BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Federal investigators want answers over the true fate of infamous Buffalo drug kingpin, John Smith.
Prosecutors have asked the judge in the case for time to investigate whether Smith did die, and it could include disinterment. It is a rare step, but there are doubts because of conflicting reports on where Smith died.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Duszkiewicz tells News 4 one story has Smith dying in the parking lot of his church on Lewis Street in Buffalo back on June 16.
"[But] according to the death certificate, he died at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital out in Williamsville," Duszkiewicz said.
Pastor David Keaton of the Redeeming Fire Fellowship Church says while Smith attended services that day, he did not die at the church.
"The wife said that when he woke up that morning that he was feeling kind of bad. He wasn't feeling good. But he wanted to go to church and spend the day with his family," Pastor Keaton said.
There's another report, Duszkiewicz says, of Smith being transported by ambulance from a Red Robin restaurant in Amherst to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital also on the day he died. What's more, he says the government is being told that Smith's funeral service at the church involved a closed casket.
"That is what we are being told," Duszkiewicz said. "No one attending the funeral saw the person in the casket."
Pastor Keaton confirmed, "The casket was closed for the worship service. So if anybody came during the actual worship service, the casket would have been closed. But the family had it open for an hour prior to."
Government prosecutors say there's a lot at stake here. Smith held a national leadership position in the Afro Dogs Motorcycle Club. He was scheduled to be sentenced earlier this month on a drug and weapons conviction.
Prosecutors say he would have spent a minimum of 15 years in prison and forfeited $750,000, plus property.
Under normal circumstances, after a defendant dies, the case against the defendant would be dismissed. But prosecutors have asked for time to investigate his death, which could include the disinterment of his body at Forest Lawn Cemetery.
"We have reason to believe the information is credible," Duszkiewicz argued.
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