Burlington police said this morning they found no evidence of a break-in at the Park Street home where Kathleen Smith was found murdered Monday morning.
"There's no obvious signs of forced entry," police spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Morrison told reporters at an 11 a.m. news conference. "We do have a lot of evidence that we continued to sift through. A lot of it has been shipped off to the state lab for processing. Until we know who did this and the exact circumstances, we'll refrain from making a conclusion on that."
Smith's body was discovered in her home, 154 Park St. in Burlington's Old North End, at 9:30 Monday morning by a colleague who came to find out why she hadn't shown up to work. Smith was 50 years old.
Morrison told reporters that police have received "few tips" about Smith's vehicle since releasing photos and information about it to the media yesterday. Her car, a 2000 Hyundai Sonata, was found 60 miles away in the town of Hancock. Morrison said the car was involved in some kind of a collision near the intersection of Routes 100 and 125 in Hancock, sometime over the weekend. The accident sheared off the front bumper and license plate.
Anyone who saw the vehicle between October 14 and October 16 is asked to call the police tip line: 540-2222. Cops are making a special appeal to hunters who may have been near Texas Falls Road in Hancock last weekend, when Smith's car (pictured at left) was dumped there.
"If anyone saw any person who may have been a stranded motorist, a hitchhiker, or any other person who may have seemed out of place, please call," Morrison said, adding that police aren't aware that she had any connection to the town of Hancock.
Police are actively working the case, Morrison said, but currently have no "persons of interest" they are trying to locate. Morrison concluded Thursday's press conference without scheduling another one — a first since the news first broke on Monday.
Meanwhile, the "person of interest" pictured in ATM surveillance photos (pictured below) released to the media by police on Tuesday turned out to be Smith herself.
"Like most of you, we made the assumption that it was a male person in the vehicle," Morrison said. "It wasn't until we leanred and put the pieces together that she had recently changed her appearance, and dramatically changed her hairstyle, that we began to realize that was actually Ms. Smith in the photos, the ATM photos. With the help of the community and of certain family members — coupled with the piece about the haircut —we were able to definitely identify the person as Kathleen Smith.
"The photos are no longer relevant to the investigation," Smith added. "It's Ms. Smith using her own ATM card at a place where she does her personal banking."
Police are done collecting physical evidence from Smith's home and car, Morrison said, and are awaiting analysis from the state crime lab. Morrison said police believe that evidence will be "key" in solving the crime.
Police still don't know — or arent' saying — whether Smith knew her attacker. But Morrison did say this morning police don't believe her murder was related to her work at the Howard Center, where the Burlington Free Press reports she worked as a training specialist in developmental services and later, with people addicted to alcohol and drugs.
An autopsy has determined Smith's cause of death, but police aren't publicly releasing that information because it's "material" to the investigation.
"There's certain things that only persons with knowledge of the crime would know and that's why we keep information related to the specifics — the specific cause of death and the specifics," Morrison said. "If we put it out there, then lots of people know."
Morrison (pictured at right) reiterated that police are offering a "substantial" cash reward for useful tips, but said the amount would depend on the information supplied.
Morrison described Smith as an "active, caring and vibrant part of the Burlington community. She herself was compassionate toward crime victims and demonstrated this by contributing to the resource bank for Parallel Justice. She specifically donated flowers she had grown to be given to victims of crimes as a token of the community's support.
"For her life to be taken in an act of crime is a tragic irony," Morrison added.