Murder of Kelsey Smith
|Kelsey Ann Smith|
|Born||May 3, 1989|
|Died||June 2, 2007(aged 18)|
|Johnson County Chapel and Memorial Gardens
|Residence||Overland Park, Kansas|
|Education||Shawnee Mission West|
Kelsey Ann Smith (May 3, 1989 – June 2, 2007) was an Overland Park, Kansas teenager who disappeared on June 2, 2007 and was murdered that evening. The story was featured in the international media, including on America's Most Wanted, before her body was found near a lake in Missouri on June 6, 2007.
Smith was last seen at 7:09 p.m. CST on June 2, 2007 in the parking lot at a Target store at 97th and Quivira, behind the Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kansas. Police, other authorities and the national media launched an extensive publicity campaign and search for Smith.
Surveillance video from Target showed Smith purchasing a present for her boyfriend to celebrate six months together. She then left the store before she disappeared. Approximately two hours later, her car was found abandoned outside of Macy's in Oak Park Mall's parking lot across the street. Her purse and wallet were left in the car.
Target stores use a large number of video cameras, and these can often be enhanced internally through their Target Forensic Services division. There was strong evidence that Smith had been abducted; surveillance video from Target appeared to show someone forcing Smith into her car. Target video evidence identified a suspicious 1970s-era Chevrolet truck.
Police detectives reportedly found the body because of a cell phone ping that originated from the area on June 2, and a number of search areas were identified. Despite efforts by local law enforcement and eventually the FBI, it took Verizon Wireless four days to hand over the cell phone records to investigators. There is much controversy on why it took Verizon so long to cooperate with law enforcement. A Verizon technician pinpointed a cell phone tower and told investigators to search 1.1 miles north of the tower. Within 45 minutes, on June 6, 2007, at 1:30 p.m. local time, searchers discovered Smith's body in a wooded area near Longview Lake in southern Jackson County, Grandview, Missouri, 18 to 20 miles from where she had been abducted. Upon report of her death, www.findkelsey.com went offline, and was quickly remade into a dedication site. Through subsequent investigation, the cause of death was determined to be strangulation.
On the evening of June 6, police arrested 26-year-old Edwin Roy "Jack" Hall of Olathe, Kansas. Hall was charged on June 7, 2007 with premeditated first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping. Hall had no adult criminal record, but had a juvenile record of assault. Hall, who had been adopted at age seven, had been returned to state custody at age 15 after threatening the family's daughter with a knife. Hall also assaulted another boy by striking him in the head with a baseball bat, which may account for the juvenile record of assault. Police do not believe Hall knew Smith. At the time of his arrest, Hall was married and the father of a four-year-old son.
On Wednesday, August 1, Hall was indicted by a Johnson County grand jury for murder, rape, and aggravated sodomy, making him eligible for the death penalty. Johnson County prosecutor Phill Kline had decided to seek the death penalty for Hall.
Hall was arraigned via video hookup on June 7, and bond was set at US$5 million. The next court date was the formal arraignment on June 14, and following that a preliminary hearing set for August 15. Former Kansas Attorney General and then appointed Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline was in charge of the case. Because the body had been found in a different state (Missouri), some argued for federal jurisdiction, but because Hall was arrested and in custody in Johnson County, that jurisdiction had the legal authority to pursue the case. Hall is currently incarcerated in the Hutchinson, Kansas, Correctional Facility.
On July 23, 2008, at 1:30 p.m., Hall pleaded guilty to all four charges brought against him as part of a plea agreement. Hall's plea came during what was supposed to be a change-of-venue hearing. The courtroom was jammed with Smith's parents and other family members, friends and reporters. The hearing was carried live on all four of Kansas City's network affiliates.
The hearing came a day after a judge ruled that prosecutors could still seek the death penalty for Hall after a judge denied a defense motion seeking dismissal of the case on a technicality.
On September 16, 2008, Johnson County District Judge Peter V. Ruddick sentenced Hall to life in prison without parole for the kidnapping, rape, and murder. In court, Hall apologized to Smith's family for his actions.
National media attention
Beyond local Kansas City news affiliate coverage, the case has received prominent national media attention, including coverage by national news services Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, Nancy Grace, and the Today Show.
- America's Most Wanted
- "Reward Offered in Search for Missing Kansas Teenager". Foxnews.com. 2007-06-04. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
- "Body Found Believed to be Missing Kansas Girl". ABCnews.com. 2007-06-06. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- "Police Look for Killer After Body of Missing Kansas Teen is Found". Foxnews.com. 2007-06-06. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- "Surveillance Video Shows Missing Kansas Teen Being Forced Into Car". Foxnews.com. 2007-06-06. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- Donley, Timothy (2007-06-06). "Why Did It Take So Long to Find Kelsey Smith?". MyFoxKC.com. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- "Murdered Teen's Parents Want Faster Help from Cell Providers". Associated Press. 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-28.
- Donley, Timothy (2007-06-06). "Kelsey Smith's body found, search for suspect not over". NBCactionnews.com. Retrieved 2007-06-06.
- "Suspect Arrested for Kidnapping and Murdering Kansas Teen Kelsey Smith". Foxnews.com. 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- Kansas Inmate Locator http://www.doc.ks.gov/kasper/index_html Retrieved 2011-03-13
- "Man Pleads Guilty in Kan. Teen's Death". KCTV5 news. 2008-07-23. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
- "Police arrest suspect in missing teen case". CNN.com. 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2007-06-07.
- "Man arrested in abduction, death of teen". MSNBC.com. 2007-06-07. Retrieved 2007-06-07.