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'Mason was a hero' | Father of murdered 19-year-old says his son's death stopped further tragedy

Police found evidence that a suspect in the death of 19-year-old Curtis Mason Smith may have been planning a mass casualty event.

THURMONT, Md. — Speaking from the spot where his 19-year-old son was found dead, Zachary Smith had a dual ask of his community: to remember his son as a hero, and to clean up the abandoned property where his body was dumped. 

The body of 19-year-old Curtis Mason Smith -- who went by Mason -- was found in a car Sunday afternoon after he had been reported missing several days earlier. His 2012 Honda Accord was discovered by neighbors at the end of a long driveway near an abandoned barn off Runnymeade Drive in Frederick, Maryland. According to county officials, it's a property known to a lot of teenagers in the area. 

In the process of arresting another 19-year-old, Joshua David Eckenrode, in connection to Mason's death, Frederick County law enforcement officials say they may have foiled a planned "mass shooting or mass casualty event."  While executing search warrants on Eckenrode's home, police recovered nine guns, including an AR-15 and a shotgun, two live explosive devices, a tactical vest and a note to family apologizing for "having to go out this way."

“My son was a hero and his death stopped something that would have been very tragic for this community," Zachary Smith said. “I hope that the community, the county, the owners of this property clean it up so that no other bad things can happen here. It has been known that this is a place where things ... it shouldn’t be here anymore.”

RELATED: Police: Murder suspect was also possibly planning a 'mass casualty event'

Credit: WUSA9
Zachary Smith speaks for the first time since the death of his 19-year-old son, Curtis Mason Smith, who is believed to have been murdered.

Eckenrode was initially arrested Tuesday on charges of possession of explosive material and weapons, but on Wednesday he was charged with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in Mason's death. Mason and Eckenrode were both graduates of Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, but Zachary Smith said the family had no knowledge of the two being anything more than acquaintances. 

"Mason always stood up for what was right," Zachary Smith said. "At the end of the day he lost his life for either saying no or you shouldn’t do this, but my son wasn’t a part of this. He stopped this. He saved this community from something crazy happening.”

Frederick County Sherriff Chuck Jenkins reiterated that his department had no reason to believe that Mason had anything to do with the plot, nor that Eckenrode had any partners in his alleged plans. 

“There's no indicator that he was working with anyone else, and one else was involved in this murder as far as we know," Jenkins said. "This was a senseless needless tragedy. There’s no reason on earth why one 19-year-old should take the life of another.”

During a media briefing Thursday, Jenkins was asked if Eckenrode had confessed to murder. 

"Mr. Eckenrode invoked his right to counsel, so we had to stop questioning," Jenkins said.

RELATED: 19-year-old charged with murder of missing Frederick teen, sheriff's office says

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