Paula Hall (mug shot MODOC)

The 2009 murder conviction of a woman from Sparta has been overturned.

Judge John Moody sided with attorney Rita Sanders in an appeal she filed saying prosecutors failed to provide all of their discovery against her client, Paula Hall.

A Taney County jury convicted Hall, 43, in February of 2009 for the 2003 murder of sixty eight year-old Freda Heyn.  Hall was sentenced to twenty years.
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Freda Heyn (family photo)

Heyn was last seen alive at the post office in Oldfield on November 7, 2003. Prosecutors say Mrs. Heyn was abducted from her mobile home by Paula Hall's former brother-in-law, Billy Wayne Hall, and brought to the trailer of her boyfriend David Epperson because they believed Heyn was going to snitch on them for cooking methamphetamine.
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David Epperson (mug shot CCSO)
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Epperson testified at his former girlfriends trial that it was outside his house that Paula Hall swung a golf club, "roundhouse style," at Heyn - who fell face first to the ground.

Epperson told jurors that Billy Wayne Hall helped him move Heyn's body to the side of the trailer, then the trio went inside to get high on methamphetamine.

Heyn's skull was found by hikers south of Chadwick in the Mark Twain National Forest in the spring of 2004 -- the rest of her body, which authorities believe was cut up, has never been found.

Modern science is what led authorities to the Hall's and Epperson. Epperson's DNA was left in Heyn's trailer when he cut his hand on a piece of glass as he allegedly helped Paula and Billy Wayne Hall clean the 68 year-old woman's trailer.

Epperson had been charged with second-degree murder for Heyn's death, but was offered a deal by prosecutors in exchange for his testimony. He got five years probation on amended charges of tampering with evidence for his testimony.

One of the reason's for the case being overturned is Lisa Bonham.  Bonham, who served time in lockup with Hall, testified for the state in Paula Hall's trail. She told the jury she overheard Hall tell fellow inmates in the Christian County jail that she killed Heyn.  Sanders says Hall allowed Bonham to read discovery on her case while in lock-up and Bonahm molded her testimony around what she read, "To keep her butt (Bonham's) out of prison.  She was on a 120 day hold on a probation violation for Christian County and that was not disclosed. If they decide to retry this case, I will destroy Bonham on the stand."
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Another reason Moody cited lies with Tommy Petit.  Sanders says that she was not provided with all the discovery that authorities had regarding Petit.  "I was given one CD of an interview with Petit when there were actually three...and one of the reports we found in post conviction relief was dated February 9, 2009...5 days AFTER Paula was convicted.  Under the Brady rule, they have to disclose everything they have to defense counsel."
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Sanders says that Petit is the one responsible for Heyn's death.  "In some evidence we've found he describes what it felt and smelled like when he cut up Freda's body."  Sanders also says it's possible that a woman with ties to Petit, Debbie Presley, may have helped kill Heyn.  "She told Paula she needed to talk to her about Freda.  Paula told her she was advised by me not to talk to anyone about the case anymore.  Jail staff found Presley hanging in her jail cell that same night."

"Tommy’s wife gave a written statement saying her husband did it, but I don’t think that statement ever left her hand,” Sander said. “I’m not sure the prosecutor's office even knew about this one."
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Ron Cleek, prsoecutor in Christian County at the time of Hall's conviction, says, "Rita had all of the information on everything and everyone.  I held back nothing.  I know now that there was a Probation Violation on Lisa Bonham later in the year in 2009, but I gave Bonham nothing for her testimony.  And, everything I knew about the people who testified was given over to the Defense.  All of the information I learned about additional witnesses the day before trial was given to Rita.  Nothing was left out and nothing was kept from her.  I highly disagree with the Judge."
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Billy Wayne Hall (mug shot CCSO)
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Murder charges connected to Heyn's death filed against Billy Wayne Hall, who has been in and out of prison several times over the last few years, were dismissed without prejudice today (06-09-11) so investigators can continue to gather potential evidence.
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Christian County chief assistant prosecutor Donovan Dobbs says,  "We only get one shot.....we want to make sure it's a good one if we proceed to trial."
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Dobbs says his office "respectfully disagrees" with Judge Moody's ruling.  "The decision becomes final in 30 days then we have 10 days to file an appeal to the ruling."  The appeals court will decide if the conviction stands or if Hall gets a new trial. Or, tthe Christian County prosecutors office could decide not to appeal Judge Moody's decision and the overturned conviction will stand.
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Cleek believes an appeal is the right course of action.
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“I feel strongly that Paula committed this crime or I would not have tried the case,” he said. “It’s not my decision now to appeal and I don’t know what she (Fite) will do. I know to take it up on appeal would be the right thing. The Heyn family has suffered a great deal already. We did a good job with this case and I disagree with what the judge has done.”
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Sanders, who is representing Paula Hall pro bono, said at the time of Hall's sentencing, "I've lost faith in the jury system after this verdict....if not for her dating David Epperson, we might not be standing here."
Her faith in the justice system was restored with Moody's ruling,  "I know Paula's innocent and I will never stop fighting for her."
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UPDATE JUNE 30, 2011:

On June 29, 2011 Judge Moody vacated his judgment of June 9, 2011 that granted Paula Hall a new trial for her second-degree murder conviction for the 2003 death of Freda Heyn.
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Christian County Prosecuting Attorney, Amy J. Fite presented the court with the testimony of Christian County Circuit Clerk Barbara Stillings, Captain Bryan Gillman with the Christian County Jail, Greg Fahrlander of Probation and Parole, and Cindy Bates also of Probation and Parole.
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The evidence presented showed there was no pending probation violation at the time the Lisa Bonham testified. Additional evidence presented also showed that a violation report did not exist and the alleged discovery violation was likely the result of a simple scrivener’s error in the Court record.
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What all this means is that at this tim Paula Hall will Not receive a new trial.  Defense attorney Rita Sanders says, "There are still other motions to be heard by Judge Moody who indicated to Amy and I that this is probably not his final ruling in this matter."
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