“I tried really hard to figure out the right words to say today. I’m so, so sorry for what I’ve done. That’s it. That’s all I can say.”
These were the only audible words that Edwin Hall spoke in court since his arrest and guilty plea for the kidnapping, murder and rape of Kelsey Smith last year in Overland Park, Kansas. Is he really sorry for what he did? Or is he sorry for being caught? Who knows.
Kelsey's family had plenty to say to Hall and his defense team.
One by one, family members rose up and spoke about the life that was snuffed out in an horrific act of madness after lead defense attorney Paul Cramm spoke of Hall's childhood.
The Kansas City Star
The emotional 90-minute hearing opened with defense attorney Paul Cramm revealing that Hall had been sexually abused repeatedly by family members when he was under the age of 6.
Cramm showed a picture of Hall as a young boy and a drawing that Hall had made after he was removed from his family’s home and placed in state custody.
The drawing showed two stick figures. The small figure, which represented Hall, was on his hands and knees. The bigger stick figure was an uncle, Cramm said.
“In no way do I use this as an excuse for what happened,” Cramm said. “It is not an excuse, judge, but it’s an explanation.”
Missey Smith, rightly so, would have none of that. In a heroic statement, she said that she, too, suffered abuse as a child, but “he had the choice to stop. He did not,” she said.
Hall could have stopped from the moment that Kelsey caught his attention in the Target store to the final moments when he snuffed out her life. But he didn't.
Kelsey's eldest sister, Stevie Hockersmith, delivered words filled with righteous anger at Hall, and at Hall's wife Althea for standing by her husband despite his horrendous acts. She never expressed any sympathy to the Smith family.
Kelsey's other other sister, Lindsey Smith Evans, said, "Your selfish act ended a brilliant life, and you will have to live with that. I'm comforted by memories of her, but you will be haunted by the emptiness of your own soul."
The tactics of Hall's defense attorney during the months leading up to Hall's plea agreement were addressed by Greg Smith, Kelsey's father. He said that the antics used by Cramm "made a mockery of the system."
"I stand here today a heartbroken father, knowing that Kelsey's gone," he said emotionally. "The very act of living triggers memories of her."
The family's statements were reinforced via a moving video of Kelsey's life which included a clip of her receiving her high school diploma (two weeks before her murder) and her voice-mail message from her phone: “Hi guys, can’t come to the phone right now. Leave me a message. ’Bye.”
This case first caught my attention from the beginning. I followed the story from the frantic search for Kelsey, to the playing of the Target video of her abduction, her body's discovery and all though the pre-trial hearings.
As a father, I could easily see this horror happen to my own daughter, who is two years older than Kelsey and who also aspires to be a veterinarian. My daughter once worked at a Target store. Many others around the country could also easily see themselves in the Smith's shoes. This is something that no parent or family should have to go through.
Kelsey Smith had a bright future ahead of her. She had a lot of potential and was a natural leader. All that was taken away by one of the most inept killers to have walked on the face of this planet.
The idiot allowed himself to be videoed at the Target store and he left so much DNA and other forensic evidence in Kelsey's car and on his clothes that even Mr. Magoo could've prosecuted him to a conviction!
Edwin Hall will rot in prison until his last breath. It is comforting to know that he will no longer be free to victimize anyone else. He'll have plenty of time to think about what he did.
It never ceases to amaze me at how the Smith Family was able to cope with this tragedy and to start a foundation in Kelsey's honor (Kelsey's Army
) at the same time. That is why I nominated them for recognition on NBC's Making A Difference
on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. May others have agreed with me and seconded the nomination. (Did you hear that, Brian?)
Kelsey Smith's memory will live on through the Kelsey Smith Foundation. She will also not be forgotten by those of us who closely followed this case. I was laid off last November from my insurance claims position (a direct result of the mortgage crisis) and there are very slim pickings for claims jobs in California. Luckily, I maintained my security permits (firearms, etc.) in case I needed them. Turns out I did as I am now working as a field supervisor. I proudly attached my Kelsey's Army wristband on my gun holster.
Edwin Hall's "sorry" just doesn't cut it.