Abducted From a Parking Lot & Murdered, Now She Saves Lives
18-year-old Kelsey Ann Smith had just graduated from high school and was looking forward to attending Kansas State University in the coming months. Kelsey was funny, creative and passionate. She loved to try new things, from singing in a choir to running track to playing clarinet in a marching band, Kelsey did it all. She had a personality larger than life, according to her father Greg, Kelsey lived more in eighteen years than some people do in their entire lives.
Kelsey’s giving nature ensured those around her always felt loved and appreciated; she would show up at a friend’s doorstep on their birthday with a bouquet of balloons and as a child, Kelsey made sure if her parents bought her treat, they bought one for her four siblings, too. The same applied to Kelsey’s boyfriend John when she went to buy him a gift for their 6-month anniversary. Unfortunately, Kelsey was never able to give John his present, because she never came home.
On June 2, 2007, at 6:55 pm, Kelsey went to Target in Overland Park, Kansas to purchase a gift for John. She called her mother to tell her she would be returning home shortly, paid for her items and exited the store. Target was only an eight-minute drive home, yet an hour later Kelsey still hadn’t returned. John too became worried when he couldn’t get a hold of Kelsey and called her parents, Greg and Missey.
Greg, a police officer of 17 years, had always taught Kelsey the importance of staying in touch and letting them know her whereabouts, so when she didn’t answer their texts or phone calls they knew something had gone terribly wrong. Within an hour, an extensive search for Kelsey was executed and at 9:17 pm, authorities found her 1987 Buick Regal in Macy’s parking lot across the street from Target in Oak Park Mall. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Kelsey.
Kelsey’s wallet and purse were still inside her car, ruling out a robbery. At this point, authorities knew it was likely she had been abducted. They contacted Verizon and requested Kelsey’s phone data and location, but since Verizon wasn’t legally obligated to provide the information, they refused. Since Verizon wasn’t willing to help find Kelsey, the authorities had to look elsewhere: surveillance footage from Target.
The surveillance footage showed Kelsey entering the store at 6:55 pm wearing a pink tank top and black shorts. 30 seconds later, a white male wearing a white t-shirt and black shorts entered the store behind her. As Kelsey went from aisle to aisle searching for the perfect gift, so did her killer. He subtly moved behind her, closely watching her every move. Unfortunately, Kelsey had no idea she was being followed.
As Kelsey paid for her items at the checkout and ended her phone call with her mother, her killer quickly left the store and went to his pickup truck where he retrieved his gun. At 7:07 pm, Kelsey made her way to her vehicle where she was ambushed by her killer who abducted her at gunpoint, forcing her into her own vehicle. She was never seen alive again.
On June 6th, four days after Kelsey disappeared, Verizon finally released her phone data to the authorities. Her phone last pinged in the vicinity of Longview Lake, Missouri, 17 miles away from her home. Within 45 minutes, authorities found Kelsey’s nude body hidden under sticks and branches in a wooded area near Longview Lake. She had been raped, sodomized and strangled with her own belt which was still around her neck.
The authorities released images of Kelsey’s suspected killer and his truck to the media and it didn’t take long for the tips to come pouring in, two, in particular, helped bring Kelsey’s killer to justice.
On the same day that Kelsey’s body was found, a couple called the police and reported that the man on the news looked strikingly similar to their neighbour, 26-year-old Edwin Roy Hall, known by them as “Jack.”
A co-worker of Edwin’s also called the police and reported that while on their lunch break that same day, images of his truck popped up on the news. He looked out of the window to Edwin’s truck and said to him, “Isn’t that your truck?” Edwin immediately got up, told his boss he was sick and went home.
Edwin was sexually abused by his uncle several times before the age of six. At age seven, he was placed into the custody of the state until a woman named Carol Hall read an article about children who were eligible for adoption. Carol and her husband Don, who had three children of their own, decided to adopt Edwin, hoping to give him a better life.
Carol believed she could help Edwin recover from the trauma he had suffered, but he exhibited severe behavioural problems both at home and at school, even hitting a boy in the head with a baseball bat. At age 15, Edwin threatened his adoptive sister with a knife at which point Carol and Don returned him to the custody of the state, in fear for the lives of their family.
Several years later when Edwin was in his early 20’s, Carol and Don visited him and were happy to see he was married with a child on the way. He seemed calm and happy and the Halls’ thought he had finally overcome his violent tendencies, but they were wrong.
When the authorities arrived at Edwin’s home on June 6th, they found him and his wife Aletha packing. Edwin told the police he, Aletha and their 4-year-old son were going on vacation. He denied any involvement in Kelsey’s murder but once the authorities told him his fingerprints matched those found on a seatbelt in Kelsey’s car and a stain on her shorts contained his DNA, he confessed.
On a now-deleted MySpace page that belonged to Edwin, he described himself as a “sweet troubled soul” and listed his interests as “eating small children and harming small animals.”
Edwin was arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping, rape, sodomy and first-degree murder. His bond was set at 5 million dollars. Edwin pleaded guilty to all charges and accepted a plea deal to avoid the death penalty in exchange for a full confession.
Edwin admitted to abducting Kelsey from the parking lot of Target and driving her to Longview Lake in Missouri where he raped and strangled her. He stated he first noticed Kelsey because she had “nice legs” and thought she was 12-years-old. Edwin had spent the majority of the day roaming around the Target parking lot looking for his victim. He approached several women and asked them bizarre questions until he settled on Kelsey who he referred to as a “crime of opportunity.”
Edwin was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Following his sentencing, District Attorney Phill Kline stated, “My hope is that Mr. Hall’s name will be forgotten and the name of Kelsey Smith, who she was and what she did, will live on” and it has.
Greg and Missey created the Kelsey Smith Act, legislation now established in 28 states and counting which requires telecommunication carriers to disclose cellphone location data to law enforcement in cases of missing persons who may be in great danger of harm or death. Kelsey’s family didn’t stop there, they also started the Kelsey Smith Foundation which educates young adults on safety awareness and empowers them to avoid becoming victims of crime.
Even after Kelsey’s death, she undoubtedly has saved countless lives and will continue to do so, as her legacy lives on.
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