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Freda Heyn


No one can say with certainty what day in November of 2003 Freda Heyn was murdered, but both prosecutors and Paula Hall's defense attorney agree the elderly woman was murdered at the house she grew up on T Highway near Oldfield.
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The last time anyone spoke to Freda was on Sunday November 2nd, 2003.  Heyn's daughter, Paula Waggoner, says she talked to her mother that evening after church but didn't have any contact with her after that. 
The last day anyone saw Mrs. Heyn was at the post office in Oldfield on November 3rd. 
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Fred Heyn, Freda's husband, became concerned when he got a continuous busy signal on the phone at the trailer Freda had moved to after a rough spot in their marriage.  "She hated to talk on the phone and usually left it off the hook," said Waggoner.   However, when Fred went to the trailer he found the back door ajar and a broken ceramic squirrel figurine.
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Waggoner, says she is responsible for the lag time in the missing person's report that was made for her mother on November 7th, 2003.  "I told dad that we should call some of her friends that lived out of town and she would probably show back up...because she always did."

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At the time, Waggoner says she wasn't concerned because it wasn't unusual for her mom to take off to visit friends or to go garage saleing "across the country" as she had in the past and not tell anyone.

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In the almost ten years since Heyn's murder three people have been charged with murder....but only one has stood trial and been convicted for the 68 year-old woman's death.  In 2009, a jury in Taney County convicted Paula Hall of second-degree murder, but that conviction was overturned by the Missouri Court of Appeals earlier this year.
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When investigators executed a search warrant on Freda's trailer on November 9, 2003, they recovered a lot of blood evidence and evidence that some sort of altercation had taken place inside the mobile home.  Six months after she went missing a couple out running fire trails on Garrison Creed Road in the Mark Twain National Forest discovered a skull and called authorities.  Investigators knew they would now be investigating a murder after medical examiners positively identified the skull as belonging to Mrs. Heyn.
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In 2006, prosecutors charged Paula Hall, her ex brother-in-law Billy Wayne Hall, and David Epperson with murder in the case after Epperson's DNA was matched to the crime scene thanks to a domestic assault of his girlfriend.
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Investigators took a blood sample from the clothing of the woman who had been assaulted and when they ran it through the crime lab they got a match to DNA that was recovered from inside Heyn's trailer.
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When Epperson was brought in for questioning, Christian County Detective Terry Owen asked him if he knew why he was there.  He told the 14 year veteran of the force that he thought he was there in regard to Freda's murder.  According to testimony presented at Paula Hall's trial this week Owen reportedly told him, "we're telling you straight up we don't think you had anything to do with it."
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Instead, Hall's attorney, Rita Sanders, hammered at the former detective that he brought up Paula Hall's name 22 times before informing Epperson that DNA placed him at the crime scene.  "You weren't worried about the person whose blood you had at the crime scene," Sanders asked Owen.
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When asked about his professional career, Owen didn't include his stint as a resource officer for the Nixa school system in his resume until Sanders brought it up during cross examination.  "Your last job wasn't with the Christian County Sheriff's Office was it.  You got fired from the Nixa school district for an inappropriate relationship with an underage girl.....sexting, right?"  Owen bristled and turned red before Christian County assistant prosecutor Donovan Dobbs jumped to his feet and yelled "that was a non charged offense, your honor."
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The stories Epperson, who was also charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence in a plea deal with the state, has told have changed multiple times over the years at trials and depositions.

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David Epperson 

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In one, he told authorities when he returned home from work from a rock removal job in Branson, he found Paula, his former girlfriend, folding laundry and "pacing back in forth" in the home he rented from Freda's son-in-law, John Smith.

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During direct examination, Prosecutor Donovan Dobbs asked Epperson what happened after he returned home.  "I was there for about 15 minutes when Billy Hall popped his head in the door and said 'I've got her.'"  Epperson, who admitted to being using methamphetamine and pot since he was 18, testified that he had only met Billy Wayne Hall one other time and "didn't really know him."
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Epperson told Judge Michael Cordonnier that he had snorted a couple of lines of meth before he arrived at his house and didn't understand what was happening.  He said when Paula made her way to the front door he followed her onto the porch.  "Billy had a pistol in his hand and was waving it around."  He said Freda's back was to him and her hair was "matted and wet" and could have been bloody.
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Epperson, who admitted he was angry with Paula for harboring his runaway daughter, said Paula picked up a golf club that was on his porch and when Paula  "roundhoused" Freda in the back of the head with it she fell face first to the ground. "It sounded like someone knocked a baseball out of the field," he said.  He said Billy Hall yelled at Paula "that she was just supposed to scare her....not kill her."
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Instead of calling police, he says he then helped Billy Hall move her body to the side of the house and that the trio went inside and got high on meth.
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He then said he took Paula to Freda's trailer and she cleaned the crime scene while he and Billy Hall went to a nearby creek and continued to consume drugs.  He says the reason his DNA was left at the crime scene was because he cut his finger "to the bone" on a shard of glass that was protruding out the side of one of the trash bags he was removing from the trailer.
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Investigators admitted on the stand that there were no broken windows or mirrors in the trailer that could have possibly caused the laceration and that footprints from work boots led from the kitchen and down the hall to a bathroom, where Epperson says he went to doctor his finger, when Luminol was sprayed on the floors of the mobile home.
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They also admitted that there is NO physical evidence linking Paula Hall to the murder of Freda Heyn.

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Sanders pointed out inconsistencies in the stories Epperson has told over the years.  Those range from him returning from work in Branson the day of the murder to his being in Kansas City looking for work...to "being on his way" to Kansas City and only making it to see his brother in Fair Play--or Fair Grove (he said he had been in both places during the trial this week,) and coming back home around 9:30 p.m. the night of the murder---and Paula not arriving at his house until an hour after he returned home.  At Paula Hall's preliminary hearing in 2006 he said Freda said, "Paula, are you going to kill me?"  However, he now has no memory of making that statement.
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Dobbs asked Epperson what he did after they returned to his house from Freda's trailer.  He says he told Billy Wayne Hall, "I came here to get some of my clothes...can I go?"  Epperson says Hall responded "We're from the old school [means say nothing]...go ahead and go."
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Donovan Dobbs

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Epperson testified that he did not seek medical treatment for the wound to his finger that was nearly severed "because I didn't want anyone to take notice of it." He testified he then checked into the Colonial Inn Motel in Branson West where he stayed for two weeks before returning home.  "I was scared and wanted to make it disappear."
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Epperson said his employers at Eagle Claw Construction paid for his room.  Barbara Leatherman, the co-owner of the business, said that is a lie.  She also testified that her husband had sold Epperson an Olds Delta 88 that he told detectives Hall had been using at the time of Freda's murder and she had "blown it up."  Leatherman said she saw the car at the job site after Heyn's murder.
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Sanders maintains that Freda walked into the home Epperson had been renting, her childhood home, and caught he and Clint Ward cooking methamphetamine and threatened to turn them in to cops.  "He was afraid she was going to turn him in and wanted to make sure she didn't," said Sanders.   When asked why the golf club was on the porch, Epperson said he got it from a trash pile and used it to hit golf balls he collected from a job site in Anderson.  However, he admitted that he didn't work in Anderson until after Freda's murder.
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When Christian County Detective D.J. Outhouse went to the Stone County jail in February of 2009 to interview Tommy Petit 
he didn't think there was "anything to it."  Petit appeared on the radar of authorities after his wife Danielle gave investigators information about his involvement in Heyn's murder after the couple was busted on identity theft and drug charges.  However, that assumption was quickly put to rest when he started offering to protect Petit and made him "tweakers dreams" on pending cases against him in exchange for his statement and eventual testimony.

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Photo: Tommy Petit, the man who dismembered Freda Heyn and who has never been charged with anything in connection with the elderly woman's murder, is now on the stand for the state.
Tommy Petit

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Petit, who has multiple convictions (the majority of them from Stone County) ranging from possession of a controlled substance, forgery and burglary and who has done a stretch in prison, testified that he was "driving around" with his cousin Clint Ward and Darren Maggard when they got a call from Billy Hall, who was at Epperson's house, saying "he needed help with something."
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"I don't think he knew what we were getting into," said Petit.
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 He said when they arrived at Epperson's there was "pure chaos in the house." 
Petit said Billy Hall was waving a gun around and fighting with a woman named "Debbie."  
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"You're here now....now you're involved," Billy Hall allegedly told the men who had just arrived.  Petit says Hall and a "really large woman with dark hair" named Debbie were barking orders.  At the time of Heyn's murder, Paula Hall weighed 130 pounds, according to evidence submitted during the trial.
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 In Petit's first interview he said Epperson and Hall threw something in the back of a "borrowed" truck and they went to Heyn's trailer where he and Clint Ward dismembered Freda in her bathtub.  That story changed somewhat in a subsequent interview with the detective when Petit admitted that the story of the elderly woman's dismemberment was true...but the location was at the home Freda loved....the one where she grew up.  
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"I was trying to give myself and out," said Petit.  "We were at Dave's house the whole time." 
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Petit says that he shot up meth and got "spun out...you know really, really high" and then he  helped move Freda's body, which was now covered in black plastic trash bags and tied with rope on the side of the house, into the bathtub.  He says he was given gloves, a butcher knife, hacksaw and a box cutter and told to cut up the body.  Somewhere in the madness someone said "we have to get rid of this.....if we cut her up and put her in bags we can get rid of it.
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"I cut through the bags and ripped 'em open and saw this old lady," Petit testified.  "I pulled down the shower curtain and laid it over part of the tub and floor and me and Clint kneeled on it and got to work."
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"I kept imagining it was a deer, said Petit, who failed to correctly identify Debbie/Paula in a photo lineup.  "I just wanted to get it over with."
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Petit, who said he has kept up with the case by reading articles and information from "the dope world," said they put Freda's remains in five separate bags and they spent hours "cleaning the shit out of the bathroom."  He says he and Ward removed their clothing when the got outside and they were put in bags and Epperson, Hall, Ward and Marilyn and Willie Baker loaded them in their vehicles and took them bags "in different directions" to be disposed of.  Debbie said "I get the bitches head," according to Petit. "We're old school," said Petit.
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 Willie Baker, who had been staying with Paula because he was having problems with his wife, told Petit that they took the body parts to a hog farm and fed them to the livestock.-
John Smith said when he stopped by the house he was renting to Epperson on November 7th there was a large bleach stain on the living room carpet.  Epperson told him he spilled it while doing laundry and he would replace it.  "They burned a bunch of stuff in a burn pile behind the house," Smith testified.
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Petit says he no longer has contact with Clinton Ward "because I feel disturbed he's not standing up with me on this."
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Sanders believes it's possible that a woman with ties to Tommy Pettit, Debbie Presley, who also dated David Epperson, was present when Heyn was murdered.  "When she was locked up with Paula she told her she needed to talk to her about Freda.  Paula told Presley she was advised by Sanders not to talk to anyone about the case anymore.   
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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 the same night.
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Photo: Paula Hall is now on the stand in her murder trial.
Paula Hall
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The reason Paula Hall's 2009 conviction was overturned was because prosecutors did not share all their discovery with Sanders.  Part of it was a deal they made with an inmate who was incarcerated with Hall in Christian County.  
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Sanders successfully argued to the appellate court that Hall allowed Lisa Bonham 
to read the discovery in her case and Bonham "molded"  her testimony around what she read and told jurors she overheard Hall tell fellow inmates she took part in killing Heyn.
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Rita Sanders 

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Former prosecutor Ron Cleek said no such deal was made, but Sanders found an email exchange between him and Greene County assistant prosecutor Amy Fite.  Fite is the current elected prosecutor in Christian County.
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  "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 says she learned AFTER Hall's trial that former County Prosecutor Ron Cleek had written a letter to Greene County Judge Tom Mountjoy BEFORE Hall's trial asking "that he grant her [Bonham] leniency on her Greene County cases due to her testifying in the Hall case."
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 Cleek followed that up with an email he sent to the Greene County prosecutor's office five days after Hall's 2009 conviction.  "The email was again asking that consideration be given to Bonham for her testimony."
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Just days before going to trial in the present case, Sanders found another email in an avalanche of documents that was sent to her office from the Christian County prosecutors office.  In this email Cleek asked Stone County prosecutor Matt Selby for leniency in pending cases against Petit.
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This case wasn't without a jail house snitch either.  Prosecutors called Rebecca Lalley to the stand.  Lalley said that while she was locked up with Hall in 2008 she allegedly told her she had taken part in the murder and dismemberment of Mrs. Heyn.  

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During closing statements Dobbs said Lalley had nothing to gain and would not have known that Heyn had been dismembered if Hall hadn't told her because that was not known in 2008.
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Photo: Rita Sanders uses mana and golf club as demonstrative tool in Epperson testimony

Sanders used a mannequin and a golf club as demonstrative tool during trial 
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Dr. Doug Anderson and Dr. Keith Norton examined Heyn's skull and came to the same conclusion-- they could not determine the exact cause of death because they only had the skull.  But they both also agreed that a blow to the left side of the face was the cause of a skull fracture that wrapped around the back of the head.  They also both concluded that there didn't appear to be a blow to the back of the head from a golf club as Epperson had alleged he witnessed Hall inflict.

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Sanders also asked Missouri Highway Patrol criminalist Brian Hoey why no forensic testing was conducted on cast off blood found on the kitchen ceiling in Heyn's trailer, semen stains found on two comforters from the bedrooms in the trailer or cigarettes butts found outside the trailer.  Hoey said he was attempting to "judiciously" use the patrols resources.
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Hall was the last witness to take the stand, she testified that she and Freda had a falling out after Hall turned her son in to the cops for a probation violation and he was sent to prison.  "She came to my to my house and slapped me a couple times," said Hall.  Heyn told her she had better not mess with her, her son or any of her family again.  "I didn't hit her back...what I did was wrong and she was justified." 

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She told Judge Codonnier she did not take part in Heyn's murder - but made some really stupid comments while incarcerated as a "tough act" to survive.
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Some of her fellow inmates would whisper about Heyn's murder and dismemberment when they saw her and ask, "did you really kill that old lady and cut her up into 163 pieces?"  She said she responded "No, if you're gonna talk about it get it right, it was 164." 

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"It worked....they pretty much left me alone." she said.  "You either lose your mind or make a joke of it.  That was wrong of me and I apologize."

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Prosecutors repeatedly brought up a written statement Hall had made to authorities not long after Heyn went missing in which she stated she did not have any idea who would want to kidnap or harm the grandmother.

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"I didn't know for sure what happened....there were just too many signs that something was going on---and I didn't know who would want to kidnap or harm her."

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When Fite asked Hall what she was doing on November 3, 2003, she responded "I know I wasn't killing Freda Heyn and I know I wasn't with David Epperson."

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Her six marriages were brought up as well.  "I started gettin' married when I was 13," said Hall.-
In closing Dobbs said, "murder is messy...just not the crime itself, but how it affects people."  

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He said Judge Codonnier, who will ultimately decide Hall's fate, should be firmly convinced that the only common denominator to all of those who participated in the murder was Paula Hall, who was an intimidating bully.  
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"David's house...David's friends...David's club...David's blood, Sanders said at the start of her closing remarks.
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She reminded the judge of Epperson's inconsistent statements and the hours that Tommy Petit and Clint Ward spent cleaning Epperson's bathroom to rid it of evidence.  "David's house....David's friends....David's club....David blood."
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She said Epperson had to have been at Freda's trailer before it was cleaned because blood on the bottom of his work boots was tracked down the hall to the bathroom when he nearly cut his finger off.   She also posited,  "If Tommy Petit had never been in the trailer, how did he know there was blood in the kitchen?  Paula had long hair and none of it was found in Freda's trailer.  Could David have cut himself on one of the knives that was left on the counter and not tested for DNA?"
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Both Paula and Billy Hall's vehicles were tested for blood and there was never any found, according to court testimony.  "If Billy Hall or Paula Hall were there, where did their clothes go because they should have been covered in blood," Sanders said
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"I don't recall anyone saying Paula was a bully...intimidating yes---fronting, uh huh.  You do what you have to, be the Betty Bad Ass....that way the leave you alone.
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"David's house.....David's friends....David's club....David's blood" Sanders said at the conclusion of her closing remarks.
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Judge Codonnier took the matter under advisement and is expected to make his ruling in the next few weeks.
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In the ultimate act of forgiveness Waggoner says she told Petit she didn't blame him shortly before he testified.  "I knew he was made to do it," she said.
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Her daughter, Brooke, says she smiles now when she thinks of her grandma.  "She celebrated every holiday.  She loved making those little villages at Christmas time....and she bought us green underwear and green bubbles on St. Patrick's day," she chuckled.  "I miss her."
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Waggoner says she has more good days than bad now.  "I inheirited my  mom's deep faith....but I still pray for peace."

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UPDATE 10-08-13:
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Judge Codonnier ruled today that Hall is innocent of Heyn's murder.  In his ruling he writes that several of the state's witnesses were not credible and there is NO physical evidence tying Hall to the crime.

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