Woman acquitted at 2nd trial over slaying

 FORSYTH, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri woman was acquitted at a second trial over the 2003 slaying of a 68-year-old woman.

Greene County Judge Michael Cordonnier ruled Tuesday that no physical evidence linked Paula Hall, of Sparta, to the death of Freda Heyn, 68, who disappeared in November 2003 from Oldfield, about 30 miles southeast of Springfield. Heyn's skull was found in the Mark Twain National Forest in southern Christian County in 2004.

Hall was convicted in 2009 of second-degree murder in Heyn's death and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. But an appeals court overturned the conviction in 2011. She was released on bail in June.

"There is no physical evidence supporting the conclusion that (Hall) was present at any one, or either of the purported crime scenes," said Cordonnier, who heard the case in a bench trial last week, The Springfield
News-Leader reported.

Prosecutors argued that Hall killed Heyn by hitting her with a golf club.

But Cordonnier questioned the testimony of David Epperson, who pleaded guilty last year to tampering with physical evidence. The judge said Epperson's testimony is the only thing that links Hall to Heyn's death. Epperson, who was originally charged with murder in Heyn's death, was offered a plea deal for his testimony against Hall.

The judge said Epperson told several versions of what happened to Heyn.

"The court concludes that David Epperson is not honest, is not truthful, and that his testimony is belied by his drug use, by the plea bargain made with him, and by his personal animus toward (Hall)," Cordonnier wrote.


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