or Peter and the cave where Walter’s body was found. In the second episode we hear about attacks against animals owned by Peter. It’s unclear how or if the attacks were related to the alleged murder/suicide. Fair warning, some of the descriptions of the animal attacks are graphic.
“There are some goats that get murdered, and there’s a horse who dies. And then the third episode focuses on witchcraft accusations and people who were in the area [and] interested in occult stuff or alternative communities.”
Angelo said there are many ideas about this story, depending on who you talk to.
“Every episode over the course of the next couple of months is pretty much gonna present almost a new angle to the case,” said Angelo. “It gets pretty weird Heather!”
Many have wondered whether there was more to the story than what was included in the official police reports. Joe and Angelo said the Hauer family has been supportive in terms of unanswered questions. But attempts to reach the Smith family have so far been unsuccessful. And Joe teases that at least one other person, as yet unidentified, may know more than they’re willing to share.
“There’s one person who, looking back on the police report now, may have been considered as a suspect, but left real quickly afterward. We spoke with them a little bit, but they don’t want to be interviewed.”
While it’s a fascinating story to explore, don’t expect a cut and dried conclusion by the end of the series.
“We want to stick to the things that we do know, that we can say for certain. I don’t know if there is going to be a satisfying conclusion, but we don’t have the end completely written.”
“Along those same lines, there probably is a way that we could solve this with other people’s help. There’s a couple of pieces of evidence that are missing that we could probably look into.”
Looking into those additional pieces of evidence would likely involve hiring forensic experts, something Joe and Angelo are willing to consider if they can find a way to pay for it.
The Buried Not Forgotten podcast series is produced by West Virginia based Veritas Underground Media and is available from podcast websites and other social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. New episodes are released each Wednesday. Just search for buried not forgotten dot com.