BELLEVILLE, Ill. – An Illinois woman pleaded guilty Monday to killing her pregnant friend, the unborn child and the victim's three children in a plea deal that allowed her to avoid the death penalty.
Tiffany Hall, 26, pleaded guilty to all five charges against her — four counts of murder and one of intentional homicide in the death of the fetus, which she cut from the mother's womb — and was sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison without parole.
St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida said prosecutors agreed to no longer pursue the death penalty after defense attorneys approached them about a month ago to discuss a plea, and after they spoke with the victims' relatives who said they wanted the case to end.
Hall, dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit with her hair looped in a small bun on top of her head, showed no emotion in court. She answered Judge Milton Wharton's questions in a quiet voice, but declined to give any statement when asked if she would like to do so.
In court, Haida recounted the shocking details of the crime that began on Sept. 15, 2006.
Hall struck her friend Jimella Tunstall, 23, on the head repeatedly with a table leg at Hall's mother's house, then cut Tunstall's fetus from her womb in a bathtub. After Tunstall bled to death, Hall dumped her body in an East St. Louis lot, Haida said.
Hours later, Hall told police in Illinois she had been sexually assaulted in St. Louis and given birth to a stillborn child after the attack. When police arrived, she had the dead fetus with her, claiming it was her own. She refused to be examined at a hospital.
Three days later, Hall visited the father of two of Tunstall's children and the unborn child, Haida said. The father treated all the children as his own, and was caring for them, Haida said. Hall lied to the father, saying Tunstall wanted him to let her pick up the children and Tunstall's vehicle, he told police.
"He relayed to the officers that was the last time he saw his three children," Haida said.
Hall then drowned the three children — DeMond Tunstall, 7, Ivan Tunstall-Collins 2, and Jinella Tunstall, 1 — in the same bathtub where she killed their mother, Haida said.
Authorities said Hall's story began to unravel on Sept. 21, 2006 at the funeral for the fetus, when she told her boyfriend, home on leave from the military, that the baby wasn't his and that she killed a pregnant woman and stole the fetus. He told police.
The bodies of the three children were found two days later hidden in a washer and dryer inside the East St. Louis apartment where the children lived with their mother.
Hall later told authorities that she "had contemplated taking Ms. Tunstall's unborn child for quite some time," Haida said. He said she bought rubbing alcohol, a sharp object and a nasal aspirator a week before the attack.
One of Hall's attorneys, James Gomric, said Hall had been mentally fit to stand trial, but also said she had unresolved mental health issues and tested at an IQ in the mid-70s. After the court proceedings, Gomric said he could not speak to a motive in the case, or discuss if his client had ever shown remorse.
After the hearing, three of Tunstall's relatives said they were pleased with the way the prosecution had handled the case. They didn't think it would have eased their burden if Hall had said she was sorry. Some relatives said they had already forgiven her.
"I believe in putting justice in God's hands," said Sandra Myers, 54, Jimella Tunstall's mother.