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Brianne (Flowers) Smith
Disappeared from Omaha, NE
Body found in roadside ditch
Mills County (jurisdiction)
Went Missing from Omaha: April 2006
Remains Found in Mills County, IA: June 10, 2006
Brianne Smith, a 25-year-old mother of three, disappeared from Omaha, Neb., in April 2006. Her body was discovered in a Mills County, Iowa, roadside ditch west of Glenwood on June 10, 2006.
A sheriff’s office press release said positive identification was gained through fingerprints. Mills County Sheriff Mack Taylor said the fingerprints taken from the body matched those of Smith, whose fingerprints were on file with the Omaha Police Department.
Authorities estimated Smith had been dead approximately three to 10 weeks when she was found in rural Glenwood by a family’s dog.
“The death is certainly of a suspicious nature and it is being investigated in that manner,” said Terry Klooster, Special Agent with the DCI. “Although we have not identified a clear cause of death, we are still awaiting further laboratory testing.”
According to a Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil article dated July 19, 2006, officials previously said Smith had brown hair, a tattoo of a red rose on her right calf and was wearing two crucifix necklaces, jeans, a tank top and tennis shoes when she was found. There also was evidence of partial healing of an old fracture around the tailbone area of Smith’s body, but Sheriff Taylor said the injury was not related to her death.
The Nonpareil also reported:
Taylor said earlier the physical characteristics of Smith that were previously released did not match those of any missing persons in Mills County. The Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office have said the woman’s description did not match that of any missing persons in Omaha or Douglas County, either.
Smith’s body was found less than five miles from the body of another missing Omaha woman, Debra Ann Barajas. Both women had worked as prostitutes.
Iowa investigators said they believed Smith and Barajas were likely killed by the same person before being dumped in Mills County, and explored the possibility that 50-year-old Thomas Tomich of Omaha might be responsible for their deaths.
On Thursday, November 16, 2006, Tomich died after jumping from an 11-story apartment building in downtown Omaha, where he worked as a janitor.
According to an AP story dated Nov. 19, 2006, Tomich’s death came less than a day after investigators confirmed that remains found the previous spring in a 55-gallon barrel near Council Bluffs, Iowa, belonged to his ex-wife, Lois. Lois Tomich was 28 years old when she disappeared in 1983.
Authorities closed the Lois Tomich case, stating Tomich strangled his wife with a coat hanger after she divorced him and became romantically involved with his brother.
Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren said his department began investigating Tomich in Barajas’ death after discovering Tomich had paid $250 on May 16 to bail Barajas out of Sarpy County Jail in Nebraska, where she’d been held on a misdemeanor drug possession charge. Barajas was last seen alive nine days later.
Mills County Attorney Marci Prier told the press that investigators then began seeking links between Tomich and Brianne Smith — particularly since Smith’s body was found in the same southwestern Iowa town were Barajas’ body was later found.
In a KMTV Channel 3 news report airing November 21, 2006, Brianne’s husband, Hershel Smith, said Tomich knew him, his wife and other prostitutes in Omaha.
In January 2007, authorities cast doubts that Tomich was a serial killer.
“We are still calling Tom Tomich ‘a person of interest’ in Debbie’s death, but we are looking at others,” Iowa DCI Special Agent Dave Dales said in an Omaha World-Herald article published January 20, 2007. “There are still other people we have to rule in or rule out.”
Dales wouldn’t discuss the physical evidence in the Smith or Barajas slayings, though DCI Special Agent Mitch Mortvedt said investigators felt confident “Debbie and Brianne knew each other.” They still hoped to learn more, Mortvedt said.
In the World-Herald article, Mortvedt said his investigation into Smith’s homicide centered on the Park Avenue and Leavenworth Street area, where Barajas and Smith had worked as prostitutes.
“We are definitely pursuing a number of other leads,” Mortvedt said. “In this type of case, some of the people and their circumstances make it difficult, because of their lifestyle and the drug culture. Some people don’t want to cooperate.”
In a KETV Channel 7 story that aired November 20, 2006, Edie Derry, who helped raise Smith, said she still wondered about the last phone call she had from Smith and whether or not Tomich could have been involved with her death. Derry said Smith called her in late April just before her disappearance, but the incoming phone number seemed unusual.
“She called from a phone number that we didn’t recognize so I don’t know — could be a connection, maybe not,” Derry told Channel 7 News in Omaha.
Derry said her suspicions peaked when she heard about a connection between Tomich and Barajas.
“It wasn’t that far from where they found Brianne so that in itself seems a little strange,” said Derry, who called Smith’s death a surreal experience for their family.
After Smith’s disappearance, Derry and her husband had been raising Smith’s two young children and said they planned to adopt them. They told the children their mommy was in heaven.
“She wasn’t a bad girl, she just hadn’t found her way home yet,” Derry said of the children’s mother.
The Mills County Sheriff’s Office and the Omaha Police Department continue to investigate Smith’s and Barajas’ deaths, both of which remain unsolved.
Brianne (Flowers) Smith was born in Louisiana on August 22, 1980.
She married Hershel Smith, Jr., on February 14, 2004.
She had two daughters and a son.
The United States Social Security Death Index lists Smith’s date of death as June 10, 2006, the day her remains were discovered in Mills County.
Anyone with information about Brianne Smith’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Mills County Sheriff’s Office at (712) 527-4337 or the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.