Threats, anger ev­i­dent in Hall’s calls

Jury hears ac­com­plice in case be­rat­ing slain woman’s mother, court, own fam­ily

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Steven Krey­tak

A dis­turb­ing por­trait of Laura Ashley Hall was re­vealed in court Thurs­day as pros­e­cu­tors played jail phone call record­ings of Hall threat­en­ing the mother of murder vic­tim Jen­nifer Cave, talk­ing about track­ing down ju­rors from her case and re­peat­edly dis­parag­ing her par­ents.

“She’s go­ing down,” Hall said in an Au­gust 2008 call, ap­par­ently re­fer­ring to Cave’s mother, Sharon Sed­wick. “I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but she’s go­ing down.”

The calls were played dur­ing the third day of the 26-year-old Hall’s sen­tenc­ing re­trial. She stands con­victed of tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence and hin­der­ing ap­pre­hen­sion in Cave’s murder.

A Travis County jury is ex­pected to hear clos­ing argu-

Con­tin­ued from A1 ments this morn­ing be­fore de­cid­ing her pun­ish­ment. She faces up to 10 years in prison on the tam­per­ing charge and up to a year for hin­der­ing ap­pre­hen­sion.

Hall was con­victed in 2007 and sen­tenced to five years. An ap­peals court up­held the con­vic­tions but over­turned the sen­tence.

For­mer Uni­ver­sity of Texas stu­dent Colton Pitonyak is serv­ing 55 years in prison for Cave’s murder. Pros­e­cu­tors con­tend that Hall, also an exUT stu­dent, helped Pitonyak in dis­mem­ber­ing Cave’s body in an aborted cover-up and driv­ing him to Mex­ico.

Hall has main­tained her in­no­cence to po­lice and in me­dia in­ter­views, say­ing that she was in Pitonyak’s apart­ment af­ter the killing but did not par­tic­i­pate in the mu­ti­la­tion and did not call po­lice be­cause she was afraid of him.

She con­tin­ued to as­sert her in­no­cence through­out the ap­prox­i­mately 1½ hours of phone calls played for ju­rors Thurs­day, most of them with fam­ily mem­bers.

In one call from Jan­uary 2008, Hall spoke to her grand­mother about a re­cently aired “48 Hours Mys­tery” TV show that fo­cused on her case. She asked her grand­mother how she sounded and said: “I thought that dead girl’s mom sounded like a real mo­ron.”

“Yeah, oh yeah,” her grand­mother, Ardith Mosley, re­sponded.

In a call be­tween Hall and her par­ents later that month, Hall asked her mother, Carol Hall, what the peo­ple at her work thought of the show.

Carol Hall told her daugh­ter that they thought the worst thing about her is that she got a “Colton” tat­too shortly af­ter the murder.

Hall’s mother said peo­ple in jail who said bad things about Sharon Sed­wick, right, talked to ju­rors Thurs­day about her slain daugh­ter, Jen­nifer Cave, the horror of Cave’s dis­mem­ber­ment and the un­ease about not see­ing her body be­fore burial. the tele­vi­sion show “hated that you were on TV and they weren’t.”

Through­out the calls, Hall sounded in­creas­ingly des­per­ate to get out of jail, threat­en­ing vi­o­lence and sui­cide if her par­ents would not pay a bonds­man about $16,000.

She told her grand­mother at one point: “I’ve lost ev­ery­thing. I re­ally have noth­ing to live for.”

She told her mother “I will kill you” when she re­fused to pay for Hall’s re­lease.

Hall told her fa­ther in Fe­bru­ary 2008 she didn’t want to go prison: “I’ll get an as­sault charge if they try to take me and pos­si­bly even a murder charge.”

Later, Hall said: “I don’t have to act crazy. They know I’m crazy. I’m be­yond crazy. I al­most at­tacked some­body yes­ter­day.”

In an­other call, she told Mosley: “Then we have garbage like Sharon (Sed­wick) be he­roes. God. God help us,” Hall told her grand­mother of the murder vic­tim’s mother.

“Yes, that’s just the truth,” Hall’s grand­mother said.

Hall then said, “That trash gets pity. God help us.”

In March 2009, Hall spoke to Nesta Ger­berd­ing, some­one pros­e­cu­tors sug­gested she had met in jail. She told Ger­berd­ing: “I’m go­ing to find out who’s on my jury, and I’m go­ing to say re­ally nasty stuff to them. ... You ru­ined my life you (ex­ple­tive.)”

Sed­wick sat qui­etly next to her hus­band, Jim, in the front row of court while the calls were played.

She tes­ti­fied later in the day that she is afraid of Hall and is more at ease with her in jail. Since her 2005 ar­rest, Hall has been in jail for about two years and free on bail for about three years.

Sed­wick noted that Hall “has never once re­ferred to Jen­nifer by her name” and told the jury a bit about her daugh­ter.

Cave grad­u­ated from high school in Cor­pus Christi and had just got­ten a job at a law firm when she was killed. She re­called her daugh­ter’s deep blue eyes.

“I seeded her grave with blue­bon­nets be­cause of the blue,” she said.

Sed­wick also shared the horror of hav­ing her daugh­ter dis­mem­bered and her un­ease that she never got to see her daugh­ter be­fore she was buried.

“Every­time I visit her grave I say, ‘I hope her hands made it. Did she have ear­rings on? Were her toes painted?’”

Hall had no dis­cernible re­ac­tion when Cave spoke.

She be­gan to sob loudly as her fa­ther tes­ti­fied later in the day as a de­fense wit­ness that he would help make sure that she was suc­cess­ful if given pro­ba­tion. Loren Hall said his daugh­ter suf­fers from bipo­lar dis­or­der.

On cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, pros­e­cu­tor Al­li­son Wet­zel opened her ques­tion­ing by ask­ing him: “Did her bipo­lar dis­or­der cause her to cut Jen­nifer Cave’s head off ?”

Laura Hall ‘She’s go­ing down,’ Hall said about vic­tim’s mother in phone call.

Jay Jan­ner

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