8:38 PM
Paula Hall (mug shot MODOC)

The Missouri Court of Appeals has upheld a Judge's ruling overturning the murder conviction a Sparta woman.

Springfield attorney Rita Sanders has been fighting the 2009 conviction of Paula Hall and vows to take the case to the Missouri Supreme Court if necessary.

In 2009 a jury in Taney County convicted Hall, 45, for the 2003 murder of 68 year-old Freda Heyn.  Mrs. Heyn was last seen at the post office in Oldfield in November of 2003.  Her skull was found in 2004 by hikers in the Mark Twain National Forest near Chadwick.  The rest of her remains, which authorities believe were fed to hogs, have never been found.

Hall, who was charged in Christian County but tried in Taney County on a change of venue, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime. 

Freda Heyn (family photo)

A former boyfriend of Hall's, David Epperson, who at one time was facing murder charges connected to Heyn's death, testified that he witnessed Hall swing a golf club, "roundhouse style," at Heyn - who fell face first to the ground. 

David Epperson (mug shot CCSO)

Epperson told jurors that Paula's former brother-in-law, 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.

Epperson, was given a plea deal of tampering with evidence in exchange for his testimony.  He received five years probation for his cooperation.

But it wasn't just Epperson's testimony that helped convict Hall, according to Sanders.

In 2011, Sanders filed an appeal with Judge John Moody saying prosecutors failed to provide her with all of their discovery against her client and that a jailhouse snitch lied to get a better deal in the cases that were pending against her.  At the time Moody overturned the verdict, he said the evidence prosecutor's presented against Paula Hall was "razor thin."

Sanders says Hall allowed Lisa Bonham to read the discovery in her case and Bonham "molded"  her testimony around what she read and told juror she overheard Hall tell fellow inmates she helped kill the elderly woman.

Another reason Sanders cited lies with Tommy Pettit, who she believes is responsible for Heyn's murder.  "I was given one CD of an interview with Pettit 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."
"In some evidence we've found he [Pettit] 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 Pettit, Debbie Presley, who also dated David Epperson, was present when Heyn was murdered.  "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, who was looking at 40 years in federal prison if convicted of the drug charges she was being held on, hanging in her Christian County jail cell that same night.

"Tommy’s wife Danielle gave a written statement saying her husband did it, but I don’t think that statement ever left her hand,” Sanders says “I’m not sure the prosecutor's office even knew about this one." 

Sanders says Danielle Petit claims in her statement, "Tommy initially told her it was him, David Epperson and another family member of Pettit's, who has refused to speak with law enforcers."
Billy Wayne Hall (mug shot CCSO)

The murder charges connected to Heyn's death filed against Billy Wayne Hall, who Sanders also represented, were dismissed without prejudice when she filed a motion for a speedy trial in June of 2011. 

"They had 180 days to re-file charges against Billy and they didn't because they had absolutely no evidence against him," said Sanders. 
About 20 days after Moody overturned Paula Hall's conviction he vacated his judgment.
Christian County Prosecuting Attorney, Amy J. Fite presented the court with the testimony of Christian County Circuit Clerk Barbara Stillings, Christian County Sheriff's Captain Bryan Gillman with the Christian County Jail and Greg Fahrlander and Cindy Bates with Probation and Parole.

The state also said that Sanders did not file for Hall's appeal in a timely matter.  "They said we didn't file within the 90 days allowed by the state.  The clerk's office held on to the paperwork for seven days following the ruling and didn't date stamp it.  We proved that we filed it within the time allowed."

The evidence Fite presented indicated that 
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.   "She [Bonham] was on a 120 day hold on a probation violation for Christian County and had an ongoing case that was not disclosed," said Sanders. 

Sanders wants to know why Pettit hasn't been charged with Heyn's murder.  "If it was my mother I would be screaming for justice." 
The decision with what happens next lies with the state.  They can challenge the ruling to the Missouri Supreme Court, re-file charges against Hall...or dismiss them.  "If they decide to retry this case, I will destroy Bonham on the stand," said Sanders.

Sanders, who is representing Paula Hall pro bono (free) said she had lost faith in the jury system on the day of Hall's sentencing, "If not for her dating David Epperson, we might not be standing here."

 Hall has obtained her GED while in prison, according to Sanders.  "I know Paula's innocent and I will never stop fighting for her."