OLATHE, Kan. – A Kansas man pleaded guilty Wednesday to the kidnapping, rape and murder of a suburban Kansas City teenager snatched from a store parking lot last year.
Edwin Hall, 27, of Olathe, pleaded guilty to capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, rape and aggravated sodomy in the June 2007 death of 18-year-old Kelsey Smith, who was taken from a Target store parking lot. The Overland Park teenager's body was found four days later in a Missouri park.
Hall's plea came during what was supposed to be a change-of-venue hearing. The courtroom was jammed with Smith's parents and other family members, friends and reporters.
The hearing came a day after a judge ruled that prosecutors could still seek the death penalty for Hall, even though Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline failed to put his address, telephone number and registration number on a legal notice.
Hall's trial had been scheduled for Sept. 16. Now he is set to be sentenced on that date.
During Wednesday's hearing, which was carried live by Kansas City media, District Judge Peter Ruddick said the only penalty for the murder charge was life in prison without the possibility of parole. Each of the other three counts carries sentences of 147 months to 653 months.
Kline laid out what happened the day Smith was taken. Hall told authorities that when he first saw Smith at the Target store, he thought she was 12 years old and had "nice legs."
Smith's nude body was found June 6 in a hollow by a tree in a wooded near Longview Lake in Jackson County, Mo. — 15 to 20 miles away from the Target parking lot where she was abducted. Kline told the hushed courtroom that Smith's belt was "turned into a murder weapon around her neck."
Smith's clothes were found nearby.
Defense attorney Carl Cornwell said he did not think Hall would get a sentence other than life in prison.
"He will die in the penitentiary," Cornwell said.
Hall's wife, Aletha Hall, was in the courtroom and had no comment after the hearing. But when asked by reporters if she was OK, she replied, "That's a loaded question."