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Colorado police seek fugitive in 1983 murder

By Keith Coffman

BOULDER, Colo. (Reuters) - A district judge has issued an arrest warrant for a fugitive long suspected of killing the boyfriend of Robert Redford's daughter in 1983, police said on Thursday.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner announced that there is enough evidence in the cold case to charge Thayne Smika with the first-degree murder of University of Colorado journalism student Sid Wells.

"We are pleased that a judge has looked at the evidence that has been compiled over 27 years and agreed that Thayne Smika should stand trial," Beckner said in a news release.

Police do not know Smika's whereabouts and issued a booking photo of him, along with composites of how he may appear now.

The arrest warrant was issued last month, and was unsealed on Thursday.

The case made headlines because Wells was dating Redford's daughter, Shauna.

Robert Redford, who attended the University of Colorado in the 1950s, took a hiatus from filming the baseball movie, The Natural, to attend Wells' funeral.

It was Boulder's most notorious unsolved murder until the JonBenet Ramsey case 13 years later.

Wells, 22, was entering his senior year at the university when his brother found him dead from a shotgun blast to the head at a Boulder condominium that he shared with Smika.

Smika was contacted by detectives at this mother's home on the eastern Colorado plains, where they observed him cleaning a shotgun. He was arrested but later released because prosecutors didn't believe there was enough evidence to charge him with the murder.

A grand jury looked at the case the year of the murder, but didn't return an indictment. In subsequent years, investigators reopened the case from time-to-time but Thursday's announcement was the first time criminal charges have been filed.

Smika disappeared in 1986 after he was charged with embezzling from his Denver employer. Police suspect Smika, who would be 51 years old if still alive, fled the country and is living under an assumed identity.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Bohan)

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