Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Abduction & Murder of Kelsey Smith

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The evening of June 2nd, 2007 began as a typical night for 17-year-old Kelsey Smith. The teen went to a local Target store in Overland Park, Kansas shortly before 7:00 PM that evening to buy an anniversary gift for her boyfriend. Before leaving the store, Kelsey briefly spoke with her mother on the phone. Then, Kelsey was seen in the store’s parking lot around 7:07pm. She never returned home and was reported missing by her family later that evening.

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Kelsey at the Target store in Overland Park. (source: CBS News)

Around four hours after Kelsey was last seen leaving Target, her car was found abandoned in a Macy’s parking lot across the street. Many of her personal items - including her wallet, purse, and present she bought at Target - were left inside the car. Upon this discovery, investigators found it more and more likely that Kelsey had been abducted. 

Investigators then looked at Target’s surveillance cameras for potential evidence. In the footage, Kelsey is seen exiting the store and walking towards her car. At first glance, nothing seemed unusual - but after a second look, investigators noticed a “flash in the footage heading in the direction of Kelsey’s car.” The flash was reportedly consistent with someone running. After looking more thoroughly at the footage, it became clear that somebody had chased Kelsey and forced her inside her own car. 

More evidence from the surveillance footage.

After uncovering that frightening surveillance footage from the parking lot, authorities placed a large effort into finding both Kelsey and her abductor. Footage from inside the Target store was pulled to search for someone who might have followed Kelsey inside the store. It was at that point when investigators noticed that a young man was in almost every single aisle that Kelsey was in while she was shopping in the store. 

The man made no effort to speak to her, but it was clear that he was looking at her a significant amount. While at this point there was still no concrete evidence that this man had committed a crime, police began to look at this man as a potential suspect. Images from surveillance footage from the Target store were then released to the public in hopes of identifying this man.

The suspect at Target. (source: CBS News)

Finding Kelsey.

Meanwhile, the search for Kelsey continued as well. After days of reported pushback from Verizon Wireless, the cell phone company that Kelsey used, investigators were finally able to obtain her cell phone records. On June 6th, 2007, investigators learned that Kelsey's cell phone pinged off of a tower near Longview Lake in Grandview, Missouri. The area is located approximately 18-20 miles from where Kelsey was abducted. 

A team was sent subsequently sent to search the surrounding area. Within 45 minutes, Kelsey's body was found in a wooded area near the lake.  An autopsy revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death with her own belt.

Finding the suspect.

Around the same time, a man who had seen the footage of the potential suspect at Target recognized this man as his own neighbor. The man called in the tip and identified the suspect as 26-year-old Edwin Roy Hall. On the evening of June 6th, Hall was taken into police custody. 

The following day, he was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder. Hall originally claimed he did not have anything to do with Kelsey's abduction or murder. However, forensic testing on Kelsey's car revealed that Hall's fingerprints were on the seatbelt.

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Edwin Roy Hall mugshot. (source: NBC News)

A guilty plea.

Over a year later, on July 23rd, 2008, Hall pleaded guilty to all charges. Prosecutors also revealed what they believed happened to Kelsey on the evening of June 2nd, 2007. It is believed that Hall spotted Kelsey driving into the Target parking lot after he had already been at the store. After noticing she was alone, Hall followed Kelsey for a bit to ensure that she was not meeting up with anybody. 

Then, as Kelsey was about to leave the store, Hall went to his truck and got his gun. Then, as Kelsey was approaching her car, Edwin abducted her at gunpoint. He drove her all the way to Longview Lake before sexually assaulting and murdering her. 

On September 16th, 2008, Hall was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 


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