Thread: Kay Hall
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Old 11-18-2009, 04:59 PM   #24
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This is one of the 'witnesses' they used in court.

Richmond Times-Dispatch - Thursday, July 19, 1990

The woman who sat at the witness stand with her pale hair carefully pulled back from her porcelain-colored face was a model of propriety.

But what Carole D. Vandergrift said shattered the decorum of the Northumberland County courtroom.

Her testimony turned out to be a key weapon in the prosecution's case against Lancaster County resident Robert James Hall Jr.

Hall, 50, is accused of murdering his wife, Kay E. Hall, on a lonely dead-end road almost three years ago. Mrs. Hall, 45, was found crushed beneath the wheels of the family's pickup truck.

"Did you know Kay Hall very well?" Commonwealth's Attorney William J. LoPorto asked as he led his witness through her testimony.

The two women held executive positions in Washington and that's where they met. ' ' She was one of my dearest friends, if not my dearest friend," Mrs. Vandergrift replied.

In fact, her former husband and Mr. Hall hit it off well, too, she said. Each found in the other instant rapport.

"Well, where is your husband now?" LoPorto continued.

"He's in prison," she said as she turned loose the prosecution's carefully planted bomb.

"On July 31, 1987, my husband broke into my home and shot me in the head."

The comment elicited an instant objection from Hall's lawyer, John Martin. He jumped to his feet and turned angrily to LoPorto. ' ' You're trying to show that Bob Hall would do the same thing just because he had a beer with your husband?" he asked incredulously. ' ' It's prejudicial."

Circuit Judge Joseph E. Spruill wasn't sympathetic. He allowed LoPorto to continue the questioning.

What followed was Mrs. Vandergrift's description of how her husband shot her in the middle of the night and then sped away to his home in Saratoga, N.Y.

"As soon as he got home he made several phone calls in a row. He tried to use these phone calls as an alibi." It was an attempt, the woman said, to establish that he couldn't have been at her Northern Virginia home at the time she was shot.

The case was likened to what LoPorto contends Hall did on the night ofSept. 30, 1987, when his wife was found lying dead beneath her truck at about 10 p.m.

Telephone records show that Hall used his home phone at 9:47 p.m. to dial his daughter in Maryland and talk for five minutes.

Martin and LoPorto launched into an argument over the relevance of Mrs. Vandergrift's testimony before the judge calmed them down.

LoPorto said that the Vandergrift case "shows a common scheme. There are the same parallel facts. I think it's very significant."

Other witnesses LoPorto called to the stand testified they had been told by Mrs. Hall that she was being beaten by her husband.

Susan S. Taylor of the Virgin Islands, who once lived across the street from the Halls at their home on Merry Point, gave this description of Mrs. Hall from the summer of 1986:

"She'd been severely beaten up," she testified. ' ' This particular beating was more severe than any other." She had bruises on her face that "no amount of makeup and sunglasses would hide."

Ms. Taylor said she advised Mrs. Hall to read the book, "The Woman Hater," which told how some men who abuse their wives grow more aggressive.

Martin could take no more. He got Spruill to halt the testimony. The judge asked the jury to step out.

"We've gone as far afield as I've ever seen," Martin told the judge as he criticized LoPorto's tactics. ' ' He's brought in a woman whose husband shot her and a book called "The Woman Hater. It is clear this was brought in to inflame the jury.

"We would move at this time for a mistrial," Martin added.

Spruill paused for a minute and announced a recess. ' ' I've got to think about this," he said.

When he returned, he asked LoPorto to continue questioning Ms. Taylor without the jury present.

She said she remembered her last meeting with Mrs. Hall before she died.It was sometime after Labor Day, she recalled. ' ' Kay was very upset, she stated that Bob had been reading a mystery book and she was scared for her life. She said he told her he would create the perfect murder."

Spruill ruled that he would allow Ms. Taylor to make the same testimony with the jury present and would not declare a mistrial.

"It seems to me," he said, "that this may have some significance. It seems to me its up to the jury to determine its significance."

Another prosecution witness, state police special investigator David M. Riley, read the transcript of a Dec. 21, 1988, conversation he'd had with Hall at state police headquarters in Richmond which he secretly recorded.

In it, Hall said he was eager for Riley to settle the investigation and entered into a rambling "hypothetical" discussion with the investigator. In it, the conditions under which he would sign a statement saying he was
responsible for the accidental killing of Mrs. Hall were discussed.

Riley said he was convinced that Hall was all but admitting his own guilt. But Martin argued that his client "was looking at this conversation from a different reference point."

One of the stipulations was that the agreement make no mention of Robert Hall of Merry Point. Hall suggested using former addresses in Trappe or Silver Spring, Md., or Chevy Chase.

Another clause insisted that the cause of death on Mrs. Hall's death certificate be changed to accidential.

Hall wanted to add a rather bizarre request, Riley added. "He whispered in my ear, I want to burn my house down and let the insurance company pay for it.

"I can do it," he said after Riley asked for an explanation, "in such a way as to make it look like an accident, just like we're doing here."

Yesterday wound up LoPorto's three-day prosecution of Hall.

Martin begins Hall's defense today. He appeared confident as he left the courtroom that the tone of the case would change once he brought out hiswitnesses to present his case.

"Now, it's our turn," he said. ' ' So far all we've been able to do is swim upstream."
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