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by Judith Hruz
For the first time in 51 years, the family of Montgomery County Special Deputy Sheriff Capt. James Tappen Hall will feel some closure on the anniversary of his death in October.
Montgomery County Police detectives from the Major Crimes Division’s Cold Case Unit arrested 71-year-old Larry David Smith, also known as Larry David Becker, in connection to the killing of Hall in 1971.
On Oct. 23 of that year, at approximately 10:40 p.m., county police officers were called to Manor Country Club in the 14900 block of Carrolton Road after witnesses reported a man lying face down in the southeast parking lot.
Officers arrived at the scene and found Hall suffering from a gunshot wound. Hall was transported to an area hospital where he succumbed to his injuries three days later. He died a few days after his Oct. 20 birthday.
Investigators believe that Hall, who was working a second job beyond his deputy sheriff’s position, interrupted a residential burglary in progress.
Hall is the only deputy sheriff killed in the line of duty, Montgomery County Chief Deputy Maxwell Uy said, and law enforcement officials have always shown an interest in solving the case, despite the half-century span since the homicide.
Last October, on the 50th anniversary of Hall’s homicide, detectives from the Cold Case Unit decided to review the case with a fresh set of eyes.
For almost a year, Det. K. Leggett and Cpl. L. Killen of the Cold Case Unit combed through case files and recordings and interviewed witnesses. Through the course of their investigation, they narrowed in on one person, Larry David Becker.
In 1973, Becker was interviewed by investigators but had not been labeled a suspect, police said.
Detectives determined that around 1975, Becker began using the last name Smith, and had been living in Little Falls, N.Y., for over 45 years.
On Sept. 1, Leggett and Killen interviewed Smith in New York. During that interview, Smith admitted to shooting Hall, police said. That day, detectives applied for and received an arrest warrant, charging Smith with murder. Smith was arrested in New York in connection to Hall’s murder.
Smith waived his extradition and was expected to return to Maryland by the end of last week, after press time.
“I am very proud of the hardworking and dedicated men and women in our department,” Police Chief Marcus Jones said, adding “they have never given up in finding justice for this case.”
Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin also thanked investigators, saying the arrest “brings a tremendous sense of relief.”
Uy said Smith (Becker) said the Sheriff’s Office is happy to get answers for Hall’s daughter, Caroline Philo, and other family members, who attended a press conference on Sept. 7.
“We’re so happy,” Philo said.
Hall’s wife, Anna, died in 2005, Jones said, but that she and her husband “left behind a great legacy” of other family members in law enforcement.
“We are pleased to bring justice to your grandfather, your father and your uncle,” Jones said to members of Hall’s family.
Hall’s case is the oldest cold case solved by the Montgomery County Police Department.
“This shows that we never forget,” he said.
The investigation continues and detectives are asking anyone with information regarding Larry David Smith’s (Larry David Becker’s) to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070 or contact Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Callers can remain anonymous.
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