2:45 PM

Paula Hall (mug shot MODOC)

A judge is once again considering whether to overturn the 2009 murder conviction of a southwest Missouri woman for the death of an elderly woman from Oldfield.

Wright County Judge John Moody, who was the judge who heard the case in Taney County on a change of venue, heard evidence Wednesday in Christian County during a hearing for 43-year-old Paula Hall of Sparta.

Freda Heyn (family photo)

A jury convicted Hall for the November 2003 murder of sixty eight year-old Freda Heyn and she was sentenced to twenty years in prison.

Hall's attorney, Rita Sanders, argued that the conviction should be overturned because errors by the prosecutor violated Hill's due process rights. Prosecutors say the errors did not affect the outcome of the trial.


Attorney Rita Sanders

Moody allowed both sides to present evidence on Wednesday during a post-conviction hearing.

The witness that concerns Sanders most is Lisa Bonham, who served time in lockup with Hall.  She told the jury she overheard Hall tell fellow inmates in the Christian County jail that she killed Heyn. 

Sanders says prosecutor's failed to tell her that Bonham had been convicted of passing bad checks, forgery and a probation violation in Christian County and had pending charges in Greene County at the time of Hall's trial. She says prosecutors in Christian County entered into a deal with Bonaham and asked Greene County prosecutors to go easy Bonaham because she testified for the state in Hall's trial. 

Sanders also questioned why Bonham's Christian County sentence of five years probation was amended in April 2009, just two months after Hall's conviction, to 120 days already served.

Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite

Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite, who was not in office at the time of Hall's trial, argued that regardless of Bonham's criminal history, the jury believed her when she told them that Hall told her she killed Heyn while they were both behind bars Christian County.  Fite also says a clerical error in docketing contributed to the confusion.

Fite says the state now concedes that there was a discovery violation when they provided criminal information on another person named Lisa Bonahm to defense counsel.  "How did I get the wrong information...they use social security numbers to run things through NCIC and MULES."

Moody's decision should be announced within a few weeks, according to Sanders.  "It's very clear they violated the Brady Law and when they did that they violated Paula's right to due process and a fair trial.  If we don't get a new trial I will take it to the Court of Appeals."

Billy Wayne Hall (mug shot CCSO)

Murder charges connected to Heyn's that were filed against Hall's former brother-in-law, Billy Wayne Hall, who has been in and out of prison several times over the last few years, were dismissed without prejudice in June so "investigator's can continue to gather potential evidence," according to Christian County chief assistant prosecutor Donovan Dobbs.  "We only get one shot.....we want to make sure it's a good one if we proceed to trial."

Sanders says she will file a motion with the court next week asking that the murder charges that were dismissed WITHOUT prejudice against Billy Wayne Hall (meaning the state can refile) be dismissed WITH prejudice because the state violated his right to a speedy trial.  "They needed to have him tried by July 29th and they've missed that date."

What troubles Sanders the most with this case is that there is a man named Tommy Pettit, who allegedly admitted to his wife and others, that he Clint Ward and David Epperson beat Mrs. Heyn to death and then dismembered her body, fed it to hogs and tossed her skull into the Mark Twain National Forest.  "Why aren't the news media and Mrs. Heyn's family members asking prosecutors in Christian County why no charges have ever been brought against Petit?"