In their own words: Family, friends recall blast
One year ago, Allentown man killed himself, toddler son, neighbor in explosion
It’s been a year since a car explosion detonated by Jacob Schmoyer, 26, destroyed two families and shook Center City Allentown. The blast ended the lives of Schmoyer, his 2-year-old son, JJ, and David H. Hallman, of Allentown.
Here’s how the events of Sept. 29, 2018, affected the lives of their family members and friends, in their own words:
David E. Hallman, son of victim David H. Hallman Can you describe your father?
He was a free-spirited person who went around and loved enjoying his music and his dog. He loved the nightlife on the weekends, always out partying and dancing every Saturday as far as I can remember. He was a machinist at Sarco [in Easton] for a long time and then transitioned to Victaulic [in Forks Township] and had a lot of other jobs. He finally started to retire at the beginning of last year.
Can you tell us about his dog, Skippy?
She was 14 and 4 months. Anywhere he went, she went. That dog was his life, that was his everything. I always joked that dog gets better treatment than I do. He had photos of Skippy in his whole house.
When was the last time you heard from your dad?
Unfortunately, he called me that Saturday. I never answered the phone. I sort of regret that, usually when he calls you, he talks your ear off for a half-hour or so.
I always think, man, if I would have answered the phone. Was my dad going to try to come over for dinner that night? He always called and said, “Hey, got anything for dinner?” I sort of kick
myself. I should have just answered the phone, maybe he wanted to come over for dinner, maybe.
When did you hear about the explosion?
I didn’t know until Sunday. I seen something about the explosion in the news and I said, “God, that’s weird.” I could see my neighborhood, because I grew up in that neighborhood with him. I kept trying to call him and I couldn’t get ahold of him. Then I called his buddy, I said, “Have you seen my dad?” and he said he hasn’t, so I shot down to Allentown, went to the 7-11 there and checked in with the police chief there. He couldn’t tell me because they weren’t in charge, so they couldn’t do nothing. I didn’t get any information out of them, and I started to call around shelters, went to a couple of schools where they said they had moved people. Called the hospitals, I called everybody I can think of that night. And just never got any answers.
So then I left to work the next day and a guy at my work, my work partner told me, “I hate to say it, but did you try to call the morgue?” so I called them and the guy there said, “Hold on, don’t hang up.” I knew right then and there.
So I did all the hunting, no one notified me. I had to do everything myself, which is sort of unfortunate.
Had you ever heard of Jacob Schmoyer?
I’ve never seen him, never heard of him, my dad never mentioned him, ever. The first time I seen him was when [ATF] were interviewing me and they slid his picture to me and said, “Do you know this person?” and I said, “No. Nah, I’ve never seen that person in my life.” Afterward they said yeah, he’s the one who did the bombing and they started explaining how he blew the car up.
What have you learned about why your father was targeted by Jacob Schmoyer?
He had anger toward my dad, he was jealous, and for some reason, they haven’t told me yet, he started to hate my dad. We weren’t sure why because my dad was giving him a lot of tools from the house, helping him out. I think I heard, at one point, my dad was trying to help him adopt a dog.
He purposely got him into that car and it was purposely done that night, that weekend, because he had found out my dad was going to start moving in a couple weeks and I was going to help my dad transition over to a place in Emmaus for senior type living where he was gonna sell the house and calm down and finally start to retire.
What are your thoughts about Jacob Schmoyer?
My family knows some of his family. They’ve opened up and talked and a lot of stuff got passed around. They lost a baby and two innocent people were killed by a person who is known to be suicidal … and was sort of not being treated and released into society. A lot of people knew how crazy that kid really is. I’m frustrated, angered and just hurt in the end. Why would you?
It’s complex because I have a 3-year-old kid. How do you put your kid in the car and somebody else you don’t like and blow it up and kill people. I don’t get it. It just frustrates me, angers me and makes me think, wow, there are some really messed-up people out there.
A lot of times I sit and wish he just blew himself up making the bomb that day in an empty house somewhere, and just did himself in, and the kid and my dad would be here today.
How did the events of Sept. 29, 2018, change your life?
Stunned to say the least. All the holidays and dinners missed, every holiday that came and went and he wasn’t there. A month before this happened, my son started talking and saying “grandpa, grandpa.” He was so proud of that. It’s almost a year and that part where I hope I wake up tomorrow and I was just having a bad dream, that part’s over. But it’s one year and I still have all the thoughts, like “Wow, dad was blown up and purposely killed.”
Tina Schmoyer, sister of Jacob Schmoyer Can you tell us about your brother?
Well, I can definitely say with everything that’s happened, that’s not him. Cause that’s not how he was even when we were younger, we were always climbing trees, going bike riding, swimming in the lakes, he taught me how to fish with a little stick and a fake fishing line and throwing it out. We were literally inseparable.
We grew up first in the Palmerton/Poconos area when we were really little, moved to Allentown Dorneyville area when I was 8, closer to 9. We had a farmland and had chickens and would have fun with the gizzards and chasing each other with the feet. He would chase me around with the neck and I would chase him around with the claws. That was our brother/ sister thing.
After that, we moved into Allentown area, and that was pretty much where we ended up being, and we started to separate a lot.
Do you believe your brother suffered from mental illness?
When he was younger, you could see that something seemed a little off but he wasn’t as brutal about it until the year of 2010 is when things started to get a little worse. He was on medication.
Did this affect him in school?
Yes, it did. He was doing really well for awhile, but it seemed he just started falling off and just didn’t care, wasn’t interested in it, didn’t want to bother with it. He ended up dropping out near the end of 12th grade.
In 2010, he ended up running away and tried to commit suicide out of Virginia.
Why did he attempt suicide?
There was just so much. I don’t want to put words in there. But there was just so much at that time happening that at a point I was just like, “I gotta stop.” I just stopped. I was like, “I need to think.”
He was taking medication at that time. He was taking it for all that time.
Was Jacob happy to be a dad?
Well, I can definitely tell you in all honesty, he wasn’t ready to be a father. That was almost a pushed subject when it came to all of it. In order to make someone happy, that’s what he did. But once my nephew was born, I could see it in his face. He was happy. He was proud to be a father at this point and he loved him.
When was the last time you heard from your brother?
I was actually talking to him Friday afternoon before everything happened. The main reason I contacted him was I saw an accident at Sumner and Ridge, I think it was. It was an SUV, my
first thought was, “My brother, he drives on that road sometimes.” It freaked me out.
Something should have clicked on me, it was 3:31 p.m on the 28th. I tell him about the crash. He responds with, “Don’t often go on Sumner, (with a little star figure).” But then after he said that he says, “But yeah, everything is fine. Nice to hear from you.” That’s not normally from him. That’s not him. And it was like something should have triggered me right there, but for some reason, nothing triggered.
At first, did you think the explosion was an accident?
Well, at first, honestly, that’s what the thought was. An accident. Everybody would have that first thought, “It was an accident.”
Nobody would have expected anything like this from him at all.
Like, I even had a lady who reached out to me one day saying that she recognized my brother because he helped change a tire for her in a Walmart parking lot, and she tried to give him money for it and he was like, “No, I don’t want it.” Like, again, that’s who my brother was. So this is why none of this would have ever been expected.
When did you find out it was intentional?
It was a horrible feeling. [Police] had me call, and we went down and talked to them and that’s when they told us about everything. Then we just kind of went from there, and when they started talking and telling us about the vehicle, the first thing that popped in my head was, “If this is suicide, he would leave something behind. He wouldn’t leave it in question.”
I already knew that specifically because he did that in 2010, when he wanted to go and run away to commit suicide, he left notes on a USB that I was able to access. I could figure out his passwords because he used to leave them all over the place, and I figured out how to get into it. I managed to figure that one out.
And then all of a sudden, I get this call saying, “There are letters.” On Tuesday. I was like, “Well, there you go. That answers that one.”
What was the general tone of the letters?
He was upset, is the best way to put it, and a lot of things that were said weren’t even true. He did mention my name in my father’s letter and that’s why even they were assuming I was supposed to get one because I was obviously on his mind at that time. But nothing ever got to me.
Is there anything you would want to say to Mr. Hallman’s family?
I did speak with his niece, I don’t remember the name. Her and I actually conversated through a Facebook message. We actually called each other as well via Facebook phone call. So, we talked a little bit about it. And she was upset. And I can understand. You know, I was upset. But there was no foul words, nothing bad that came across from either one of us. I sent my condolences.
Have you been been back to where the explosion occurred?
No, we try to avoid every direction we possibly can to avoid Allentown. I don’t even want to be a part of Allentown. I get like, I guess you could say anxiety. Like I start getting very heavy breathing and shaky. It’s like, I don’t even want to be in Allentown.
David E. Hallman holds a portrait of his father, David H. Hallman, with his dog, Skippy, outside his father’s home on Hall Street, around the corner from where a car explosion killed his father.
Tina Schmoyer talks about what the past year has been like without her brother Jacob Schmoyer, who died in an Allentown car explosion.
Jacob Schmoyer, center, with his grandfather Edward Pond, and son, JJ. The photo was taken by Kathleen Pond, Jacob Schmoyer’s stepgrandmother, during a visit.
With tears in her eyes, Christine Erdman, niece of David H. Hallman, places flowers on her uncle’s steps on Hall Street in Allentown, near the spot where he was killed by a car explosion in September 2018.