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How Pamela Smart Manipulated Her 15-Year-Old Student (And Lover) Into Killing Her Husband
It's one of the most shocking teacher-student scandals in history.
Murders A-Z is a collection of true crime stories that take an in-depth look at both little-known and famous murders throughout history.
The story of 22-year-old Pamela Smart and her seduction of 15-year-old William "Billy" Flynn is one of the most scandalous tales of a teacher having an affair with her student. It’s also one of the bloodiest. Its circumstances were so sensational, it even inspired a major Hollywood movie.
When it was over, Pam’s 24-year-old husband Gregg was dead, and her life — along with those of four young men — was permanently altered. It’s a story that stretches from the beaches of Miami to the small towns of New Hampshire, and it encompasses murder, betrayal, dirty photographs and heavy metal rock n’ roll.
Born Pamela Anne Wojas in 1967, Pam grew up in Miami, Florida, before her family moved to Canobie Lake, New Hampshire, when she was in eighth grade. The petite, perky cheerleader was one of the most popular kids in high school and continued to be the center of attention when she attended Florida State University to study communications.
She was known as the “Maiden Of Metal” and had her very own college radio show. Her license plate read “HALEN,” a tribute to her favorite band, Van Halen, a prescient choice considering their hit song “Hot For Teacher.” But what Pam really wanted was to be on television, preferably as an anchorwoman or reporter.
While home in New Hampshire for Christmas break in 1986, Pam met the longhaired, good-looking metalhead Greggory Smart. The two quickly became an item, and he moved down to Florida to live with her during her senior year. After graduation, they bought a condo near Gregg’s family in the town of Derry, New Hampshire, and were married in 1989. Gregg gave her a Shih Tzu puppy that she adored and named Halen, just like her car.
Before their wedding, Gregg cut all his hair off and got a job at his father’s insurance firm, where he was required to wear a suit and tie. This change in appearance and adult lifestyle did not sit well with his rocker wife. In a 2016 New Hampshire Magazine profile, Smart also claimed Gregg cheated on her during the first year of their marriage.
While married life was already proving challenging, she was excited about her new job as the media director of Winnacunnet High School in the town of Seabrook. She hoped the experience would be a stepping-stone on her path to a career in broadcasting. Though part of the staff, she soon fell in with a group of students, mostly working class kids, who were impressed with her good looks, vivacious personality and love of heavy metal.
Among the kids, Smart became friends with was a lanky 15-year-old with long, dark hair named Billy Flynn. Like her, he loved Mötley Crüe and Van Halen. They worked together that winter on a school project, making a music video promoting orange juice.
According to the Portsmouth Herald, one day in February 1990, Smart turned to Billy and said, “Do you think about me? Because I think about you all the time."
A couple weeks later, they had sex for the first time, after watching the sexually charged drama "9½ Weeks." It was Billy’s first time. Soon after, she began to talk to him about killing her husband.
According to Billy Flynn, Pam said that if he didn’t kill Gregg Smart, she would have to end their relationship. They were now having sex regularly, and she gave him pictures of herself in lingerie striking provocative poses. She told Billy that Gregg hit her and had to die because he would never leave her alone. If she divorced Gregg, she would lose everything, including her condo, her money and maybe even her beloved dog Halen.
On the night of May 1, 1990, Pamela Smart returned home from a school meeting in another town and found her apartment ransacked. Gregg was lying face-down in the foyer, dead from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head. Police felt Pam’s demeanor was oddly detached for someone who had just lost her newlywed husband. They also thought Gregg’s murder looked more like an execution than the result of a robbery gone wrong.
“Everyone thought that it was some kind of a gang, gangster killing or something to do with a gambling debt,” attorney Marsha Kazarisian told "Snapped."
Murders didn’t happen in Derry. In fact, the killing of Greggory Smart was the only murder in the town that year.
As police investigated Gregg’s death, Pam finally got the television screen time she had been craving. She appeared repeatedly on the local news talking about the incident. In one interview, she said her husband’s killer was probably "some jerk, some drug addict person looking for a quick 10 bucks," according to The New York Times.
A couple weeks after the murder, police got an anonymous phone call. Detective Dan Pelletier told "Snapped" that the caller said, “Pamela Smart was actually involved in the planning of the murder of her husband. During that same telephone conversation the caller named Cecelia Pierce as a confidant.”
Cecelia Pierce was Pam's student intern at Winnacunnet High, and the school was buzzing with rumors about the murder. One rumor was that Gregg Smart was shot with a pistol belonging to the father of Vance “J.R.” Lattime, a friend of Billy Flynn. When J.R.’s dad noticed his gun had been cleaned recently without his knowledge, he brought it to the police.
They soon arrested Flynn, Lattime and another friend named Patrick “Pete” Randall. The boys quickly cracked under questioning, saying Flynn killed Gregg at the behest of Pamela Smart, who was the 15-year-old’s lover. Police could have arrested Pam right there for statutory rape, but knew her crimes went deeper.
Cecelia Pierce was initially reluctant to cooperate with police. She looked up to Pam and considered her a friend, but after the arrests of Billy Flynn and his friends, she got spooked.
“The local news station put on a story that the police were actually looking to arrest another individual, a female,” Detective Pelletier explains. “It was an erroneous story, but it ended up helping us immensely. Cecelia Pierce now had so much pressure on her that she thought she was going to be arrested. She decided that she should cooperate with the police.”
Cecilia admitted she knew about the plot to kill Gregg Smart, making her an accessory to the crime. In exchange for immunity, she agreed to record Pamela Smart discussing the murder, taping two phone conversations and wearing a wire in two face-to-face meetings. Not only did Pam admit to having prior knowledge of the crime, but she also coached Cecilia on what to say to the cops if they questioned her, saying, "You'd be better off just lying,” according to The New York Times.
Pamela Smart was arrested for the murder of her husband Gregg on August 1, 1990. Meanwhile, Flynn, Randall, Lattime and another boy, Raymond Fowler, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges and agreed to testify against her in court. The prosecution contended Pam wanted to get rid of her husband because she had grown bored of him and wanted to cash in on his $140,000 life insurance policy.
Flynn made a particularly effective witness, soft-spoken and sometimes sobbing on the witness stand. He said Lattime and Fowler waited in a getaway car, as he and Randall ransacked the house and waited for Gregg to come home from work. While Randall held a knife to Gregg’s throat, Flynn put the gun to the back of his head, and said “God forgive me” before pulling the trigger.
It took a jury 13 hours to convict Pamela Smart on March 22, 1991. According to The New York Times, Gregg’s mother Judith Smart exclaimed, “Thank you, God!” upon hearing the verdict, which found Pam guilty of being an accomplice to murder, of conspiracy to murder and of tampering with a witness. The judgment brought with it an immediate sentence of life in prison without parole. For their part, Flynn and Randall also received life sentences, but were released in 2015 with lifetime parole. Lattime and Fowler were paroled in 2005.
In the following years, the murderous tale of the heavy metal loving teacher and her 15-year-old lover became fodder for true crime books and investigative TV shows. In 1991, CBS aired "Murder in New Hampshire: The Pamela Wojas Smart Story," starring Helen Hunt, while 1995’s "To Die For" was a fictionalized account based on the novel of the same name, starring Nicole Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Academy Award nominee Gus Van Sant.
Now age 50, Pamela Smart is currently serving out her sentence at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, just outside New York City. While she admits she had an affair with Billy Flynn, she claims he killed Gregg after she ended their relationship. She’s been in and out of trouble in jail over the years, but has also earned degrees in English literature and law.
“I know I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and those mistakes contributed in some ways to everything that happened,” she said in her 2016 New Hampshire Magazine profile. “But I am definitely innocent of the murder of my husband.”