The Hall-Mills Murders
It was a brisk Saturday morning that September 16, in 1922. Fifteen year-old Pearl Bahmer had a date with Raymond Schneider, 23. Around ten oclock, they decided to go for a walk, taking Easton Avenue toward a countryside area of New Brunswick, New Jersey. They turned onto De Russeys Lane, an undeveloped road that would take them near an abandoned farm, in the hope of getting some privacy.
Taking an isolated driveway to the left, they went over a low embankment. The grass was tall there and they walked a short ways, talking softly together. There had been trouble between them the night before, but they seem to have gotten past it, if their story is to be believed.
Then Pearl noticed something odd. Near a small crab apple tree she saw something lying at the edge of the road. She stopped to get a better look, suddenly comprehending the scene before her. Getting Rays attention, she pointed. "There are two people lying there."
"Lets get out of here!" Ray insisted.
They ran to the nearby home of Edward Stryker, where the police were contacted.
Lieutenant Dwyer took the call and ordered Patrolman Edward Garrigan to investigate. Officer James Curran accompanied him. They soon reached the scene and were horrified to discover the bodies lying dead on their backs. Both were shot in the headthe man once and the woman three times. Her wounds were under the right eye, over the right temple, and over the right ear, with an exit wound in the back of her skull. He had been shot over the right ear, with an exit wound in the back of his neck, as if someone had shot him from above.
The feet of both were pointing toward the crab apple tree, and the womans head rested on the mans right arm, as if posed that way for some macabre reason. The woman wore a blue dress with red polka dots, black silk stockings and brown oxfords, with her blue velvet hat dumped beside her body. Her left hand rested on the mans right knee, and a brown silk scarf, soaked in blood, was wound around her throat. The mans face was covered by a Panama hat, but they could see he wore glasses. Just under the hats rim, it was clear that the glasses were spotted. His right hand was extended partly under the dead womans shoulder and neck, and their clothes were perfectly in order. Scattered pieces of torn paper, which turned out to be letters and cards, lay between them. The womans hat lay off to her right. The strangest thing was a small card leaning against the heel of the mans left shoe, obviously placed there by whomever had killed these two. It was speckled with something, either fly droppings or blood. The grass around them was trampled.
Curran went to call it in while Garrigan made a closer inspection of the scene. He saw that the womans throat was a mass of maggots from ear to ear, but he did not touch her. He found a mans wallet lying open on the ground and inside was a drivers license belonging to Edward Wheeler Hall, 41, of 23 Nichols Avenue, in New Brunswick.
Very shortly, Albert J. Cardinal of the New Brunswick Daily Home News arrived. He asked if he could pick up the card at the foot of the male corpse andshockinglyGarrigan granted permission (the first of a multitude of errors made in handling the evidence). It was the business card of the Reverend Edward W. Hall, the pastor of the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in New Brunswick.
Curran stopped a motorist and asked if he knew this minister. The driver, Dr. E. Leon Loblein, said that he did, and he returned with Curran to take a look. He affirmed that the dead man was Reverend Hall.
By this time, spectators had arrived and Garrigan could not control the scene. The crab apple tree was soon stripped of much of its bark for souvenirs, the underbrush was trampled, and even the card had passed from hand to hand.
A .32 caliber cartridge case was discovered near the bodies, as well as a two-foot piece of iron pipe.
The torn papers turned out to be love letters that began to tell a sordid tale of secrecy and adultery, driven by an idealistic romance.
Around two oclock, some three and a half hours after discovery, the Somerville undertaker arrived (since the bodies were just over the county line in Somerset, rather than Middlesex, where the reverend resided). He examined the victims and found in Halls pockets sixty-one cents in change and two handkerchiefs. Then he took the bodies to his hearse. The estimated time of death was some thirty-six hours earlier, which meant that no one had noticed them in a day and a half. That was considered odd, since a lovers lane should have had a lot of activity on a Friday night. There was some suggestion that people in fact had found them, failed to report the discovery, and corrupted the crime scene, perhaps even stealing money and other articles.
At the morgue, as the undertaker removed the dead mans coat, a bullet fell to the floor. He also noticed a discoloration on the mans right hand.
The woman, not yet identified, was shot between the eyes, and her throat had been cut from ear to ear. There was a small wound on her upper lip and her arm had been bruised.
That evening, an undertaker from New Brunswick arrived to pick up the Reverend Hall. The woman was left behind.