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Community in mourning after retired Hillsboro firefighter murdered

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HILLSBORO, Mo. – Residents of a Hillsboro neighborhood were stunned after a retired firefighter was killed in his home early Thursday morning.

Eric Smoot was with the Hillsboro Fire Protection District for 33 years. He retired in 2014 as a captain.

Jefferson County authorities said Smoot was beaten to death by his 27-year-old son, Nicholas. Eric Smoot was 53.

“I have no words. No words at all,” said Hillsboro Fire Chief Brian Gaudet.

Gaudet said he cannot believe that his close friend and former fellow member of the Hillsboro Fire Protection District is gone.

The attack happened inside a home in the 1000 block of Tracy Lane where Eric and Nicholas lived, with Nicholas’ girlfriend.

“Eric was willing to help anybody. Eric was willing to teach anybody,” Gaudet said. “The guy would literally give you the shirt off his back if anybody needed anything.”

Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies were called to the home about 2:15 a.m. on Thursday. Investigators said Nicholas Smoot was attacking his 26-year-old girlfriend when Eric intervened. Nicholas then turned on his father, striking him several times with a golf club.

When deputies arrived, we’re told they saw Nicholas Smoot kneeling over his father with a bottle raised above his head as if he was about to hit him.

Nicholas was arrested and Eric was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“You hear of a son allegedly beating his father essentially to death. I mean, that tears your guts out a little bit,” said Grant Bissell, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department.

Firefighters who responded to the call knew Eric. Some jumped into the ambulance to try and help treat him.

Residents in the normally quiet neighborhood remain shaken by what happened.

“You’re still in shock. You don’t believe it,” said Robin Schuh.

Thomas Bequette, who also lives in the area, added: “You just wouldn’t expect it and whenever I found out about it, it just took me by shock and it’s upsetting.”

Chief Gaudet said Eric would be remembered “as a hero to the community.”

Nicholas Smoot’s girlfriend did have some injuries but refused medical treatment.

Nicholas Smoot was charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action, and second-degree domestic assault. He’s being held in the Jefferson County Jail without bond.

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