Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hall-Mills Murders

Theories

Although this 1922 double homicide is still unsolved, there are numerous theories as to who the killer was:

1) The Ku Klux Klan did it as vigilante justice, because they frowned on loose morals and because they might have posed the bodies in the way they were posed. William Kunstler offers this theory in his book, and the main problem with it is that the Klan generally leaves some clear message that this is their work, and there is nothing that indicates any such message was left.

2) Mrs. Hall did it by herself, out of revenge. She was the only person the night watchman saw go into her house at 2:30 a.m. that Friday morning. Two witnesses saw a car like hers out near the crime scene. However, her aversion to all the publicity speaks against this, since it would be obvious the two victims were caught in adultery, and she took great pains to say that her husband was not involved in such an affair.

3) James Mills did it, because he knew his wife was unfaithful and she had challenged him that night to follow her. However, several people saw him working on the window boxes on his porch. Even so, he did leave around 10:30 to go to the church, and time of death was never officially established, only loosely estimated to be around ten. No one really pursued this lead very thoroughly.

4) Mrs. Hall and Willie did it, with Willie being the killer. It was an accident, using the rectors .32 caliber pistol, which Mrs. Hall quickly disposed of. Willie also posed the bodies and cut Eleanors throat, because when rage overtook him, he didnt know what he was doing. Willie had sent clothes to be dry-cleaned the following day, and they were handed over to the police because they had suspicious spots on them, but the outfit was subsequently lost. He was also quite agitated the next morning and made several remarks to the effect that he had been up all night, there was trouble, and people would soon hear about it. His buddies at the fire station seemed to think he knew about the murders before the bodies were discovered, but they offered nothing at Willies trial. Nevertheless, Willies "rage" does not sufficiently explain why he nearly cut off Eleanors head or took the time to remove her tongue.

5) Ralph Gorsline did it. He was angry with Mrs. Mills for coming on to the rector, and also jealous, since they were said once to have had an affair. He and a woman who wanted the minister for herself often spied on the two, and though he originally denied it, he finally admitted to having been near the crime scene that night when the murder was going down. The day after the police, who suspected he had played a part, questioned him his expensive touring car caught fire and burned to a shell. There seems to be no doubt he knew more than he ever admitted.

6) A jealous rival of Eleanor Mills who wanted the rectors attention did it. There were others in the choir and in the church who hated Mills for being favored by Hall. A few days after the murders, someone tore out of several hymnals the page on which Hall and Mills favorite hymn was printed. The favorite suspect is Minnie Clark, a plump schoolteacher, but there is no evidence against her.

7) Mrs. Hall hired an assassin. A one-time friend of Willies, Julius Bolyog, claimed some forty-eight years later that on the day after the murders, Willie hired him to carry two envelopes, each filled with $6000 to two young men in a New Brunswick alley, but the act of hiring thugs does not fit well with the character of Mrs. Hall. She would not risk everything on such lowlifes.

8) Some thug did it to rob them. But why would they cut out Mrs. Mills tongue and slice her throat so badly. There was some speculation, a la Lizzie Borden, that some wandering lunatic did it, but such people are generally not organized enough to pose bodies to the point of leaning a calling card against a foot. There is a remote possibility, but its very remote.

9) Ray Schneider did it. He thought the couple in the dark lane were his girlfriend and the man he had seen her with, which turned out to have been her own father. However, whoever killed them did so at close range, not more than three feet away and probably closer. There was little chance of mistaken identity. He may well have stolen the rectors watch and money.

10) The Pig Woman did it. The defense made this suggestion as within the realm of possibility, given the many inconsistencies in her story. But she had no motive, no pistol, and no awareness of who the couple was.

The murder remains a provocative mystery.

 

 

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