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12. Dennis Wayne Smith

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

The following has been transcribed from an original 1975 Lakeland Ledger digital newspaper archive. This article has been re-typed and organized from existing digital Lakeland Ledger archives; I've simply transcribed them for informational and readability purposes. I do not claim any ownership/authorship of these particular articles.

above: The original Lakeland Ledger newspaper article picturing the cars of interest - the top image shows the vehicle belonging to the suspect. The bottom image depicts the burned trunk of the original vehicle the body was discovered in.


The Lakeland Ledger:

Thursday, August 7, 1975

Lakelander Arrested For Murder.

Body Found in Trunk of Burned Car

BARTOW - Sheriff's deputies arrested a Lakeland man Wednesday evening and charged him with first-degree murder in connection with the death of John M. Arnsdorff whose body was found burned in the trunk of a car north of Lakeland, July 29.

Dennis Wayne Smith, 23, 728 Valencia Street, was booked into county jail without bond. Sheriff Monroe Brannen said other arrests are expected.

Arnsdorff's charred body was found in the trunk of a burning car on Lake Luther Road near Interstate 4. "There was evidence that the car had been involved in a collision and had been driven several miles on the rim as a result of the front end being damaged in the wreck," a department spokesman said.

Detective Sgt. Al Lang spotted Smith's car about 5:10 p.m. Wednesday and followed it to an alleyway behind the 200 block of Pine Street where Smith was arrested.

Above: John M. Arnsdorff & Dennis Wayne Smith, Lakeland Ledger 1975

Lakeland zone commander Lt. Chuck Keeney said his office received a call Saturday from a person who said he had seen Arnsdorff and Smith together the night of July 28 at a bar in Lakeland. Smith is an unemployed construction worker.

The sheriff said both Arnsdorff's burned car and Smith's 1969 Cadillac could have been at the Lake Luther road area July 29.

Lang said blood was found inside the trunk of the Cadillac, indicating someone had been transported in it. The blood and other evidence are being examined. Brannen said robbery was possibly a motive for the murder.

Sheriff Brannen said Lakeland zone deputies have spent 16 to 19 hours per day working on the case since July 29.

"We appreciate the public and the media helping us," the sheriff said. Police still have not determined what caused the fire but the "hot spot" was under the rear seat.

Arnsdorff worked for A, C & S Construction Co., and managed the firm's Mulberry branch office. He had lived in Lakeland two months at 1049 Jewel St. Lakeland police assisted the sheriff's department in the investigation.


This article from 1975 provides great detail of significant Lakeland locations in the Ralph Miller case, including the former home addresses of John Arnsdorff and Dennis Wayne Smith. Dennis Wayne Smith's former address is of particular interest since he later confirms he occasionally lived with the "Witch of Lakeland", Rosemary Herrera. The 728 Valencia Street address is in current Downtown Lakeland, Florida near Florida Southern College. This is also significant since the Ledger reported numerous break-ins of the FSC science lab. Rosemary's gang was suspected of stealing chemicals from the campus in order to concoct and sell their own brand of LSD. Could the 728 Valencia address be the former home of the Witch of Lakeland? Check out the links below to read the original article, view the former homes of Smith and Arnsdorff, as well as the road where Arnsdorff's burned car and body were discovered.

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