When a Boston woman travels to Philadelphia, she’s excited to explore the city while her husband attends a work conference. After disappearing without a trace, her remains are later inexplicably found in distant North Carolina woods, with evidence of foul play—leaving investigators with a profoundly puzzling mystery in this episode of Last Seen Alive.
Judy Smith was 50 years old when she disappeared from Philadelphia, where she’d planned to spend the day sightseeing. She had traveled there with her husband, who was attending a work conference.
Months after she disappeared from Philadelphia, Judy’s remains were discovered more than 600 miles (965 km) away in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest. How and why she came to be there is unknown.
Pictured: Judy with her husband Jeff. After her disappearance, Jeff distributed 9,000 missing person posters throughout the East Coast and hired 3 private investigators. At the time of Judy’s disappearance, they’d been married for 5 months.
North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest lies in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains and contains rugged terrain, as pictured. Photo by Ken Thomas.
Serial killer Gary Michael Hilton (aka the “National Forest Killer”) is widely considered to be a potential suspect in Judy’s murder, although investigators have not been able to link him definitively to her case.
Serial killer Gary Michael Hilton was involved in the production of “Deadly Run”, a 1995 z-list horror movie. The main character–a successful, wealthy and handsome serial killer–embodies who Hilton wished to be.
Sources used to research this episode:
The Strange, Unsolved Case of Judy Smith (Marnie O’Neill / news.com/au)
Unsolved Mysteries Season 12, Episode 11 (Video via Amazon)
Unsolved Mysteries: Judy Smith (unsolved.com)
Former Sheriff Bobby Medford Dies of COVID-19 in Federal Custody (John Boyle / Asheville Citizen Times)
Gary Michael Hilton (Serial Killer Information Center, Radford University)
Killer Says Female Hiker Fought Him To The End (NBC News)
If you have any information on the murder of Judy Smith, please contact the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office at (828) 250-4503.