In 2010 Jeff Hall was awarded sole custody of his two oldest children, Joseph and Shirley Hall, after a vicious and protracted legal battle with his former partner, the children’s mother Leticia Neal.
Just one year later in the small hours of May 1 2011, Hall would be dead; shot in the head by his own 10-year-old son as he slept on the coach .
The story inevitably made headlines – not just because of the graphic nature of the crime and the extreme youth of the criminal – but because of Joseph Hall’s prominence in California’s Neo-Nazi circles.
The out-of-work plumber was a committed member of the Detroit-based National Socialist Movement (NSM), a neo-Nazi party active in 35 US states. In 2010, Hall had even stood for public office as a white-supremacist candidate, winning 30% of the vote in a failed bid to join the Western Municipal Water District board.
Nazi Dad’s Domestic Violence Triggers Emotionally Disturbed Son To Bloody Action
In the days following the murder, Joseph Hall told investigators that he had killed his father after Jeff had threatened to disable the smoke detectors and burn down the family home with the family still inside.
Jeff Hall had a history of violence towards Joseph, as well as towards his wife, Krista McCary, 26, which was exacerbated by his heavy drinking and alleged abuse of methamphetamine.
The ten-year-old also confessed to police his fears that step-mother Krista would be forced to leave the family home, after Jeff had started up an affair with another woman. The infidelity had not been kept secret from the emotionally volatile Joseph. If Krista left he would be stuck with the father who championed and terrified his kids in equal measure.
10-Year-Old Killer’s Troubles Predated Dad’s Embrace Of Nazism
By the time that 10-year-old Joseph was charged with his father’s murder, he had already been kicked out of six different schools and was being educated at home. It wasn’t exactly clear how much an of education Joseph was receiving. Jeff had dropped out of high school after the 11th grade and step-mother Krista had her hands full with the couple’s other four children.
Joseph’s behavioral problems were perhaps unsurprising given the facts of his early life. His parents, who married two weeks after Joseph’s birth, separated acrimoniously when he was around one-year-old.
Since early childhood, Joseph had been prone to violent outbursts and was known to set small fires. His paternal grandmother, Joann Patterson, a biology teacher who often helped out with childcare for the growing family, refused to babysit the Joseph unaccompanied, unable to handle his fits of rage.
Warring Parents And Allegations Of Abuse
After their parents’ break-up, Joseph and his younger sister had
initially lived in Washington State with their mother, Leticia Neal. In 2003 however, the siblings were removed from their mother’s custody, along with two younger half siblings, after social workers found the children bruised, dirty and malnourished, in a maggot-infested home with neither gas nor electricity.
In court documents, Jeff Hall claimed that while in mother’s care Joseph suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her new boyfriend. Charges against the boyfriend were never filed and Joseph told court-appointed psychologists that he had no recollection of the abuse. However, experts testified at the time of the custody hearings that Joseph’s behavioral problems would be consistent with a history of sexual abuse in early childhood.
Jeff’s family also maintain that Leticia abused drugs and alcohol throughout her pregnancy with Joseph; claims that Leticia Neal has strenuously denied.
Because their father was on probation for a DUI when the children were first removed from Leticia’s care, the brother and sister were put into the temporary custody of grandmother Joann. A brutal custody battle followed, with allegations of abuse on both sides, but from 2004 onward the two children lived with Jeff in California.
From Model Father To Nazi Dad
After holding down a string of menial jobs to support his growing family, at the age of 25 Jeff Hall began training as a plumber. By this time he had met and married Krista McCary, an attractive redhead, six years his junior, and the couple went on to have three more children together.
At this point in Jeff Hall’s career, friends and family considered the young plumber to be a ‘model father’. Although money was tight, Hall’s wages were enough to keep the family afloat. Those close to the family claim that Jeff was an involved father, who doted on his large brood.
Yet Joseph’s behavioral problems persisted. At times he could be a loving, if rather withdrawn child, but he also was impulsive and unpredictable. When in a rage, he would lashed out at other children and his caregivers – scratching, kicking and biting, even stabbing with sharp objects.
His family put Joseph’s anger issues down to the abuse he had suffered while in his mother’s custody, but despite a raft of diagnoses – PTSD, ADHD, conduct disorder – there seemed no way to soothe the young boy’s emotional turmoil.
Out-Of-Work Plumber Jeff Hall Radicalized By Far Right After 2008 Economic Crash
Things started to go downhill for the Hall family around 2008, when the economic downturn left Jeff struggling to find work. Convinced that Jewish conspiracy and non-white migrant workers were to blame for his poor job prospects, the father-of-five became active in local neo-Nazi politics.
Jeff’s sister, Megan Rowe, claims that while unemployed her brother began drinking heavily, and started lashing out physically both at wife Krista and the young Joseph.
Despite his acts of domestic violence, Jeff Hall paradoxically took great pride in centering his family at the heart of Neo-Nazi gatherings. He hosted Nazi meetings inside the family home, showing off his large family to other far-right activists, whose ‘protection’ he regarded as justification for his extremist ideology.
Jeff Hall took also his grade-school age son with him on clandestine ‘night missions’ to intimidate migrants at the US-Mexico border. In the months before his murder, Jeff bought his son Nazi memorabilia, and taught the child how to use firearms and night-vision equipment in preparation for a coming race war.
At a 2010 custody hearing, Patricia Neal pleaded with a judge to remove her son and daughter from their father’s care in light of his neo-Nazi activities. But her own record of child neglect was enough to persuade the judge to confirm Jeff Hall’s sole custody.
Few Mourn Nazi Dad, But Will Killer Child Face Adult Justice?
His victory was short lived. Although in the wake of his murder, Jeff Hall’s neo-Nazi confederates praised the dead man as a caring and engaged father, most outsiders were disgusted by a parent who had willingly exposed his prepubescent son to such a noxious creed.
Public sympathy tended towards the killer child, with many commentators assuming – as Joseph himself had done – that due to his extreme youth and his father’s history of domestic abuse, the child would probably not face prison time.
But while headlines soon moved on, Joseph Hall’s progress through the US criminal justice system had only just begun.