Justen Grant Hall, 38, was executed by lethal injection on 6 November 2019 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of a woman to prevent her from reporting an assault.
In 2002, Hall and Ted Murgatroyd were acquaintances who had mutual friends and hung around a house in El Paso owned by Chase Hale. On Monday, 28 October, at about 4:00 p.m., Melanie Billhartz, 29, who was good friends with Murgatroyd, drove up to the house. Murgatroyd asked her to drive him to a convenience store. She moved into the passenger seat and let him drive.
According to Murgatroyd, on the way back from the store, he made a sarcastic comment which Billhartz "flipped out" over, and she began hitting him and screaming at him to get out of her truck. A physical altercation followed in which, according to Murgatroyd, she bit him while he was exiting the truck and he struck her on the lip when he raised his hand defensively. Billhartz drove back to the house, with Murgatroyd following on foot.
When Murgatroyd reached the house, Billhartz was sitting in her truck, which was parked in the front. Some of Murgatroyd's associates, including Hall, came out to talk to him and informed him that Billhartz intended to call the police to report that he assaulted her. Hall, then 21, said that he did not want the police to discover the methamphetamine lab in Hale's house and that he intended to kill Billhartz.
Three to five hours later, Hall pulled up to the house with Billhartz's body in the back of the cab. He told Murgatroyd to pick up a shovel and a machete so they could go bury her. They drove to New Mexico, then Hall told Murgatroyd to cut off Billhartz's fingers to prevent any DNA from being found under her fingernails. Hall then dumped the body, minus the fingers, and he and Murgatroyd returned to El Paso.
On 23 November, police questioned Murgatroyd about Billhartz's disappearance, and he led them to her body. Coincidentally, on the same day, Deputy Tommy Baker of the Hale County Sheriff's Office noticed a truck parked on the highway near Plainview. He approached it to do a welfare check on the occupants. Without asking for identification, he advised the occupants to move on and find a safer place to rest. After the truck drove off, Baker was informed by his dispatcher that the owner of the truck had been reported missing. Baker pulled the truck over again. During his investigation, he learned that the owner of the truck was a homicide victim. He then arrested Hall, who was driving, for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. Hall subsequently confessed to killing Billhartz.
At Hall's trial, the medical examiner testified that Billhartz had been strangled with an electrical cord that had been wrapped around her neck three times. In addition, she had fractures in her nasal bones, jaw bone, right hand, and ribs. Her missing fingers were also noted.
In addition to Ted Murgatroyd's testimony, Chase Hale testified that Hall told him he killed Billhartz.
According to public records, in February 2000, Hall was convicted of three crimes - burglary of a habitation, burglary of a building, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle - occurring in three separate incidents. He was sentenced to three concurrent two-year terms. He was discharged upon the completion of his sentences (including time spent in jail awaiting trial) in November 2001.
In April 2002, Hall was charged with the shooting murder of Arturo Diaz, 28 whose body was found in El Paso on 10 April. Hall was arrested at Chase Hale's house. Prosecutors treated the killing of Diaz, who was transgender, as a hate crime. Hall was out on a $75,000 bond for Diaz's murder when he killed Billhartz.
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