PRESTONSBURG — The last act of Alan Tackett was to dial 911 seeking aid for his wife. Moments later, a 911 dispatcher answered the line to hear the horrified screams of children.
Two Kentucky State Police dispatchers were called to testify Tuesday, in the murder trial of Berry Hall. Hall is accused of shooting and killing his two neighbors, Alan and Lisa Tackett, in their yard in 2008, as he pointed a gun out his bedroom window.
Dispatcher Andrea Justice took the call that originated at the Tackett residence. As the tape was played back in the courtroom, the only sounds were the screams of the Tacketts’ children, followed by long stretches of silence mixed with barking dogs and inaudible background voices.
A second call came into KSP dispatch from the Halls’ residence minutes later. Tony Hall, the son of Berry Hall was the caller. In the recording, he is asked by Dispatcher Shawn Lawson what had happened. Hall tells him that two people have been shot. “They’re laying in the yard, they’ve been shot,” Hall told the dispatcher. Lawson then asks Hall who shot them and he replied, “My dad.”
The investigation into the crime was also given testimony Tuesday from KSP troopers and detectives.
KSP Detective Chris Hicks testified that when he was the first to arrive on the scene March 20, 2008. He said that as he walked up to the Tackett residence, he came upon Berry Hall standing over the body of Lisa Tackett.
Hicks said that Hall told him, “I lost it and killed them.”
Trooper Eric Gibson , who was second to the scene behind Hicks, testified that when he spoke to the defendant, Hall said, “I’d went crazy, and I’d had enough.”
Kentucky State Police Det. Ben Kramer was the detective in charge of the 2008 murders. He told the prosecutor that when he arrived on the scene he ordered a neighborhood canvass, to see if anyone else had heard or seen anything.
The prosecution then presented the jury crime scene video and photos, as Kramer narrated their depictions.
Berry Hall watched without expression as Kramer explained to jurors the details of the grisly crime scene photos.
According to Kramer, when he arrived on the scene, he found Lisa Tackett lying on her back, dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
Kramer also testified that Alan Tackett had been shot twice, first in the left hand, and then in the right side of the head, which according to the coroner’s report was a fatal wound. Kramer told the court that a bullet was recovered during the autopsy of Lisa Tackett and bullet fragments were recovered from Alan Tackett’s head and leg.
The mental stability of Berry Hall following the shooting has been the source of much conjecture by defense attorneys
Kramer testified that during the interview with Hall, almost immediately after the shooting, he seemed perfectly capable and answered all of the detective’s questions.
“He seemed coherent, seemed like he understood the questions,” said Kramer. Kramer told the court that KSP has protocols in place which protect those under questioning by transporting them to a Hazard mental facility for involuntary evaluation if they appear to have mental instability.
Kramer said that during that interview, Hall said, “I shot Lisa first. I don’t know why.” According to Kramer, Hall then told him that after he fired the first shot, Alan came out of the house.
When asked if he was angered by the verbal fighting between his wife and Lisa Tackett, Hall told Kramer, “I wasn’t mad. I don’t know, I just.” When asked if he would have hurt the children if they had come outside, Hall said, “no.”
The commonwealth is seeking the death penalty for the double murder of Lisa and Alan Tackett. Hall is also charged with four counts of wanton endangerment for the couple’s four children, who were in the home as Hall allegedly shot and killed their parents.
“Berry Hall shot and killed Lisa and Alan Tackett and made orphans of those children,” Brent Turner told jurors during his opening remarks on Monday.
Turner said that the Tacketts were initially friendly with Berry Hall and his family, though the relationship deteriorated over the years between the two families. There were frequent arguments, and the occasional involvement of law enforcement.
Turner said that on the day of the shooting, the argument began over Hall’s wife shooing the Tacketts’ dog off their porch. Lisa Tackett and Charlotte Collins stood arguing back and forth, according to testimony from Collins and each of Hall’s children, while Berry Hall sat calmly on the living room sofa, watching TV and eating hot dogs.
As the arguing died down, Collins says she saw Hall go upstairs to his room. Moments later, shots rang out.
“He zeroed in that scope on Lisa and squeezed the trigger,” said Turner. According to Turner, the first shot struck Lisa Tackett in the chest, broke ribs, and tore through her liver and stomach. “She bled to death on the inside.”
Testimony Monday was largely confined to Hall’s family. His ex-wife Charlotte Collins and his sons, Matthew, Tony and Bobby Hall.
According to testimony given by Tony Hall, Berry’s son, Alan Tackett emerged from the house screaming, “Oh god, Lisa they shot you.”
Turner says that in rapid succession, Hall took aim on Alan Tackett and fired one round into his leg which caused him to bend over clutching his leg in pain. Then, zeroed his scope in again, and fired a second shot into his Alan Tackett’s head.
Berry’s other son Matthew, testified that he went upstairs after the shots were fired to find his father standing near the window, holding a gun. When Matthew went to take the gun away from Hall, he says his father made a statement saying for him not to touch it, so as not to get his fingerprints on the weapon.
During his opening remarks, defense attorney Steve Goble said that the months and years leading up to the shooting exposed a man suffering from mental illness, and that the shooting was the result of years of depression, anxiety and a family history of mental illness. According to Goble, 11 of Hall’s 12 siblings suffer from some form of mental illness.
Goble describe Hall as a self-made man, with an IQ in the 70s, who made a living with his hands. “He was the classic jack-of-all-trades,” Goble said.
Goble says that in the last few years, Hall had been laid off several times, and that the stress from not having a job and seeing his own children support him saw his mental condition worsen. Testimony from his children and ex-wife confirm that Hall was taking prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety or “nerve” pills. Goble said those drugs changed Hall from the outgoing person he was. Matthew Hall testified that as the depression worsened, Hall slept in, seldom left the house, and would often take his meals and go upstairs to eat in his bedroom.
Goble said that on the day Lisa and Alan Tackett were shot, “Berry lost his grip on reality,” and that after the shooting Hall sat in the back of the Kentucky State Police cruiser answering questions. The defense said he told the trooper, “I should have been locked up in mental institution,” as he sobbed, banging his head against the door.
Hall is represented by Will Collins, Steve Goble and Jim Gibson.