Dateline NBC — Why was John Smith arrested and where is he now?

John Smith
Where is John Smith now? (Representative Image via Pexels)

The age-old mystery of the disappearing wives of John Smith came to a climactic end in 2000 when the FBI got involved in the investigation. Two days after divorcing his first wife, Janice Hartman, John Smith reported her missing. By the time Smith reported the disappearance of his second wife, Betty Fran Gladden-Smith, in October 1991, the mummified and boxed remains of Hartman had been discovered in rural Indiana and collected by the Indiana Police Department.

With the efforts of Betty Fran Gladden's family and the FBI, Smith was convicted of the first murder and sentenced to 15 years to life. He is presently incarcerated at a prison facility in Ohio.

The Dateline NBC episode, titled Chameleon, showcases John Smith's horrific crimes as it airs on April 26, 2024, at 9 pm EST on NBC. The official synopsis of the episode reads,

"A woman goes missing; investigators uncover her husband's chilling history."

How was John Smith arrested? Details explored

John Smith's first wife and childhood sweetheart, Janice Hartman, disappeared under mysterious circumstances on November 17, 1974. The couple had been sharing a difficult marriage riddled with abuse, according to Michael Fleeman's The Stranger in My Bed.

Janice Hartman and John Smith got divorced in November 1974, and two days later, Smith filed a missing persons report for his 23-year-old wife, per the Daily Mail. Hartman's body had been dismembered and sealed shut inside a handmade wooden box and hidden in the garage of the Marathon gas filling station that Smith's grandfather owned in Seville, Ohio.

John relocated the box after his brother, Michael Smith, discovered the ugly truth in the spring of 1979, per Oxygen. However, the investigation began with the discovery of the box by road workers off a roadside ditch in rural Indiana in 1980. Authorities were unable to identify the body.

Smith re-married in March 1990 when he met Betty Fran Gladden (49) at the computer software company he worked at, per the Mirror UK. The couple had moved to West Windsor, New Jersey, in early 1991, according to However, Smith reported her missing on October 4, 1991. Smith mentioned a note allegedly left by Betty reading,

“Going away for a few days. Don’t forget to feed the fish.”

The investigators grew suspicious of John Smith as Betty had been bedridden due to a hip injury.

According to, Smith's fate was sealed when Michael Smith made his confession to the detectives once Fran's family members told the police about the mystery surrounding Smith's first wife. In 1996, Smith was traced following a traffic violation. He had relocated to California and had married Diane Beasley.

Smith was arrested in October 2000 in Escondido, California, after his divorce from Diane Beasley.

Where is John Smith now?

The FBI accelerated its investigation and brought Diane Beasley's family and Michael Smith in for interrogation. Meanwhile, Beasley moved to her family home with her daughter Summer, per the Daily Mail UK. Enraged by separation, Smith broke into Beasley's home when the FBI intercepted and arrested him.

Smith was convicted for the murder of Janice Hartman in July 2001 and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, per court documents. In November 2019, he was indicted for the murder of Betty Fran Gladden-Smith, who was never found. However, Smith admitted to disposing of Fran's body shortly after her disappearance.

John Smith was incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institute till 2019, following which he was moved to the Mercer County Jail and then back to Ohio. In 2023, the 1991 murder case of Betty Fran Gladden-Smith was dropped as the prosecutors were unable to provide evidence against reasonable doubt in addition to an expired statute of limitations.

Catch the latest Dateline episode on NBC on April 26, 2024.

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