City Council Remembers Murdered Musician

At a recent San Fernando City Council meeting, Mayor Sylvia Ballin closed the meeting in memory of Fred-Freak Smith.

“I spoke to his mother and what she wanted was for us to catch the person who did this,” Ballin said, adding that often people who are viewed as “homeless” are disregarded, but they shouldn’t be.

Smith was described as “semi-transient,” although he had stayed previously at a nearby group home. When the news spread about his death, musicians from across the country expressed their love for Smith who was regarded as an “exceptional guitarist” and widely known in the Heavy Metal scene.  

The coroner’s report indicated that the stab wound to Smith was inflicted to his neck. The stabbing of Smith — described by those who often saw him at the park as a “gentle and kind man who didn’t bother anyone” — occurred at night at Las Palmas Park on Aug. 8, where he was seen “regularly.” He died at Las Palmas Park in a pool of his own blood.  

“We are still following leads, and the investigation is ongoing,” said San Fernando Police Chief Tony Vairo. “Unfortunately, it does take some time.”  

Many people have provided stories of Smith giving them both music and life lessons. 

“One day he made an extra trip up to my house to give me much-needed funk bass lessons. He broke it down clear as crystal. I picked it up slowly and awkwardly, but got really frustrated and discouraged. He called bulls***tt all over that,” said Dug Birdzell, who played with Smith in the Washington. D.C. punk band Beefeater.

“He told me to get the f***k over myself, that I could do this, just play it slower and slower until I got it, then speed it up. The thing was, he didn’t get impatient or pissed off. He was intense, like always, but still positive.  

“So, yeah, he taught me funk bass, but more importantly, he taught me by example how to believe in myself. In Beefeater he always showed love for his bandmates, other bands at shows, kids coming to the shows, people working us in the studio, just everybody.”

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