The tapes that convicted Smart: Cecelia Pierce's role

Posted: 4/20/06

© Copyright 2007, Keene Equinox

Photos from the time period show a plump girl, usually disheveled with clothes that don't quite fit and aren't quite cool enough - with a look of yearning, always the yearning to belong, to be part of that which passes for high school cool.

Her downcast eyes and slumped shoulders made her a perfect candidate for Pamela Smart's self-esteem class, Project Self-Esteem. Cecilia Pierce did end up making a video splash, but maybe not the way she planned.

Even more than the two self-confessed murderers, she was the state's star witness against Smart, and her taped conversations with Smart were a major factor in Smart's conviction.

Early Years

Pierce was born on May 24, 1974. She was a sophomore at Winnacunnet High School when she first met Smart in Project Self Esteem. Pierce and Smart were both facilitators leading the same group of freshmen, according to her testimony during Smart's trial in 1991.

"Cecelia Pierce's mom worked and made Cecelia stay home and take care of her younger sibling," said Linda Wojas, Smart's mother. "She was failing a lot of classes, and Pam helped her."

In November of 1989 Pierce became an intern with the media center and was assigned to Smart, according to the Derry Police Department supplement report. It was during this internship that she became good friends with Smart.

"Pam befriended her," said Wojas. "She felt very badly…[Cecelia] was a chunky girl, failing in most of her subjects."

Smart, in an interview with Derry police, stated Pierce was a "good kid" who looked up to her.

Pierce had known William Flynn through high school, and both were involved in the Project Self Esteem class. Through the class, Smart, Flynn and Pierce worked on an orange juice commercial together, along with Rachel Emond and Traci Collins.

According to Wojas, Smart's own self-esteem was at a low point during this period.

"She was incredibly responsible in the workplace, [but] she was incredibly socially immature," said Wojas. "Greg [Smart] came to her and told that he had cheated on her. She was teaching a course on self-esteem when her self-esteem was in the basement."

According to Pierce in her trial testimony, Smart and Flynn were originally just friends. She first noticed a change around February, when Smart confessed to Pierce that she "loved Bill."

"She sat me down in a chair," said Pierce in her testimony. "She said, 'I think I'm in love with Bill."

Pierce thought it was "ridiculous" at first.

"I think Cecelia had a crush on Bill," said Smart in a prison interview. "Maybe she became jealous of me, and that might have been a possible motive [for helping the state]."

About a week later, Smart told Flynn that she loved him. According to Pierce's trial testimony, at this time Smart also told Pierce that "she had a choice either to kill Greg or get a divorce."

An Accomplice to Murder

Pierce stayed over at Smart's house on numerous occasions, sometimes for week-long stretches at a time.

According to the Derry Police Department report, the first of these visits occurred in April of 1990. She also stayed from April 23-27.

It was during this visit that Flynn came over. This was the first time that Flynn and Smart had sexual intercourse, according to Pierce.

According to Pierce's trial testimony, this visit occurred one week before Greg's death. Flynn stayed at Smart's house along with Pierce on Tuesday of this week.

"We rented two movies," said Pierce in her testimony. "We watched 'Nine and a Half Weeks,' and then Bill and Pam went upstairs and I stayed downstairs and watched another movie."

Pierce was "getting bored," so she went upstairs to check on Smart and Flynn. She found them on the floor of the bedroom having sex.

According to the Derry police reports, Smart told Pierce "on an almost daily basis what was going on in the planning of Greg's death."

In the report, Pierce states that she was present on occasions when Smart and Flynn were discussing the details of the plans to murder Greg.

"She [Pierce] knew everything that was going on," said Raymond Fowler, who rode along in the car with Flynn, Patrick Randall and Vance Lattime on the night of Greg's murder.

The Tapes

Wiretapped conversations between Pierce and Smart occurred on four separate dates in 1990: June 19, July 12 and 13 and Aug. 1. The tapes of these conversations are difficult to hear in many places, and numerous transcript passages obtained by the Equinox are labeled "inaudible."

"The tape was garbled, I barely heard," said Wojas. "They were crackly, distorted, not good at all."

During Smart's trial, transcripts were provided as well as headphones, but the sound quality remained questionable.

"I couldn't hear anything," said Smart. "We all had headphones, jurors too. No one could hear."

"Bill Smart threw down the earphones as the tapes were played in the trial and said, 'I can't hear these damn things,'" said Wojas.

Paul Maggiotto, prosecutor for the case, acknowledged the poor tape quality.

"When we first listened to the tapes, they were difficult to hear," said Maggiotto. "We recorded it through speaker phone to a hand-held recorder. I would have done it differently. It wasn't the best conditions, [but] the tapes speak for themselves."

The first of these wiretaps were a series of telephone conversations between 2:55 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. on June 19. Throughout the tape, Smart speaks rapidly and sounds increasingly frantic and nervous.

"I was on Prozac, so I was hyper," said Smart. "I was talking really fast, and I already talk fast. I was out of it."

According to Wojas, Smart's Prozac dosage was incorrect.

"Pam was on Prozac, she weighed 102-105 pounds," said Wojas. "She was little and had a much higher dosage; it made her manic, talking fast."

Towards the end of the first conversation on June 19, Pierce begins to ask Smart, "…but listen, if they find out that I lied for you am I gonna be charged with…?" Smart interrupts, "You're not gonna be lying, lying for me, you didn't lie about anything, you don't know anything, what the hell's the problem?"

Smart abruptly ends the conversation when Pierce mentions that Smart "could have just got a divorce instead." She makes an inaudible comment about her phone before ending the conversation.

"[Mark] Sisti called and said don't talk to Cecelia," said Smart. "Then I went and called her. What kind of a retard does that?"

Smart called Pierce back at 3:04 p.m., and again spoke rapidly and frantically. "They're [Derry Police] gonna try and get you to talk and to confess and you know they're gonna say, 'We know you know' and all that, you know, try and make you nervous but all you have to do is just maintain the same story, you know, and that's it, that, you know, you don't know and that's it, you know."

"I called Cecelia because I wanted information," said Smart. "I wanted to know if Bill [Flynn] killed Greg."

Smart continues to talk with increasing speed as she explains hypothetical scenarios to Pierce.

"…But I don't, you know, I don't think you should be nervous because, you know, realize that, that's just it, if they start telling you, look, well, this person says you know that Bill was at your house at like 10 p.m. at this time or whatever you'll say, 'Well Bill's obviously lying because he's on trial for his life and that's it.' You know, and the police are going to realize that Bill or anybody is making up stories because that's how it looks."

The final conversation on June 19 took place at 3:50 p.m., when Pierce called Smart. Smart almost immediately asks, "Did you find out what has been happening?" Pierce mentions the police found a note Smart wrote to Flynn, "…the one that Sarah found."

A series of eight completely inaudible statements from Smart disrupts the flow of the conversation early on in the tape, at which point Pierce says, "…supposedly my fingerprints were found on the thing and crap like that." It is unclear what she is referring to here.

On July 12 and 13, Pierce was fitted with a body wire to record two more conversations with Smart.

The July 13 conversation exhibits similar sound problems, and Smart continues to speak rapidly. At different points in the tape, Smart alternates between using either the word "fuck" or "shit" exclusively for a long stretch of conversation.

The tape stops and starts at least once early on in the conversation, and the volume dips in and out.

According to Mark Sisti, Smart's attorney, Smart knew Pierce was wired during the conversation.

"On the fourth tape, Pam apparently left her office and directly went to Cecelia Pierce," said Sisti. "Pam and Cecelia both knew at that meeting Cecelia Pierce was wired."

The final tape was another tapped telephone conversation Aug. 1 at 10 a.m. Shortly after the conversation, Smart was arrested at the media center at Winnacunnet High School.

The tapes were the key piece of evidence for the jury in finding Smart guilty.

"There were two things that hung her," said Sisti. "The second day of cross examination and the Cecelia Pierce tapes."

According to Sisti, one of the most damning things about the tapes was Smart herself.

"What was telling in the tapes was Pam saying, 'If you tell the truth, we're all fucking going to jail,'" said Sisti. "There was no question it was Pam's voice. [The jury] could recognize the voice, the sentences."

With the key role the tapes played in finding Smart guilty, some around Pam have questioned their authenticity, both due to inaudible portions and the fact, according to Wojas, that the tapes were never authenticated.

"The wiretap orders should have been signed by an impartial magistrate, but instead were signed by John Lyons from the AG's office," said Wojas. "Judge Gray said it didn't matter. Cecelia Pierce became an emancipated minor at under 18, and signed the wiretap order."

According to Pelletiere, the tapes were in fact authorized.

"All those wiretaps were authorized by the Attorney General's office," said Pelletiere. "It might have been Bill Lyons."

"The defense counsel's protesting of the tapes' inclusion was a pretty standard line from a defense attorney," said Pelletiere. "We had a suppression hearing on the tapes."

Driving Forward

Despite her prior knowledge of plans to murder Greg, Pierce was never indicted for her involvement in the case.

"She [Cecelia] was walking around looking in cars for guns," said Maggioto. "She was an impressionable young girl who was somewhat charmed. It didn't seem fair to indict her."

Wojas doesn't agree.

"Pierce knew [about the murder], she did nothing, and got immunity," she said.

After the trial, Pierce moved to Missouri, staying with her grandmother, Louise Eaton.

"The state paid to send Pierce to Missouri," said Wojas

However, Maggiotto stated she was not placed in a witness protection program.

"That [witness protection] is a complicated program," said Maggiotto. "We don't have the financial resources to have a witness protection program in New Hampshire. She may have moved. She couldn't walk down the street without people pointing."

On Feb. 3, 1992, Wojas received an unexpected call from Louise Eaton.

"She was willing to speak," said Wojas. "She had met Pam, liked her and hoped she could help us."

"She wanted me to listen to the first tape with Cecelia and Pam, a conversation about Cecelia's uncle," said Wojas.

According to Wojas and Raymond Fowler, Pierce had an uncle in Concord, N.H. state prison who was convicted of molesting a child. According to Wojas, Louise said it was a crime he didn't commit.

"The state of New Hampshire screwed her son," said Wojas. "Cecelia was afraid when she was questioned by the police. She felt sure Pam would get a new trial."

Maggiotto denied any prior knowledge of Pierce's uncle.

"If he [Pierce's uncle] had a prison term, this is the first I've heard about it," he said.

Pierce also sold her "life story" to Once Upon a Time Productions, according to trial transcripts and documents from Once Upon a Time Productions obtained by the Equinox.

In the contract, Pierce is listed as the owner of Smart's life story. Once Upon a Time Productions paid Pierce $2,000 up front to sign the contract, along with $100,000 to be paid if a movie were to be made.

According to a Nov. 20, 1998 article in the Portsmouth Herald, Pierce was "unofficially removed" from her job as a school bus driver in Seabrook.

"The complaints against Cecelia Pierce allege that her involvement in the Pamela Smart murder trial in 1991 makes her unfit to be involved with any school activity, including driving a bus," the article stated.

The article also states that Pierce married, but her husband's name is not listed in the article.

Pierce could not be reached by the Equinox for comment in this story. The numbers for Pierce are unlisted.

Smart would have less than kind words for Pierce if she ever saw her again.

"[I would tell her to] fuck off," said Smart. "I feel like these people put me in here, I don't want to see them again,"

© Copyright 2007 Keene Equinox