6:26 AM
The second-degree murder trial of a Sparta woman is set to begin today in Taney County, where it was moved on a change of venue.  

Paula Hall was convicted of the murder of the 2003 Freda Heyn back in 2009, however, the Missouri Court of Appeals overturned that conviction earlier this year.

 Within weeks of Hall's release this past May, Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite refiled murder charges against Hall.  Just as quickly, Hall's attorney, Rita Sanders, made a motion with the court for a speedy trial for her client.  The following article was written when Hall's conviction was overturned in May of this year.

Paula Hall (MDOC mug shot)

A Sparta woman who was convicted of the murder of Freda Heyn and sentenced to 20 years in prison will be released from the Christian County jail this afternoon on $25,000 bond.

Paula Hall's conviction was first overturned in 2011 by Judge John Moody and then upheld by the Missouri Court of Appeals.  

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's attorney, Rita Sanders, has fought for Hall's release since she was sentenced.  In a recent filing, Sanders alleges prosecutorial misconduct and underhanded dealings led to her clients conviction.

Sanders maintains that Hall's former boyfriend, David Epperson, who pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence, and another man are responsible for Heyn's death. 

Freda Heyn (family photo)

Epperson, a former boyfriend of Hall 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 the elderly woman - 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 his trailer, then the trio went inside to get high on methamphetamine.  He testified at Hall's trial that he cut his hand on a piece of glass when he helped her clean up blood from inside Heyn's home

Epperson, was given a plea deal in exchange for his testimony.  He was sentenced to four years in prison as part of that deal.

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 jurors she overheard Hall tell fellow inmates she helped kill the elderly woman.

Rita Sanders 

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 that Tommy initially told her it was him, David Epperson and another family member of Pettit's, who has refused to speak with law enforcers, that were responsible for Mrs. Heyn's death.

Billy Wayne Hall (mug shot CCSO)

Murder charges connected to Heyn's death that were filed against Billy Wayne Hall, [who is Paula Hall's former brother-in-law] 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, and Greg Fahrlander and Cindy Bates with Probation and Parole.

The state argued that Sanders did not file an appeal for Paula Hall in a timely matter.  "They said we didn't file within the 90 days allowed by the state.  The clerk's office [Taney County] 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."

Other 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.

Former Christian County Prosecutor Ron Cleek

In a recent motion filed in Taney County, where the case was moved on a change of venue, Sanders says she learned AFTER Hall's trial that former Christian County Prosecutor Ron Cleek had written a letter to Greene County Judge Tom Mountjoy BEFORE Hall's trial asking "that he grant her leniency on her Greene County cases due to her testifying in the Hall case."

Sanders alleges that letter was followed up by an email Cleek 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."

Sanders wants a special prosecutor appointed to Hall's new case, if it does proceed to trial, because current Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite was the prosecutor in Greene County who handled Bonham's cases.

When Fite responded to Cleek's email asking for leniency in Bonham's case she wrote, "her voluntary testimony was a mitigating fact and went into the concurrent offer."

In 2011, Judge John Moody overturned Hall's conviction.  Fite filed a motion to reconsider and Moody temporarily vacated that order.

Sanders says when Fite learned that there was a letter from Mr. Cleek in Ms. Bonham's Greene County court file she called Bonham's attorney, Kyle Domain, and "attempted to convince Mr. Domain "that he did not see a letter but that in fact what he observed was the email she had received from Mr. Cleek."

Current Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite

Sanders then filed a motion to have Fite disqualified to handle Hall's new case.  When Fite and Sanders met with Judge Moody to discuss the matter, Fite said Domain called her and opened her computer and read from her notes of the conversation.  The notes did not mention the letter or email, but did note that Domain had called her.

Sanders withdrew her motion asking for a new prosecutor at that time, but called Domain and asked why he had misled her.  "Mr. Domain informed Movants [Sanders] counsel at that time that Prosecutor Fite had been less than forthcoming to both counsel and Judge Moody."

Domain said he had talked with Fite twice that day and that he had made the initial phone call, "Domain maintained that regardless of whether it was in her notes or not that they did have a brief conversation regarding the email."

Domain says that during the second phone call Fite "attempted to persuade him that he had not seen a letter but that it was instead the email he had seen."

"Mr. Domain remains adamant that the letter was written on Christian County letterhead and was not an email."

Sanders also alleges that Christian County Assistant Prosecutor Donovan Dobbs testified during a Post Conviction Relief hearing that "he had an exparte [in this case it means both parties were present. i.e., Dobbs and Lisa Bonham, NOT an order of protection] meeting with witness Lisa Bonham" and that he did so knowing she was represented by an attorney.

Dobbs also testified that he filed a motion requesting that Bonham be released back to probation even though she had numerous probation violations and new felony charges pending in a neighboring county, according to court documents.

Donovan Dobbs

He admitted that the asking for those considerations was "not common for the Christian County Prosecutor's Office given the extensive criminal history and continuing violations" of someone like Bonham.

During the May 22nd motion hearing, Sanders asked to re-depose David Epperson.  That motion was granted over the objection of prosecutor's.   

Sanders also asked for a speedy trial this time around.  That motion was also granted and a trial date of September 30, 2013, was set.  Sanders says she will call Fite, Dobbs and former prosecutor Ron Cleek as witnesses.  

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." 

At the time of Hall's sentencing, Sanders, who is representing Paula Hall pro bono (free) said she had lost faith in the jury system, "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.  I look forward to trying a new trial for Paula....I won't lose this time!"