Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Women Who Kill: Part Two

A Long Way from Normal

It was Hall's boyfriend who turned her in after she confessed the deed to him. He'd initially believed the baby was his, and they'd buried her together under the name, Taylor Horn, but then Hall admitted that she'd miscarried his child and had stolen this premature infant from her "cousin."

Dr. Phillip Resnick
Dr. Phillip Resnick

Jeff Doan interviewed mental health experts on the subject for the Associated Press. Dr. Phillip Resnick, who assisted in the defense of both Andrea Yates (who drowned her five children) and Deanna Laney (who stoned hers), said that he interpreted the act of fetal snatching as the maternal instinct gone wrong. Its clinical name is "newborn kidnapping by Caesarean section." The perpetrators are typically women who've learned they cannot have children or who have lost a child. Their longing to be mothers builds into a crafty determination to get a baby, so they look for a vulnerable pregnant woman. Mentally, they've gone so far beyond normal that the cost of a life to acquire a child seems minimal to them. The baby, they think, will complete them, and they're often jealous of women who do have babies or are about to give birth. Resnick says that being barren takes on terrible symbolism, so stark on the minds of these offenders that they can see only their own need, and not the ultimate consequences to themselves or others.

However, even with all the calculation that often occurs in these cases on the way to acquisition, there have been no others in which the perpetrator actually committed mass murder in the process. Hall killed five individuals.

On September 25, Hall pled not guilty to the deaths of Tunstall and the fetus, and charges in the other three murders are still pending. Given the nature of the crime and the possibility that it involves a psychotic delusion, it's likely that if she goes to trial, her defense will be some form of insanity or diminished capacity. In fact, her attorney, public defender Randall Kelley, indicated he'd have her tested for mental competency. It's not clear, despite her claim to her boyfriend, that Hall was ever even pregnant. However, her two daughters had been removed from her custody for three years in 1999, due to abuse, but were returned to her four years ago. Psychiatric testing will probably probe the effect on her of this circumstance.

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