The body of a 62-year-old man found shot to death in Rock Creek Park Friday morning has been identified by D.C. police as that of Paul F. Smith, financial secretary and longtime trustee of the Gethsemane Baptist Church in Northwest Washington.
Church members said yesterday that Smith, a native of the District and a retired employe of the U.S. Postal Service, had been a member of the church all his life and had devoted years of service to church activities.
"We are completely stunned and shocked and baffled," said the church clerk, Gladys S. Harris, who said she knew Smith "practically all of my life."
"He was an asset to the church and his death is a great loss. This strikes very close to home," she said.
Smith's body was found by a passerby about 7 a.m. Friday in Picnic Grove 27 of the park, near Beach Drive and Blagden Avenue NW, police said. They said he had several unspecified wounds and had been shot once in the back.
He was last seen about 10 p.m. Thursday at the church, Fourth and Hamilton streets NW, police said. They said his car has not been found, and that robbery appears to be the motive for his death.
Smith's wife of 40 years, Charlotte (Tolly) Smith, said her husband went to the church for a meeting of its constitution committee.
"We expected him home about 10 p.m.," she said. "He hoped to get home in time for the basketball game on TV. He was a sports fiend. Anything that had a ball in it he was going to watch on TV. If you had a spitball game, he'd watch that too."
Charlotte Smith said she met her husband while he was attending the old Armstrong Senior High School on M Street NW and they became "childhood sweethearts." He was also a graduate of Miner Teachers College, now part of the University of the District of Columbia.
He served as a corporal in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II, she said, after which he worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 35 years until his retirement in 1982.
"I got worried because my husband was not a person who would stay out all night," Charlotte Smith said yesterday. "If he was going to be late, he'd call."
Friday morning, when her husband had not returned to their home on Delafield Place NW, she called the church and asked members if they knew his whereabouts.
"When he didn't show up at home that night, we all said that's not like Mr. Smith," said the church's administrative secretary, Ann Farris, who said that Smith taught Sunday school at the church for more than 40 years and was the head of the church's Cub Scouts.
"He was a sterling character, honest and soft-spoken and even-tempered. He was what you call a man of character."