A 50-year-old cold case killing of a Maryland cop has finally been solved, with the arrest of an upstate New York man who confessed to the crime, police said.
James Tappen Hall, a Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy, was mortally wounded on Oct. 23, 1971 at the scene of a burglary. He was found facedown in the parking lot of a country club in Rockville, where he’d been shot in the head. Hall died three days later at a nearby hospital.
For 50 years, investigators made little to no progress finding the killer.
But last Thursday, authorities arrested Larry David Smith at his home in Little Falls, N.Y. Montgomery County police said Smith, who was known as Larry David Becker at the time of the shooting, confessed to officers.
Smith, now 70, was charged with first-degree murder. As of Wednesday, he was still held in Herkimer County jail in New York, but Maryland cops expect him back in that state by the end of the week.
On the day of the shooting, Hall was off duty and working as a private security guard at Manor Country Club, about 10 miles north of Washington, D.C.
Smith, then 19, was in the middle of stealing things from a house and taking them to his getaway car when Hall spotted him, according to police.
Smith shot Hall one time in the head and drove away from the scene, cops said. Two years later, in 1973, investigators interviewed Smith, but decided he was not a suspect and let him go.
When Montgomery County cops reopened the case in 2021, they found a recording of Smith’s conversation with officers. Smith knew information that had never been released to the public and told the original investigators that he would cooperate “if he could receive consideration for leniency” on unrelated charges, according to police documents.
Modern-day investigators seized on the conversation and turned Smith into their primary suspect. Police said that in addition to Smith’s squirrelly manner on the original tape, his decision to leave Maryland and change his last name added to their suspicions that he was the killer.
The officers interviewed Smith on Sept. 1 at his home in Little Falls, about halfway between Syracuse and Albany. According to police, he confessed to the crime during that interview and officers quickly obtained an arrest warrant.
Smith claimed that the shooting was an accident, saying he had only recently learned that Hall died of his wound.
Montgomery County police said Hall’s killing was the oldest cold case they’d ever solved.
With news wire services
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