Suspect Appears in Court in Kansas Teen Kelsey Smith's Death

The man charged with kidnapping 18-year-old Kelsey Smith from a Target store parking lot, strangling her and dumping her body in a Missouri park, appeared in court Thursday, sitting within feet of Smith's parents.

Edwin R. Hall, 26, of Olathe, has been held in the Johnson County jail on $5 million bond since being charged June 7 with premeditated first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping in the death of Smith, whose body was found June 6. Authorities said she was strangled with a ligature but would not say what was used.

Hall's defense lawyer, Paul Cramm, on Thursday asked Johnson County District Judge Peter V. Ruddick to keep Hall in Johnson County and that he "not be farmed out" because of the volume of evidence in the case.

"That way I'll have availability to meet with him and review the discovery material prior to the hearing," Cramm said.

Ruddick did not rule on the request but set a preliminary examination hearing date for Aug. 15.

Smith's parents, Greg and Missey Smith, also attended the brief appearance and sat about six feet away from Hall, who was shackled at the wrists and ankles and brought in separately from six other inmates. It was the first time the Smiths had seen Hall in person.

The Smiths said afterward they had no reaction to seeing Hall.

"He doesn't matter," Missey Smith said. "Kelsey matters. You want to talk about Kelsey, we'll talk about Kelsey. He doesn't matter."

On Wednesday, Ruddick issued a gag order limiting what lawyers, police and others in the case can discuss with the media, but Johnson County District Attorney Phill Kline held a news conference in his office after the court appearance. Cramm has refused comment to the media.

Capital murder charges could still be filed against Hall, Kline said. But he said he would have to notify federal authorities that he intends to seek a capital murder conviction within five days of the arraignment.

"That does not necessarily mean that we will ask for the death penalty," Kline said. "That comes later."

Hall's current charges do not constitute a capital charge in Kansas. He faces at least 25 years in prison if convicted of the murder charge and more than 12 years on the aggravated kidnapping count.

Kline also said there was a chance the case could be tried elsewhere.

"High profile cases commonly involve a motion for a change of venue," Kline said.

Smith was abducted from a Target store in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park on June 2, and her body was found near a lake about 20 miles away in Missouri. Hundreds of volunteers distributed fliers and searched for her after Target surveillance cameras recorded her being forced into her car.

On June 6, police arrested Hall, acting on hundreds of tips generated by the store surveillance footage, which was broadcast nationwide.