The Murder of Kelsey Smith

Kelsey Smith

Kelsey Smith was abducted and murdered on June 2, 2007. She was taken from the Target Department Store parking lot on the corner of 97th and Quivira in Overland Park, Kansas. The store’s video surveillance system captured her abduction. Edwin Roy “Jack” Hall, 26, was convicted of her murder.

The Life of Kelsey Smith

Kelsey Ann Smith was born on May 3, 1989, in Overland Park, Kansas. Her parents were Greg and Missey Smith. She was a sister to Stephanie, Lindsey, and her brother, Zach. Kelsey had just graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School on May 24, 2007. She was excited to start Kansas State University in the fall. Kelsey was loved by her friends and family. She had a fantastic sense of humor. She looked forward to the time spent with her boyfriend, John Biersmith.

The Day That Kelsey Smith Disappeared

On June 2, 2007, at 7:07 p.m., Kelsey Smith parked her 1987 Buick Regal in the parking lot of the Target Department Store in Overland Park, Kansas. She had gone to Target to purchase a gift to give to her boyfriend, John Biersmith, in honor of their six-month anniversary. Kelsey spoke to her mother via cell phone while she shopped. This would be the last known contact Kelsey had with her family.

Kelsey Smith

When Kelsey stopped responding to cell phone calls and text messages, John and Kelsey’s older sister began searching for her. At 11:00 p.m. they discovered Kelsey’s 1987 Buick Regal in the parking lot of the Macy’s Department Store, across the street from the Oak Park Mall where the Target was located. Her purse and the gifts she had purchased were in the vehicle, but her cell phone and car keys were not. The pair contacted the police to report Kelsey as a missing person.

The Search for Kelsey Smith

Investigators immediately began their search for Kelsey. They started with the video surveillance from Target. The footage shows Kelsey parking her vehicle and entering the store. It shows her talking to her mother on her cell phone. Kelsey pays for her items, exits, and walks to her vehicle. Once at her vehicle, the video captures Kelsey being forced into her vehicle before it leaves the parking lot. From the time that Kelsey arrives at the store, a man is seen following her from the parking lot upon arrival, through shopping, and back out to her vehicle. The video shows him forcing Kelsey into her car and abducting her. From the time that he approached Kelsey until her vehicle was seen leaving was 16 seconds. He was described as being in his early twenties, average height and build, wearing a white shirt and dark-colored shorts, black and white tennis shoes, and driving a 1970s white Chevrolet pickup truck.

When investigators reviewed the Macy’s Department Store video surveillance footage, they found the moment that Kelsey’s vehicle was abandoned at 9:17 p.m., about two hours after her abduction in the Target parking lot.

Security footage showing Kelsey leaving a store
Security footage showing Edwin "Jack" Hall leaving behind Kelsey

Crime scene technicians processed Kelsey’s vehicle and discovered several sets of fingerprints throughout the vehicle. Investigators were about to eliminate family and friend’s fingerprints, leaving a set of unidentified fingerprints on the seatbelt. Those fingerprints were not registered in any law enforcement database. A trace amount of unidentified DNA was recovered from the steering wheel of Kelsey’s vehicle.

Kelsey Smith is Located

Investigators contacted Verizon Wireless, Kelsey’s cell phone provider, and requested a cell phone ping of Kelsey’s last known location. It took four days for Verizon Wireless to provide the information. Verizon’s technical department used C.S.L.I. (Cell Site Location Information) to locate the last three cell phone towers that Kelsey’s cell phone had used. The three towers formed a search area, so the technician directed investigators to a spot 1.1 miles north of one tower. This took investigators to Longview Lake, a reservoir just over the state line in Grandview, Missouri, 14 miles east of the Target Department Store parking lot. Kelsey was found 45 minutes after they started the search.

On June 6, 2007, at 1:30 p.m., the body of Kelsey Smith was discovered in a wooded area at Longview Lake. She had been found naked under a pile of tree branches with her own nylon belt wrapped around her neck. She was also covered in an excessive number of ticks. The medical examiner determined the attacker had raped, sodomized, and strangled Kelsey. They determined the cause of death to be strangulation.

The Search for Kelsey Smith’s Murderer

Investigators released part of the surveillance footage to the media, hoping to gain additional information or a suspect. They received an exuberant number of tips that were unrelated. Several tips showed promise. One tip was from a woman who reported an incident at an outdoor farmer’s market. She stated someone assaulted her while she was trying to get into her vehicle at the River City Market in Kansas City, Missouri. The incident resulted in her having to undergo surgery on her hand.

A second tip from a restaurant called On the Border, in the Oak Park Mall Complex, stated that the same man from the released video footage had been in their restaurant at approximately 5:00 p.m. on the day that Kelsey disappeared. He had been harassing the wait staff and had left the restaurant without paying his bill.

A third tip was called in from a man who had seen the released footage while he was at work. He had turned to his co-worker, Jack, and asked, “Isn’t that your truck?” Jack told his supervisor that he was not feeling well and left for the day.

Edwin "Jack" Hall

A fourth tip came from a man and his wife. They stated they believed that the man and truck belonged to their neighbor, Edwin “Jack” Hall.

When investigators went to Edwin Hall’s Olathe, KS residence, they found him, his wife, and their four-year-old son leaving their residence. They pulled the vehicle over and noticed that their vehicle was packed with bags as if they were going on vacation.

Investigators took Hall in for questioning. During his initial police interview, Hall stated he did not recognize Kelsey but later commented that he had seen her. He commented that she “had nice legs” but her face made her appear like she was 12 years old. With Hall’s attorney present, he agreed to DNA samples and fingerprints being taken. Before he could leave police headquarters, Hall’s thumbprint was matched to a print on the driver’s side metal seatbelt clasp from Kelsey’s car. He was arrested for her murder.

The Charges and Conviction of Edwin Hall

On June 7, 2007, Edwin Hall was charged with premeditated first-degree capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, rape, and aggravated criminal sodomy.

On July 23, 2008, Hall pleaded guilty in a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty. He was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole on September 16, 2008. At the time of his sentencing, Hall waived his right to any future appeal of the sentence.

After the sentencing hearing, Kelsey’s family spoke to the media. Greg Smith, Kelsey’s father, stated, “Today is not really a victory, but it is justice, and justice isn’t always fair. If it was fair, we’d get Kelsey back.”

Kelsey Smith's grave

The Aftermath

Edwin “Jack” Hall is serving out his life sentence at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Hutchinson, Kansas.

The four days that it took to receive the cell phone ping information were exceptionally frustrating. As a result, Kelsey’s family made it their mission to introduce a law to combat the extended result time frame.

On December 14, 2023, State Representative Jake LaTurner, a Republican from District 2-Kansas, introduced H.R.6823—the Kelsey Smith Act:

H.R. 6823. To amend the Communications Act of 1934, to require providers of a covered service to provide location information concerning the telecommunications device of a user of such service to an investigative or law enforcement officer or an employee or other agent of a public safety answering point in an emergency involving risk of death or serious physical harm or in order to respond to the user's call for emergency services

Kelsey Smith’s family and friends formed the non-profit organization called The Kelsey Smith Foundation. They have accomplished a great deal in honor of Kelsey’s memory. For more information, you can find the website here.

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