Kalispell Man Arrested For Stealing Military Medals

By Beacon Staff

A Kalispell man was arrested after stealing military medals that belonged to the brother of a Vietnam veteran. Sean David Smith, 25, was arrested on Thursday morning and the search is on for some of the items he stole, including a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

The medals were part of a memorial shadow box that Greg Smith, owner of Frame It in Kalispell, had put together for his late brother, James D. Smith, who had served in Vietnam. The box was on display in his shop when Sean David, who is not related to the brothers, and his wife visited the establishment on Jan. 8, trying to sell some old English prints.

“I saw him wander around the store (while I was talking to his wife), but I didn’t think much of it,” Greg said.

The wife said they needed money and Greg said that, while he was not interested in buying the prints, he would fix the frames so they could get more for them. He told them it would cost $10 and that they could pay him back at their convenience. While Greg and the wife talked, Sean David was out of sight.

Soon after the couple left the store, Greg noticed the memorial shadow box was missing. His brother James had served in Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was the youngest captain and later the youngest commander in the Army at the time. In 1969, his platoon was attacked and he was injured. Through the chaos of the attack Army officials had somehow lost James and he was reported missing in action. For a few weeks, James’ family thought he was gone until he wrote a letter home saying he was OK. He was later awarded a Purple Heart, among other medals. James died in 2006.

When Greg noticed the shadow box, he called the police, which took a description of the stolen goods. James’ dog tags, nameplate and uniform were also with the medals inside the shadow box. Officers recommended that Greg start calling local pawnshops and jewelry stores asking if any similar items turned up.

Over the weekend, Greg’s wife called Over the Hill Gang Pawn in Evergreen and described the missing items. The person at the store said that someone was there at the time trying to sell similar items and Greg quickly headed to Evergreen. By the time he got there, the person was gone but evidence of their visit was on the store’s security camera. The person, later identified as Sean David, had also left the invoice he had received from Frame It a few days earlier.

“It was a relief to me just to know who did it,” Greg said. “Then I knew I’d at least get some of the medals back.”

Kalispell Police then issued a warrant for Sean David’s arrest for misdemeanor theft on Jan. 13. Three days later, a detective contacted Sean David and arranged a meeting, but he did not show up. On Friday, Jan. 17, a Flathead County Sherriff’s deputy found Sean David and brought him to the Kalispell Police Department for an interview. Two medals were recovered at that point and Sean David was placed under arrest. He is currently incarcerated at the Flathead County Detention Center. According to the jail roster, this is not Sean David’s first run-in with the law and he also being held on charges of theft, forgery, criminal contempt and the criminal sale of dangerous drugs.

Greg Smith discusses a memorial plaque, containing medals and a uniform that belonged to his brother, James D. Smith, that was recently stolen from his shop, Frame It, in downtown Kalispell on Friday, Jan. 15, 2014. | Photo Courtesy Greg Smith

According to the Kalispell Police Department, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the uniform and the shadow box have still not been recovered. Police say some of the items may have been thrown in various dumpsters around Kalispell and Evergreen.

Although he is still unsure if he will get everything back, Greg said he will be relieved to get some of it back.

“(The medals) are more sentimental to me,” he said. “It’s priceless to me.”

He also thanked the police for their work on the case.

“The cops have been a beehive of activity and they’ve been all over this case because some of them are veterans themselves,” Greg said. “I was amazed at all the attention it got.”

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