On a fall day in 1993, a teenage girl in Georgetown, Illinois, was out riding her bike. As her sister left home, she drove past her sister on the long country road. Moments later, the girl was gone. The investigation into her disappearance would uncover unthinkable evil, leading to more questions than answers. This is the story of The Wooden Falcons: The Victims of Larry Hall.
Jessica Lynn Roach, known as Jessi, was born November 27th, 1977, to Charles and Terry Lynn Roach. Her family included two sisters and a brother. The Roach family were active members of the Church of Jehovah Witnesses. Jessica loved the movie Gone with The Wind, reading, and dreamed of becoming a pilot. She was a good kid who stayed out of trouble. On the afternoon of September 20th, 1993, Jessica disappeared. Her father and sister had seen her riding her bike. A half hour later, her abandoned bike was found in an area of disturbed gravel, igniting horrible fears that she was the victim of foul play.
The search for Jessica last two months before her remains were found by a farmer in a cornfield across the border in Indiana. Extensive decay and damage from the farmer’s equipment caused Jessica’s body to be damaged too severely to determine cause of death. Fingerprints were used to positively identify Jessica, comparing those prints to one’s she had taken at school as part of a child safety presentation with police officers. The detectives had very little to no evidence in the investigation. Jessi’s grieving family mourned the loss of their daughter and hoped answers would come.
Almost a year later, in October of 1994, who girls in the Georgetown area reported a suspicious person in a van following them around. The girls wrote down the license plate number of the van and retreated home. When they informed police of the disturbing incident, the license plate was tracked to an Indiana man named Larry Hall. Upon questioning the man, they learned he had been in the Georgetown area for a war re-enactment, a hobby he shared with his twin brother Gary. He had also been in the area at the time Jessica Roach had disappeared.
Larry Hall was brought into the Wabash, Indiana police department for questioning. Detectives claimed when they showed him a photo of Jessica Roach, Larry flinched. However, he denied ever seeing her. Larry was questioned for two-and-a-half hours, continuing to insist he knew nothing about Jessica Roach’s disappearance. He was then released. Two weeks later, he was brought in once again for questioning. This time, Larry Hall gave a confession. According to his defense team, this was a coerced confession, but this was enough to place Hall under arrest and charge him with the murder of Jessica Roach.
The confession was taken after more than twelve hours of interrogation, an interrogation that was not recorded in any fashion. The defense team filed a motion to suppress the confession, alluding to unprofessional conduct by the detectives, but the motion was denied. Because Jessica was taken across state lines, Larry Hall was charged federally with kidnapping for purposes of sexual gratification resulting in death. He was quickly convicted and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Larry Hall was no stranger to law enforcement on the Indiana side of the border. He had been arrested multiple times for stalking. Larry Hall was born December 11th, 1962, in Wabash, Indiana. He grew up with his identical twin brother, Gary. Gary was outgoing, friendly, and had lots of friends. Larry, however, was reclusive and socially awkward. Gary grew up and moved away, but Larry remained in Indiana caring for his aging parents and cleaning offices at night. Perhaps the differences in the twins resulted from a loss of oxygen Larry experienced at birth. His mother also stated that Gary “fed off Larry” in the womb, which is known as a monochorionic pregnancy (Wikipedia). Larry grew up assisting his father in his work as a grave digger. He had committed several petty crimes in his youth.
When Jessica’s body was found, another family found themselves praying the body belonged to their missing daughter Tricia Reitler. Tricia Lynn Reitler was born February 9th, 1974, to Gary and Donna Reitler of Ohio. Tricia was a college student at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana. Her parents had encouraged her, their eldest child, to attend the University because the school operated on the same religious morals and values as the Reitler family. Her father remembers dropping her off at school in the Spring of 1993. Tricia begged him not to go. A few days later she disappeared.
Tricia was working in a term paper in her dorm room when she grew restless. She decided to take a break and watch to the nearby grocery store. She purchased a soda and magazine and left the store. She never made it back to her dorm room. Tricia’s blood-soaked jeans were found on the path back to her dorm room, but her remains have never been found. She is presumed dead, but her family hold out hope that they can bring her remains home one day.
The day after Larry Hall confessed to the murder of Jessica Roach, he claimed he was only telling authorities about his dream and recanted the entire confession. In his van, police found items indicative of Larry’s guilt. These included a map that had markings where Jessica was abducted and where her body was found and newspaper clippings of both Reitler and Roach’s disappearances. There were handwritten notes describing his actions in the spring of 1993, when Tricia Reitler disappeared. Larry described stalking women outside the grocery store Tricia was last seen at. Also, a to do list was found including things such as “cut out stained carpet, burn paint tarps, buy knew hacksaw blades, clean all tools” (On the Case with Paula Zahn). Police now believed Larry Hall was responsible for Tricia’s death. In fact, he admitted to the murder but again recanted. With lack of evidence, no charges were filed against Larry Hall in connection with Tricia Reitler’s disappearance.
Detectives and the family of Tricia Reitler sought answers and closure. While in federal prison, detectives wanted to get justice for Tricia. They found a convicted drug dealer with no history of violence who had recently been sentenced to federal prison. They offered him the deal of a lifetime: obtain useful information that implicates Larry Hall is Tricia’s murder and uncover the location of her remains and the convict could walk free with a clean record. Jimmie Keene accepted the offer and was sent to the same prison as Larry Hall.
Jimmie Keene went undercover as a special informant. The charismatic young man was able to befriend Larry Hall relatively easily by indicating Larry was a “cool guy” and giving him plenty of positive attention. Jimmie stood up for Larry during a jail house altercation, beating another prisoner and finding himself in solitary confinement. He had earned Larry’s respect and trust. They spent much time together once Keene left solitary confinement. Larry told his new friend how he strangled Jessica Roach. A few weeks later, he admitted to killing Tricia Reiter by choking her. He claimed to have blacked out, not remembering the actual murder. He buried her with lime in the woods, according to what he said to Keene.
Keene said he felt physically sick around Larry Hall and found it difficult to maintain their friendship. A few days after the confession, Jimmie walked in on Larry carving wooden falcons and placing them on a map of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Hall told Keene that the wooden falcons were there to “watch over the dead”. Keene believed the map would lead to Tricia’s body. After informing the FBI of the map, Jimmie broke his cover telling Larry Hall was a piece of garbage he was and landing Keene back in solitary confinement. By the time the FBI got the message, the map was nowhere to be found. Jimmie Keene, after spending months befriending a psychopath, was set free despite the mission being essentially a failure. The relationship between Keene and Hall is the topic of Apple TV’s Black Bird. Tricia’s body has never been found.
Larry Hall is suspected of many other murders as well, some of which he has confessed to only to recent later. Some of these include the Dean Marie Pyle Peters, a fifteen-year-old girl who disappeared from her middle school in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1981. Dean was at her wresting practice when she asked to use the restroom, leaving the gym. Her mother, attending her practice, waiting for her daughter to return. She never did. The school custodian was suspected, but no evidence ever connected him credibly. Another suspect was the male friend of two girls who were angry at Dean over a boy. It is rumored that he drove his truck towards her to scare her but slid on ice and ran her over. Rumors claim he buried her somewhere, but her body was never found. Some people believe she was the first victim of Larry Hall.
Twelve-year-old Debra Jean Cole disappeared from her hometown of Lebanon, Indiana in 1981. She was initially classified as a runaway, but that was changed in 1983 when Debra’s sister Frances went missing and was found murdered. In 1999, DNA evidence linked the boyfriend of Debra and Frances’s mother to Frances’s murder. The suspect had already died years earlier and was never prosecuted. Although it seems likely he also killed Debra, Larry Hall has been investigated in the case as well.
Jennifer Lee Schmidt disappeared in 1985 from the campus of Purdue University in Indiana. The nineteen-year-old’s body has never been found although she is presumed dead. Marcie Fuller Swinford was a twenty-one-year-old mother of four in 1985 when she went out to run errands. Her body was found near Honey Creek Bridge in Indiana. Denise Diane Pflum was an eighteen-year-old senior at Connersville High School in Indiana in 1986. She disappeared while going to the sight of a party she had attended the night before to locate her purse. In 2020, her ex-boyfriend, in prison for un-related crimes, confessed to killing her but refused to lead authorities to the body. He was terminally ill and died before being tried for the crime. On his death bed, he told his lawyer he did not commit the crime and was only trying to get out of jail. Larry Hall is considered a suspect in each of these cases.
Pholia Myla Chavez, the Summerfield Jane Doe, was found in a corn field in 1986 mutilated and murdered. Years later she was finally identified as Pholia, a drifter from California. Somehow, the drifter was murdered and disposed of in the tiny town of Summerfield, Illinois. Another murderer, Dale Anderson, is also a suspect in this case. Kimberly Ann Thompson disappeared in 1986 from Champaign, Illinois. Her body has never been found. Linda Weldy disappeared from her bus stop in LaPorte, Indiana in 1987. Her body was found murdered three weeks later. The case remains cold.
Diana Jane Braungardt, an eighteen-year-old from Crystal City, Missouri, left her job at Venture one night in 1987. She was never seen again. Wendy Louise Felton disappeared in 1987 from Marion, Indiana. She has never been found. Paula Webster was a nineteen-year-old who disappeared from Chester, Illinois, in 1988. Larry Hall confessed to her abduction and murder, but later recanted. Cynthia Louise Carmack disappeared in 1988 from on Ohio shopping mall. The fifteen-year-old has never been found. Penny Dawn Lease, a twenty-three-year-old woman, disappeared in 1989 near the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign after working at the Omni Fitness Center. Laura Depies was twenty years old when she disappeared in 1992 from Wisconsin. Larry Hall confessed to kidnapping and murdering her, although charges were never filed. In all these cases, Larry Hall may be a suspect
What struck me about researching each of these missing women, I found striking similarities in their appearances. All the women were under twenty-five and most had long brown hair. Is Larry Hall a serial confessor or a serial killer? Some believe he confesses to crimes for attention, while others believe he may be one of the most prolific serial killers in the Midwest, with nearly fifty murders tied to him. His twin brother told Paula Zahn that he still loves his brother but is repulsed by his brother’s actions (On the Case with Paula Zahn). Larry Hall remains incarcerated in the federal prison system to this day.
On The Case with Paula Zahn "The Evil Twin" Available on Discovery Plus
Black Bird Available on Apple TV +