You Be the Judge The Hall-Mills Court Case Part 1

About the Hall-Mills case of murder, history of the trial. Read the facts and decide for yourself.


The Hall-Mills Case (1926)

The Murder: On the afternoon of Sept. 16, 1922, a young couple strolling in De Russey's Lane near New Brunswick, N.J., stumbled across the bodies of a man and woman. The man, dressed in a suit and a clerical collar, had been shot once in the head. The woman, who wore a blue polka-dot dress, lay beside him. There was a triangle of bullet holes in her forehead. Her throat had been cut and her tongue, larynx, and trachea had been neatly excised.

The man was identified as the Rev. Edward Wheeler Hall, age 41, pastor of St. John the Evangelist, a fashionable Episcopal church in New Brunswick. The woman was Mrs. Eleanor Mills, 34, wife of the sexton in Reverend Hall's church and a member of the church choir.

Scattered around the bodies were a number of torrid love letters written by Mrs. Mills and addressed to the clergyman. "I know there are girls with more shapely bodies, but I do not care what they have," read one. "I have the greatest of all blessings, the deep, true, and eternal love of a noble man. My heart is his, my life is his, all that I have is his . . . I am his forever."

The Accused: Because of the intimate relationship between the victims, suspicion naturally focused on their families. But the investigation was, according to one observer, "shot through from beginning to end with incompetent bungling." No suspects were indicted during the next four years, and had it not been for the prodding of the New York Daily Mirror, the case might have been closed.

In July, 1926, the Hearst paper printed a petition for the annulment of the marriage between Arthur S. Riehl and Louise Geist--a former maid at Reverend Hall's residence. In his petition, Mr. Riehl stated that his wife of 10 months had withheld from him the following information: On the night of the murder, Miss Geist had informed Mrs. Hall that her husband and Mrs. Mills were planning to elope. The Halls' chauffeur then drove Mrs. Hall and her brother Willie, who lived with them, to De Russey's Lane. Louise Geist was paid $5,000 to be quiet.

Although this story was later denied by both Miss Geist and the Halls' chauffeur, other witnesses came forth and the Mirror continued to run front-page articles about the unsolved murder. Under public pressure, Gov. A. Harry Moore ordered the case reopened.

Finally, on July 28, the clergyman's widow, the former Francess Noel Stevens, was accused of committing the double murder. The staid daughter of a socially prominent family, she had been seven years older than her philandering husband. Charged with her were her two brothers, Willie and Henry Stevens. Willie, swarthy and bushy-haired, was an eccentric who could find nothing better to do than hang around the firehouse. Henry was prim and respectable, the model of a country-club gentleman. Also arrested--but held over for a separate trial--was their cousin, Henry Carpender, a distinguished New York stockbroker.

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