Boy Says Father Beheaded Brother Because Of Devil

ESTANCIA, N.M. - As trucks whizzed past on Interstate 40, 13-year-old Larry Smith watched his father cut off his older brother's head, terrified he would be next.

Before the attack turned deadly, the older boy warned Larry to "Get away! Get out of here!" the surviving boy told investigators.

Larry ran.

When authorities found him later, he asked, "Did you get my Dad? He's not going to get me, is he?"

"No, you're safe now," Torrance County Sheriff Don Lyles told him.

Eric Starr Smith pulled over and attacked his 14-year-old son, Eric Jr., on Saturday after telling the boys in the van that the family was possessed by the devil, Larry told officials. Police called by passing motorists arrived, and Smith fled in the van, taking the boy's head.

Smith flung the head out the window a mile down the road, then led police on a 40-mile chase reaching more than 100 mph before he blew a tire and crashed, Lyles said.

Smith, 34, of Parker, Ariz., was jailed pending his arraignment today on charges of murder, evidence tampering, child abuse, driving while intoxicated, and resisting or obstructing an officer.

At least three truckers who were driving on the interstate just east of Moriarty, about 40 miles east of Albuquerque, saw the stabbing and reported it.

The body of Eric Smith Jr. was found sprawled across the shoulder and into the road, clad only in shorts and socks.

Police spent yesterday battling windy conditions while looking for evidence on the stretch where vast patches of sagebrush and dirt are broken up only by junkyards and an occasional mobile home.

They found a 4-inch knife and a pocketknife, both covered with blood, but no sturdier knife.

Investigators also found a rolled-up yellow sweatshirt soaked with blood and a blood-stained blue nylon wallet containing the victim's photograph. A note on the back of the photo said, "From big brother to little brother."

The boys, who lived with their grandparents in Mesa, Ariz., had been on a weekend fishing trip with their father while their grandfather visited their grandmother in a New York hospital. The boys had not seen their mother in more than three years.

Lyles said the grandfather was making his way to New Mexico to take custody of the younger boy, who has been placed in a juvenile shelter.

Neighbors of Smith in Parker, Ariz., said he lived in squalor, drank, kept a pit bull that was not housebroken, and often was without heat and electricity.

"I always felt sorry for them. They seemed like good kids," said Jo Ann West, who used to live across the street from Smith and his two boys until about a year ago. "The only time I ever saw their dad was when he was outside yelling at them, with a beer in his hand."

Estancia-area residents were bringing gifts to the sheriff's department. An overflowing box included a portable stereo, a sketch pad, a wallet with $61 in it and a check written for $100.

Officials at the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department were setting up a fund for Larry.