A Thurmont man charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 19-year-old Frederick man allegedly stored firearms and explosives in his home, something police believe could indicate he intended to commit a mass shooting.
Joshua David Eckenrode, also 19, has been charged in the death of Curtis Mason Smith, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday morning. Eckenrode faces an additional charge of firearm use in a violent crime. The sheriff's office immediately classified the death as suspicious. Smith was reported missing by family March 19.
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office initially held Eckenrode on the charges of possession of destructive devices, possession of a firearm and possession of explosives without a license. He was arrested in the early hours of March 23 after police served a search and seizure warrant at his Thurmont residence the night of March 22, charging documents show.
Police found eight firearms — including an AR-15 — bomb-making materials and three improvised explosive devices in his apartment in the 6700 block of Mountaindale Road, according to charging documents. Police reportedly found a note addressed to Eckenrode’s family, apologizing for “having to go out this way.” There was also a written “plan of action” found, charging documents allege.
This evidence, police wrote in charging documents, “was consistent with Eckenrode possibly intending on committing a mass shooting and/or mass casualty event.” Police believe he killed Smith at a Bethel Road, Frederick residence associated with Eckenrode, put the body in Smith’s car and drove it to an abandoned property on Runnymeade Drive.
After conducting interviews with witnesses, police learned Smith may have planned to travel to West Virginia to meet Eckenrode to buy, sell or trade a firearm when he went missing. The two reportedly went to school together.
A motive for the killing was not immediately clear, but a witness reportedly told police Eckenrode said a deal went bad.
On March 21, people chasing a loose dog found Smith’s vehicle on an abandoned property in the 8100 block of Runnymeade Drive, charging documents state. Police found Smith dead inside the vehicle with a gunshot wound to the head and abrasions on his back. There was reportedly a large amount of blood and three live 9mm caliber bullets inside the vehicle. The cause of death was a gunshot wound, but it was not clear how many times Smith was shot.
The sheriff’s office and Frederick Police Department responded and found the vehicle in the driveway on the north side of the property that leads up to the abandoned home.
Police found a Thurmont apartment associated with Eckenrode and went there on March 22. During a conversation with police, Eckenrode reportedly said he’d been talking to Smith about buying a vehicle. He allegedly told police he saw Smith in person at the Bethel Road residence on March 19 around 9 or 10 a.m. Smith reportedly came to show Eckenrode a vehicle.
At the Frederick residence on Tuesday, police allegedly found blood on the driveway and on a trail leading to a grassy area. Smith’s blood-soaked clothing was found in a trashcan at the residence, charging documents state. A shotgun, tactical gun holsters, bits of Styrofoam, flares and fireworks were allegedly found in Eckenrode’s bedroom at the Frederick home. Several spent shell casings were allegedly found in the yard.
Deputies transported Eckenrode to the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, where he is being held without bail. A bail review scheduled for Wednesday was canceled. He did not have an attorney listed in online court records Wednesday afternoon. A preliminary hearing is planned for April 13.
“Our detectives and deputies, along with officers from the Frederick Police Department, have been working around the clock to solve this murder,” Lt. Andy Crone, FCSO criminal investigations commander, said in a prepared statement. “These professionals worked every lead, tip, and call they received and through their investigative efforts this person was quickly identified and detained.”
The Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives helped render the explosive devices safe, the sheriff's office said.
The investigation is still ongoing. Police ask that anyone having information related to this case contact the FCSO tip line at 301-600-4131 and reference case No. 21-025637.
A GoFundMe campaign to support funeral expenses for the Smith family had raised more than $14,500 in less than 24 hours. The page can be found by going to gofundme.com and searching “Curtis 'Mason' Smith Funeral Expenses Support.”
Editor's note: Due to a discrepancy in charging documents, a previous version of this article mistakenly identified the day the body was found.