June 2, 2007: The Murder of Kelsey Smith


WHAT HAPPENED?


Kelsey Smith was a teenager from Overland Park, Kansas who, on June 2, 2007, disappeared and was subsequently murdered that same evening. Her body was found near a lake in Missouri on June 6, 2007. (1)

ABOUT KELSEY SMITH (2)


Kelsey was born on May 3, 1989, to loving parents Greg and Missey smith. She was the 3rd of 5 children, and her parents knew she should be a handful when she was a toddler. But more than anything, she was a kind child.


Whenever Kelsey went somewhere with her parents, she would only allow they to buy her a treat if they also bought some for her sisters. Her baby brother Zach was born when she was 6, and she was extremely protective of him, refusing to let anyone else take care of him but her.


Kelsey was just a normal Kansas kid. She was smart, inquistive, and questioned everything. She always tried new things, joining track, theater, a writer's workshop, art and choir at Shawnee Mission West. She was passionate about marching band, and she planned to attend Kansas State University to march. She was a really good student, she was funny and had a big heart.


She was thoughtful, too. Friends shared stories of her surprising them with balloons on their birthdays. She was a talented artist who would draw pictures of pets that loved ones had lost. She was in the Shawnee Mission West Choir, where she surprised her parents by performing a solo. She was so excited.


Kelsey was a good person. She was funny, sweet, and talented in so many ways. But on June 2, 2007, her life was cut short.

ABDUCTION, MURDER, AND INVESTIGATION (3)


Kelsey was last seen at 7:07 PM in the parking lot of a Target store in Overland Park, Kansas. Surveillance video from Target showed that Kelsey had gone to the store to buy a gift for her boyfriend to celebrate their 6 month anniversary. Her last phone call was to her mother. Then, she left the store, never to be seen alive again.


4 hours after she was seen at Target, her car was found abandoned outside of a Macy's parking lot, across the street from the Target. Her purse, wallet, and the items she had bought were left in the car.


After it was clear that Kelsey was missing, the police reviewed the footage from both inside and outside of Target. She parked her car, entered the store, called her mom, looked around and selected items to purchase. On the footage, you could see a white male in his early 20s entering the store about 30 seconds after Kelsey, showing up in every aisle she was in. He was in every frame Kelsey was in, but from a distance. He looked at her, but never tried to approach her. When she went to the cashier to check out, the man left the store, and police got a clear picture of him.


In the parking lot, the cameras didn't originally show anything unusual, but when slowed down, it appeared that someone was forcing Kelsey into her car. The footage from outside also showed a suspicious truck leaving the lot, a car that had arrived just before Kelsey.


Surveillance footage from the Macy's showed that Kelsey's car had been left about 9:17 PM, 2 hours after it left the Target parking lot. A man in a white shirt and dark pants, the same outfit as the man following her around Target, was seen leaving the vehicle and running toward the street. A video of the man was released to the media, but the hundreds of tips were not useful.


Her car was checked for forensic evidence. The fingerprints of people who had a reason to be in her car, such as family, friends and her boyfriend, were isolated, and unidentified prints were found on her seat belt.


Kelsey's body was found 4 days later, reportedly from a cell phone ping in the area. It took Verizon Wireless 4 days to hand over her cell phone records, and once they did, her body was discovered within 45 minutes. Her body was in a wooded area in Grandview, Missouri, 18-20 miles away from where she was abducted.


The cause of death was ruled as strangulation. The killer had choked her to death with her own belt. The autopsy also revealed that she had been sexually assaulted.

THE KILLER (3)


In a small silver lining in an otherwise horrific murder, this isn't an unsolved crime. The man who stalked Kelsey Smith, forced her into her car and raped and murdered her was caught.


A man who had seen the footage of the man leaving Target identified the man as his neighbor, but didn't immediately report it. However, the following day, when he saw information about the truck the perpetrator drove, he called in a tip. This was enough to arrest 26-year-old Edwin Roy "Jack" Hall from Olathe, Kansas. He was packing up for a "vacation" with his wife and son when the police arrived. Ah yes, the old "I've just murdered" someone getaway.


Hall had no adult criminal record until he was charged with first-degree murder on June 7, but he did have a juvenile record, including assault. He had been adopted ate age 7 but returned to state custody after threatening his adoptive parents' daughter with a knife at age 15. He had also assaulted another boy by hitting him with a baseball bat in his youth.


Police did not believe that Hall knew Kelsey. He admitted to being at Target, but claimed that he never approached her, but his lie was evident when his fingerprints ended up matching the ones in her car. Hall was a married father of a 4-year-old child at the time of the murder.


He was indicted on August 1st on the counts of murder, rape and aggravated sodomy, which made him eligible for the death penalty... a punishment that the district attorney decided to seek.


On July 23, Hall pleaded guilty to all of the charges brought against him. The hearing was only supposed to be a change-of-venue hearing, but he plead guilty during it. Kelsey's family and friends were in attendance.


Though Hall has never said exactly what happened, it is believed that he spotted Kelsey driving into the parking lot after he had arrived, and noticed that she was alone. He started following her around just to assure himself she wasn't with anybody, or meeting anybody. When he saw she was about to leave, he went out to his car to get his gun, and struck as she was trying to get into her car. He drove her 20 miles away where he raped her and then strangled her, leaving her body behind.


He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the kidnapping, rape and murder charges. He apologized to the family for his actions.

AFTERMATH


Like in many murder, disappearance or kidnapping cases, new legislation that would make it easier to find or save the next victim came about because of Kelsey Smith's murder.


The Kelsey Smith Act was created in her name, a law that states that cell phone companies can ping a phone if authorities determine that the owner is in danger. The law exists in most states, and the U.S. Congress is debating making it a federal law. This came from Verizon's reluctance to ping Kelsey's phone, causing the delay in finding her body. At the time, cell companies were only allowed to provide such information to the owner unless issued a court order, which took a lot of time. (1)


The Kelsey Smith Act has been used to save people since. In 2015, a Lenexa, Kansas man stole a car, unaware that a 5-month-old was inside. He also ran down a pedestrian while fleeing. The police were able to find the car a half hour later after they pinged the baby's mother's cell phone that was still inside. Though the driver escaped and was not caught, the car was found, along with the baby, who was safe. (1)


Kelsey's parents, Greg and Missey smith, were awarded the Crystal Kipper & Ali Kemp Memorial Award last year for the foundation they created in Kelsey's name, the Kelsey Smith Foundation. They Kelsey Smith Foundation is responsible for the Kelsey Smith Act, but they also provide seminars on safety awareness and create programs for the law enforcement community. Missey Smith was also recognized at the Department of Justice's annual National Crime Victims' Service Awards Ceremony. (3)


Like so many parents who have lost children tragically, they have tried to use their heartbreaking loss for the good of the world, and they have.


In an interview after she died, her father said that the best part of his day is the first 5 seconds after he wakes up, because it hasn't hit him what happened yet. (4)


But they have tried to remember the good. They want to remember the beautiful, caring daughter, sister and friend Kelsey was when she was alive. They don't talk about how she died or want to see photos or know what happened to her. They want to keep the happy memories at the forefront. They didn't want revenge on Hall for what he did, just justice. (4)


Greg laughs when he remembers Kelsey cutting his hair. Missey remembers her beautiful brown eyes, her smiling face. Her older sister Lindsay remembers being teased by her kid sister. Her younger sister, Codie, is able to laugh thinking about the silly memories. John, her boyfriend, remembers how he couldn't spend a day away from Kelsey, who he knew was the one. Kelsey's 10-year-old brother, the baby she was once so protective of, had a hard time understanding what was happening, but realized he'd never see his big sister again. (4)


I love true crime. I'm fascinated by it. But there are certain cases that make me remember that these aren't just stories, but people, families. I do hope it never comes across like these tragic stories are just for entertainment. Kelsey Smith was a person. She was adored by her family, loved by her boyfriend, held close by her friends. And she was murdered for no reason 13 years ago today. I hope that those who loved her, those who shared the silly stories and remembered the good times, continue to find peace and happiness in their lives.

REFERENCES:

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Kelsey_Smith

2. https://patch.com/michigan/plymouth-mi/bp--the-kelsey-smith-story-a-story-of-heartache-hope

3. https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdmo/pr/greg-missey-smith-honored-their-foundations-crime-prevention-safety-awareness-efforts

4. https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article10541525.html

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