Suspect Charged 51 Years After Murder Of Maryland Cop

Suspect Charged 51 Years After Murder Of Maryland Cop

On October 23, 1971, Montgomery County Special Deputy Sheriff James Tappen Hall was working as a part-time security guard at Manor Country Club near Rockville, Maryland.

On this particular night, Hall interrupted a burglary in progress at a nearby home and tried to stop the suspect from getting into a car and driving away. The suspect, however, shot Hall and disappeared into the night. Three days later, Hall died from his injuries.

“Daddy was a great man,” Hall’s daughter, 79-year-old Carolyn Philo, told The Washington Post. “When he put on his sheriff’s uniform, he shined.”

For 51 years, police wondered who had killed one of their own, yet were never able to solve the crime. Last year, two detectives decided to look into the probe once again with fresh eyes and discovered long-forgotten evidence that would finally solve the case.

The detectives found an old reel-to-reel tape inside a box of evidence, and after listening to the recording, police were able to follow the clues directly to Hall’s killer.

The original case files showed that police had spoken to a man named Larry David Smith early in the investigation, believing he may have known what happened to Hall but not thinking he was a suspect. But the detectives who started looking into the case last year found numerous references to Smith in the case files. The recording they found was of Smith’s interview with investigators in 1973.

In the recording, Smith discussed details of Hall’s shooting that were never shared with the public, including the number of times Hall was shot. Smith also grew up near the country club and allegedly had a history of burglary, assault, and shoplifting, the Post reported. Smith’s real name was Larry David Becker, but he changed his last name to Smith at some point after Hall was shot.

“Investigators believe that this was done purposefully to avoid any further investigation into his involvement in this offense,” detectives wrote in court papers reviewed by the Post.

Investigators were able to track Smith to a high-rise apartment building in Little Falls, New York. Detectives Katie Leggett and Lisa Killen traveled to interview Smith, during which he “admitted to accidentally shooting Sheriff [Deputy] Hall after Hall confronted him as he was taking property from the burglary on Beverly Road back to an awaiting getaway vehicle,” the detectives wrote in court documents.

Detectives didn’t buy Smith’s claims of accidentally shooting Hall, so they charged him with first-degree murder, which comes with a possible life sentence. Smith was 19 years old at the time of Hall’s shooting but is now 70.

“He appears to have been living a quiet life,” Sgt. Chris Homrock, who leads the Montgomery County Police Department’s cold-case unit, told the Post.

At a press conference following Smith’s arrest, Hall’s daughter Carolyn said she “just knew somebody was out there,” according to WTOP.

“I don’t want anybody to forget if you are missing a loved one … please don’t give up; please keep after the police department, they’re here to help you. They really do — we found that out,” she said.