Family seeks answers, closure
Constance “Connie” Hall was murdered more than a year ago
Growing up, city native April Hall looked up to her older sister. Ten years her senior, Constance “Connie” Hall was both her protector and self-appointed authority figure.
“She would look after me a lot,” recalled April Hall, a mother of two. “Mainly, she just bossed me around, just told me what to do.”
As adults, the two were close, calling each other often and fighting over the gravy boat at Thanksgiving gatherings.
“She was smart. She was funny,” said April, an administrative assistant at Pepsi. “If she had a dollar and you asked her for it, she’d give it to you. She loved people, and she loved the family.”
[pullquote]“She was smart. She was funny,” said April, an administrative assistant at Pepsi. “If she had a dollar and you asked her for it, she’d give it to you. She loved people, and she loved the family.”[/pullquote]Constance disappeared on Nov. 14, 2011, just weeks before her 48th birthday. One week later, on Nov. 21, her body was discovered in an apartment complex on Manly Street. She had been stabbed and stuffed into a garbage cart, a heartless conclusion to the life of a woman who was, by all accounts, giving and kind to a fault.
“She didn’t know no strangers,” recalled her mother, Maggie Hall. “She knew everybody.”
Often described as a “people person,” Constance, who was caring for her elderly father at the time of her death, was especially fond of Thanksgiving, family members said.
“She loved Thanksgiving dinner,” her mother remarked. She loved the dressing and the turkey. She just couldn’t get enough.”
Thanksgiving is no longer a source of joy for the Hall family. In their minds, the holiday season will forever be a chilling reminder of the void left by Constance’s death. Her murder remains unsolved.
“She was my rock. She was my sweetheart; she was unique,” commented Maggie Hall, a home daycare provider for over two decades. “She was a Sagittarius. She was a go-getter. She didn’t want to be a failure. We miss her so much. I just miss her calling me, talking to me.”
From a girl, Connie’s intelligence was obvious, her mother said. She was always “tinkering” with things, taking them apart and putting them back together to see how they worked. As an adult, Connie was an advocate of education and Maggie’s biggest supporter when she went back to school to obtain her high school diploma.
“I’m the mama, but she taught me a lot,” said Hall.
A staunch believer in social justice, Constance was heavily involved in the campaign to free Darryl Hunt, who served nearly two decades in prison for a murder he did not commit, and State Rep. Earline Parmon’s 2010 re-election bid.
Parmon, who was elected to the Senate District 32 in November, described Hall as the consummate campaign volunteer, a dedicated and driven advocate for Parmon’s campaign.
“She was really one of my right hands in my campaign,” Parmon declared. “…She was just great in working with people, had a great personality and was just all about helping her community. I could depend on Connie when I couldn’t depend on anyone else in my campaign. We constantly talked about the void that had been left when Connie wasn’t there (this year). She certainly was missed.”
Hall earned the moniker “bag lady” around the campaign headquarters, Parmon said, because she was constantly soliciting donations to help people she knew who were in need, and she had a special knack for working with members of the homeless community and empowering them to make their voices heard in the political arena, Parmon added.
“I think it’s very important that people understand that Connie Hall made a difference in this community,” declared Parmon, the first African American senator ever to represent Forsyth County. “While everybody may not have known her name, she did so much for people.”
Hall’s friends, acquaintances and loved ones gathered in a grassy area at the foot of Manly Street on Nov. 29, which would have been her 49th birthday, to pay homage to her memory and pray for justice to be done in her case during a Vigil for Healing in her honor.
“We’re here to remember the joyous life of Constance Hall and to celebrate this, the day of her birth,” Rev. Charles Wilson, a member of the VFH clergy team, told attendees. “…An act of violence took her from us, but it cannot rob us of our recollections of her joyful presence.”
Vigils for Healing has hosted nearly 50 vigils since its inception in 2006 to honor the memories of local residents whose lives have been claimed by violence, according to VFH Founder Tracey Maxwell. Each vigil is different, Maxwell said, but Hall’s remembrance was of added important because of the circumstances surrounding her case.
“This vigil to me has special significance because Connie’s killer has not been caught and while that won’t bring her back, it will bring justice and it will bring at least some semblance of fairness,” Maxwell said. “We know that someone out there knows what happened and we just hope that this event can bring Connie’s killer to justice quicker than what might otherwise happen.”
April says the family wants to see justice done and wants answers to so many of their questions.
“Our family needs closure,” she declared. “We need to put this chapter of our life to rest. I mainly want to know what happened, what could she possibly have done to deserve something like this?”
Winston-Salem Police Detective Gregory Dorn was assigned the Hall case three weeks before the vigil, relieving Cpl. Kerry Israel, who is set to retire. Dorn, a 16-year veteran, was on hand at the vigil, along with a handful of other police officers.
“I want the community to realize that we are out here doing a job for them and to know that we’re actively involved in solving this case,” he said of his motivation to attend. “I’ve got 10 years left (on the job). I don’t want to pass this one on.”
Dorn said he is currently awaiting the results of some items from the crime scene that he sent the SBI lab for DNA testing. The lab is known to have a backlog of items to process. Though a year has already passed, Dorn said he believes police will find the murderer.
“I’m an optimistic guy,” commented the Yadkin County native. “This case I’ll say is solvable, with the right piece of information.”
Hall’s murder is one of 26 homicides citywide that have gone unsolved since Jan. 1, 2002, according to the WSPD Crime Analysis Unit. The murders of minority males are most likely to go unsolved in Winston-Salem. In the last decade, there have been 29 unsolved murders in the city. In 13 of the cases, the victims have been Hispanic men, while black men account for 11 of the unsolved murder cases. Hall is one of two black women whose murders are unsolved. Only the murders of two whites – one male and one female – have gone unsolved since 2002.
Lt. Rob Cozart, head of the homicide division, said the disparities in unsolved cases correlate with the disparities that exist in the overall number of homicides that occur in the city. Thirty three Hispanics, 113 African Americans and 37 white victims have been killed locally in the last decade, according to WSPD stats.
“There’s a pretty large disparity in murders as far as homicides go. You’re much more likely to be a victim as a minority, so naturally you’re going to see some disparities in the unsolved ratio,” explained Cozart. “…That goes to problems that society has that are much larger than the police department.”
Homicides in the Hispanic community are more likely to go unsolved because of language and cultural barriers, and the fact that many perpetrators are undocumented and therefore difficult to track, Cozart said.
Cozart and Capt. Connie Southern, head of the Criminal Investigation department, urged community members to come forward with any information they may have regarding a homicide, no matter how insignificant that information may seem.
“There are people out there who know what happened in these cases, particularly Constance Hall’s case,” stated Southern, a 25-year department veteran. “If anyone has any possible information at all, get in touch with us and let us run that information down.”
If you have any information about Connie, please call Crimestoppers at 336-727-2800 (En Espanol: 336-728-3904). The call is confidential and if the information leads to an arrest, the caller is eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000.