17. Smith Sentenced for Probation Violation.

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 transcribed them for informational and readability purposes. I do not claim any ownership/authorship of these particular articles.

The Lakeland Ledger

Saturday, August 23, 1975


Smith Sentenced On Probation Violation Charges

T. Roe Oldt | Ledger Staff Writer

Dennis Wayne Smith, the man charged with the car-burning murder of Mulberry businessman John Mitchell Arnsdorff, has been sentenced to five years in the state penitentiary for probation violations.


Circuit Court Judge Oliver Green imposed the term Friday after hearing testimony that Smith had frequented the Green Parrot Bar in Lakeland and had consumed alcoholic beverages.


Probation was given to Smith in 1971 following conviction on a marijuana charge by Judge Roy H. Amidon of the old Criminal Court of Record.


At that time, Judge Amidon directed Smith to participate in self-improvement probation programs and to abstain from the use of alcohol, including beer.


In 1973, Circuit Court Judge William Love found Smith guilty of probation violations and extended his probation term to November 1975.


But on Aug. 9, Smith was charged with the murder of Arnsdorff, 33, by locking him in the trunk of his car and setting it on fire. Arnsdorff died of carbon monoxide poisoning.


Represented yesterday by Lakeland Attorney R. Philip Haddock, Smith’s probation was revoked on the testimony of a bartender and a probation officer who said Smith had been seen drinking beer on several occasions.


The bar, sheriff’s deputies have said, was the location Arnsdorrf was last seen alive. Smith is alleged to have been drinking with Arnsdorff the night before the murder.


Sheriff’s deputies have said other arrests in the murder were expected, but as of Friday night, none have been made.


The 23-year-old Smith, nicknamed “Lurch” because of his 6-foot 4-inch height, is being held without bond in the county jail on the first-degree murder charge. He is unlikely to be transferred to state facilities until the disposition of his murder charge is made, court sources said.


Read the digital archive here - The Ledger, August 23, 1976.


It's worth mentioning that there was another article published alongside the one above about another missing Lakeland teen, Mark "Duane" Woodward. Although it is not clear whether Woodward's disappearance is connected to that of Miller's or Wagner's, it is interesting to note that yet another Lakeland teenager is reported missing at this time. It is also relevant to next Sunday's article (18 - Psychic Declares Lakeland Teens Dead .)


The Woodward article is transcribed below.

The Lakeland Ledger

Saturday, August 23, 1975


Another Polk Man, 19, Missing.

The sheriff's department is looking for another 19-year-old Polk County man who has disappeared. Sheriff's Lt. Chuck Keeney said his office is searching for Mark "Duane" Woodard, who has not been seen or heard from since April 14.


It is believed that Woodard, who lived in a mobile home at 1104 Grady Ave. in Lakeland, was to have begun a week-long trip to Texas with a friend on that date.


The young man's parents, Jason and Vyrda Woodard, of 5926 Crafton Drive in Lakeland, said their son was carrying between $2,500 and $3,000 in cash with him when he left on the trip.


Woodard's parents and sheriff's investigators have said they suspect foul play may be involved in his disappearance.



The Woodards are suspicious for two reasons.


One, Duane's friend who was to have accompanied him to Texas showed up in Lakeland the next day (April 15) saying, "Oh, Duane found some other people to make the trip with and he went on without me."


And two, the parents said it is entirely out of character for Duane to leave town and not inform them as to his whereabouts.


"Duane moved out of our house into his own place last fall, but he has never been out of contact with us for more than two days," Mrs. Woodard said. "It's just not his nature. Duane knows if he gets in trouble, he can come to us - anytime."


Lt. Keeney said there is no indication that Woodward's disappearance may be connected with the recent disappearance of 19-year-old Jimmy Wagner of Lakeland, who is either a suspect or a victim in the July 19 burning death of John M. Arnsdorff on Lake Luther Road.


"We are reasonably sure there is no link in the two cases," Lt. Keeney said. "Wagner didn't even come to Polk County until June, two months after Woodward disappeared."


The Woodards said they last saw their son around 2 p.m. on April 14. They believe he left his mobile home for Texas between 2:15 and 7 p.m. that day.


"As far as we can tell, Duane left with very little clothing," Mrs. Woodard said. "It doesn't appear he prepared to stay away from home long. I can't believe that if he was still alive that he wouldn't call us. Duane hated to make us worry."


The senior Woodard who works at Sunbeam Bakeries in Lakeland said Duane told a close friend just before he was last seen, "If I'm not back in a week, y'all come looking for me."


Duane, who weighed about 170 pounds and was wearing a beard at the time of his disappearance, had been employed with Seaboard Coast Line Railroad as a trackman up to two weeks before his planned trip to Texas. He was born and raised in Lakeland and graduated from Kathleen Senior High School in 1973.

Duane Woodward Senior Class Picture Kathleen Senior High School 1973
Duane Woodward, Kathleen Senior High School, 1973

Above: Duane Woodard's Senior Class Picture -

Kathleen Senior High School Yearbook Archives, 1973.


Anyone with information as to Duane Woodard's whereabouts is asked to contact the sheriff's department, The Ledger, or his parents.


Read the digital archive here - The Ledger, August 23, 1975.



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