Sheriff: Md. man charged with murder, bomb-making had no ties to white supremacy

While investigators say a specific target is unknown, it is believed that a Thurmont, Maryland, teenager may have been planning to take more lives before he was arrested and charged in the death of another teenager on Monday.

Joshua David Eckenrode, 19, was arrested after an investigation into the death of Curtis Mason Smith, 19, led them to Eckenrode.

“This was a senseless, needless tragedy,” said Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, who spoke Thursday about the arrest.

According to court documents, Smith’s family last saw him alive on Friday night when he told them he planned to get a COVID-19 test and then go with friends to buy some vehicle parts.

After he didn’t come home, family, friends and law enforcement handed out fliers and searched for Smith throughout the weekend.

On Sunday, Smith’s body was found at an abandoned property off Runnnymeade Drive in Frederick County in the back of his own Honda Accord.

According to Zachary Smith, the father of Curtis Mason Smith, somebody searching for a lost dog found the car, which they recognized from one of the fliers.

Inside Eckenrode’s apartment, they found bomb-making materials, along with a large supply of weapons and ammunition. Jenkins said notes found inside the apartment led them to believe Eckenrode was planning to use those materials in other crimes.

“The notes we found alluded to that … something was going to happen, and he probably wouldn’t survive,” Jenkins said.

The sheriff said they don’t know of any specific target or targets.

“I think Mason was a hero, and his death stopped something in this community that would have been very tragic,” Zachary Smith said.

At the apartment, where it is believed the slaying took place, Jenkins said they found evidence that Eckenrode was trying to clean up the crime scene.

“There were attempts to cover it up — that he did make attempts to hose down the driveway where the shooting occurred,” he said.

Jenkins didn’t say whether investigators believed Smith was aware of what Eckenrode may have been planning, but did affirm Smith’s father’s claim that his son was not involved with Eckenrode’s activities.

Jenkins also said they believe Eckenrode acted alone.

“To our knowledge there was no one else involved in this murder, no conspiracy, no other direct involvement in any plan that we’re aware of,” Jenkins said.

Eckenrode told investigators he had talked to Smith on Friday about possibly buying his car. Detectives found social media correspondence between the two, in which they say Eckenrode went by the Snapchat handle “thewhite_josh.”

Jenkins was questioned about the handle, and whether Eckenrode may have had links to any white supremacy organizations.

“There is no information whatsoever that would tie him to any white supremacist group or activity,” Jenkins said.

Before his arrest on Monday, law enforcement only had a small number of minor interactions with Eckenrode.

“Nothing that would throw up what you would call a red flag, but in today’s world, what are red flags?” Jenkins said.

There has been no word as to a possible motive, but investigators said there was a lot of evidence linking Eckenrode to the crime, including some of the clothing Smith had been wearing. The clothing, according to charging documents, was found in trash bags at Eckenrode’s mother’s home, covered in blood.

Eckenrode has been charged with murder and using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime, as well as six felony counts of manufacturing possession or distribution of a destructive device; three felony charges of possessing explosives without a license; and eight related misdemeanors.

The sheriff’s office said the community plans to remember Smith during a candlelight vigil that will be held at Clover Hill Park on April 11 at 7 p.m.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report. 

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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