The Hall-Mills Murder involved the death of an Episcopal minister and a member of his choir on September 14, 1922, while they were having an affair. The suspected murderers were the minister's wife and her brothers, but they were never convicted.
On September 16, 1922, fifteen year old, Pearl Bahmer (1907-?) was walking with twenty-three year old, Raymond Schneider (1899-1972) along De Russey's Lane in Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey. De Russey's Lane was a lover's lane where people would meet for sexual trysts. Pearl and Raymond came across the dead bodies of a man and a woman, and they went to the home of Edward Stryker and notified police by telephone.
Officer James Curran and Patrolman Edward Garrigan were dispatched. The two bodies were on their backs and both were shot with what was later determined to be a 32-calibre pistol. They were both shot in the head, the man once and the woman three times. The bullet entered over his right ear and exited out the back of his neck. The woman was shot under the right eye, over the right temple and over the right ear. Garrigan noticed that the woman's throat had been severed and maggots were already in the wound, indicating the death occurred at least 24 hours earlier. The bodies appeared to have been positioned after death, both of the bodies had their feet pointing toward a crab apple tree and the man had a hat covering his face.
The woman's bodyEdit
The woman was identified as Eleanor Reinhardt (1888-1922), the wife of James E. Mills (1878-1965). She had died on September 14, 1922, and was wearing a blue dress with red polka dots, black silk stockings, and brown shoes. She had worn a blue velvet hat that was on the ground close to her body, and her brown silk scarf, was wrapped around her throat. Her arm had a bruise and there was a tiny cut on her lip. Her left hand had been positioned, after death, to touch the man's right thigh. During the 1926 autopsy it was discovered that her tongue had been cut out.
The man's bodyEdit
The man was identified as Edward Wheeler Hall (1881-1922), a New Brunswick minister. He was found with his right arm positioned, after death, to touch the woman's neck. His hat covered his face, which concealed the .32-calibre gun shot wound to his head. He wore a pair of glasses. There was a small bruise on the tip of his ear and abrasions were found on his left little-finger and right index-finger. A wound was found five inches below his kneecap on the calf of his right leg. His watch was missing and there were coins in his pocket.
The suspects were Frances Noel Stevens (1874-1942), who was the wife of the murdered Reverend Edward Hall; and her two siblings: Henry Hewgill Stevens (1869-1939); and William Carpender Stevens (1872-1943). The original 1922 investigation by Joseph E. Stricker (?-1926) led to no indictments. Continued speculation in the New York Daily Mirror and other newspapers led the then New Jersey governor A. Harry Moore to order a second investigation and a trial in 1926. During the new investigation it was learned that the father of Pearl Bahmer, the woman who discovered the body, was in jail for incest.
The trial began on November 3, 1926 in the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville, New Jersey with Charles W. Parker presiding as judge, and it lasted about 30 days. The prosecuting attorney was Alexander Simpson, and the attorney for the defense was Robert H. McCarter, a former New Jersey attorney general. Raymond C. Stryker (1883-1955) was the foreman of the jury, and Joseph A. Faurot (1874-1942) was the testifying fingerprint expert. The prosecution's key witness, Jane Gibson, was unreliable and changed details of the story each time she told it. Her account varied when told to the police, the newspapers, and at her trial testimony. Frances Stevens Hall and her two brothers had the motive and the means for the murder, but there was not enough credible evidence to convict them.
- Time; November 15, 1926; Under The Crabapple Tree
- William Moses Kunstler; The Hall-Mills Murder Case: The Minister and the Choir Singer; ISBN 0813509122
- Gerald Tomlinson; Fatal Tryst: Who Killed the Minister and the Choir Singer?; ISBN 0917125096
- Franklin Township Public Library Photo Archive for Hall-Mills Murders compiled by William B. Brahms
- Crime Library: Hall-Mills
- Findagrave: Eleanor Reinhardt Mills
- Findagrave: Edward Wheeler Hall
- Findagrave: Henry de la Bruyere Carpender
- Findagrave: Frances Noel Stevens
- Findagrave: Raymond C. Stryker
Selected coverage in the New York TimesEdit
- New York Times; August 14, 1926; page 1. "Woman's Story Unshaken; Saw "Glistening Thing" in Broker's Hand, Then Heard the Shots. Missing Records Restored. Brother of Former Prosecutor Beekman Gives Them Up. Attempted Sale Reported. Another Witness Jailed. Detective Admits Police Work at Start Was Inadequate -- Charlotte Mills Oil Stand. "Dramatic Day in Court as State's Chief Witnesses Testify in Hall-Mills Case Long Missing. Mrs. Jane Gibson, the "pig woman," who is the State's principal witness in the revived investigation of the Hall-Mills murder case, took the stand at Somerville, New Jersey, yesterday and named the persons she swears were at the scene of the slaying of the Rev. Edward W. Hall and Mrs. Eleanor R. Mills four years ago, near New Brunswick, New Jersey."
- New York Times; October 3, 1926; page 2. Long Branch, New Jersey, October 2, 1926. "J.E. Stricker Dies After Operation; Former Middlesex Prosecutor Began the Investigation of Hall-Mills Mystery. Sixth death during inquiry. Rumor of Suicide Unfounded -- Death in Hospital Due to Peritonitis."
- New York Times; February 8, 1930; page 9. "Mrs. Jane Gibson Dies From Cancer; Had Long Suffered From the Disease -- Known as 'Pig Woman' in Hall-Mills Case."
- New York Times; December 17, 1934; page 7. New Brunswick, New Jersey, December 16, 1934. "Willie Stevens ill. Defendant in Hall-Mills Trial Suffering From a Heart Ailment."
- New York Times; December 5, 1939, page 10. Lavallette, New Jersey, December 4, 1939. Henry Stevens, who was one of the defendants in the Hall-Mills murder case, died of heart disease last night at his home here. His death came thirteen years to the day after a jury had found him not guilty.
- New York Times; December 20, 1942; page 47. New Brunswick, New Jersey, December 19, 1942. "Mrs. Frances Stevens Hall, one of the most dramatic figures in the unsolved Hall-Mills murder mystery, died at her home here this morning at the age of 68. She had been in poor health for some time and recently had suffered several heart attacks."
- New York Times; December 31, 1942; page 15. "Willie Stevens, 70, of Hall-Mills Case; Eccentric Figure of Murder Trial Dies in New Brunswick 11 Days After Sister Proved a firm witness. Last of 4 Members of Family Tried and Acquitted of Slaying of Rector and Choir Singer."
- New York Times; February 4, 1952, page 11. New Brunswick, New Jersey, February 3, 1952. "Miss Charlotte Mills, daughter of one of the victims in the sensational Hall-Mills murder case here in September, 1922, died on Friday in the Middlesex Nursing Home, in Metuchen, New Jersey."
- New York Times; November 9, 1965, page 43. Milltown, New Jersey, November 8, 1965. "James Mills, Husband of Victim In '22 Hall. Mills Slaying Dies; Wife and Pastor Were Shot in Lovers' Lane -- 3 Tried in 1926 and Cleared"