The story of Matthew Smith is like the prodigal son who didn't come home.
“No, we never suspected it. We always had the hope in our hearts that he had straightened his life up,” says Harold Smith of his son, Matthew, who was known to disappear for months, sometimes up to a year at a time.
Harold Smith and his wife received a horrifying phone last week call telling them that their son was dead.
He was killed nearly four years ago on Laurel River Road and Tony Hodge not only admitted to killing him over drug money but police told him that Hodge took the murder several terrible steps further, such as showing off Smith's dead body to others, and then stuffing him in a barrel.
‘In my mind I can picture Hodge and his friends and they're high on drugs and begin to shoot weapons in the barrel,” says Smith, then burning his body so badly that only fingernail size bones remained.
“To me it's a nightmare that I wish I could wake up from but I can't.”
Tony Hodge is already in prison serving a life sentence for a Madison County murder and he'll likely get 40 years for killing Smith. But Smith says both of those sentences are not enough.
Instead, Smith has written down his own recommended sentence for the judge to hear.
“Tony Hodge should be hung by his neck until dead and all meat and flesh rot from his bones," said Smith, reading from a notebook that he’s put all of his thoughts in since hearing about his son’s death.
He plans to give the notebook to the Laurel County judge when Hodge is sentenced next month.
Smith says what also troubles him is that his son's remains are now in FBI custody and he's not sure if they will ever be returned.
“We can have no funeral. And if they don't get any DNA we cannot even have the bones back.”