January 4, 1946
James Waybern Hall is executed for the murder of his wife
In early 1945, the bodies of several men, presumably the victims of robbery, were found in multiple counties across Arkansas, on or near highways. On January 19, 1945, C.F. Hamilton was found. On February 1, the body of E.C. Adams was discovered in a wooded area off the main highway. Doyle Mulherin’s body was found in a ditch on February 9, and his abandoned meat delivery truck was spotted later that day. And J.D. Newcomb Jr.’s charred remains were found in the back of a burned car on March 8.
Police received a tip regarding a taxi driver by the name of James “Red” Waybern Hall who may have been connected to the Hamilton murder. Detectives investigating Hall found he had a “fine reputation” with his employer and co-workers, and initially believed the lead was invalid. One of the detectives, however, suggested looking into the driver’s room regardless. Nothing seemed amiss until a detective spotted a pair of shaving cups which were similar to a pair stolen from Adams. A more exhaustive search was launched and the detectives found a .38-caliber pistol as well as Newcomb’s missing watch.
Hall was arrested on March 16. He was questioned about his wife in addition to the four men who were murdered. Hall replied his wife had left him for another man, alleging 19-year-old Fayrene “Fay” Clemmons “ran around with other men and went out drinking in night spots with girls while I was 99% faithful to her.” Hall further claimed he had asked Fay for a divorce but “she refused to leave me for good and she refused to stay home and behave.”
According to Hall’s reportedly “gleeful” confession, Fay had suggested to her husband that they and her friend visit a dance spot together in Little Rock on September 14, 1944. When Fay’s friend arrived, the couple had already been arguing and the women left without Hall. He followed the pair to the dance hall and entered into another argument with Fay before the couple brought Fay’s friend home; it was the last time the friend saw Fay alive.
Hall confessed to police that, while he and Fay were driving home, she suddenly declared she wanted to jump into a river to end her life. “I determined she wouldn’t have the opportunity to kill herself,” Hall told the authorities. “I stopped the car, struck her 20 times until she quit squirming, and then carried her body to the river bank.”
I determined she wouldn’t have the opportunity to kill herself. I stopped the car, struck her 20 times until she quit squirming, and then carried her body to the river bank.
Detectives asked Hall to show them where Fay’s body was left, though the elements and scavengers had destroyed and separated most of her remains in the 7 months since her death. One officer pondered aloud where the skull might be, a question which was answered by a farmer who had been attracted by the group of men near his farm. “Skull? Oh, we’ve got that,” the farmer reportedly explained. “I found it and thought it belonged to some foreigner who drowned in the river and got washed up on my place, or maybe it was some German prisoner of war who drowned trying to escape. I gave it to my children for a plaything.” The farmer then provided the detectives with Fay’s missing skull (pictured). Hall identified the skull as his wife’s based on her distinctive teeth, and Fay’s friend later identified the clothing found in the area as the same outfit Fay had been wearing at the dance spot.
In addition to detailing his wife’s murder, Hall also admitted to the murders of the four men found around Arkansas. He confessed to unintentionally killing Hamilton during a robbery after the victim had bragged of having a large sum of money with him. Hall was disappointed to find Hamilton had $2 (roughly $30 today) with him. Adams had been killed after similarly boasting about having a large sum of money from a job he had recently started. The victim attempted to run while being robbed at gunpoint, and Hall shot him as he tried to escape. Adams had $30 (approximately $430 today) in cash, so Hall stole various small items he had with him, including clocks, rings, and the shaving cups detectives later found in Hall’s room. Mulherin was killed in another robbery which netted Hall $100 (about $1400 today), though Newcomb’s murder did not seem to be motivated by money; Hall killed his final victim and drove over 100 miles with the body in the car before setting it on fire.
While in prison, Hall bragged to a reporter of killing 10 men in Arizona, a woman in Kansas, and a man in Texas, with the murders occurring between 1938 and 1944. When no records could be found to verify these claims, Hall explained he was “bragging so the reporter could have a good story.”
As the murders of Fay Hall and the four men had occurred in four separate counties, Hall could not be tried for all of them at the same time. He was charged for the first degree murder of his wife, with his trial drawing a crowd so large Hall commented he would “like to have the popcorn and peanut concession.” Hall was convicted on May 9, 1945 and condemned to death. “They gave me the works, but I can take it,” Hall told reporters following his sentence.
Hall was executed in the electric chair on January 4, 1946. He was 24. Hall’s last words — echoing the sentiment during his sentencing — were reportedly, “Boys, I’m not afraid. I can take it.”
Ellis, Kevin. “Serial killer behind mystery death?” Gaston Gazette. May 16, 2016. Accessed: January 4, 2021. https://www.gastongazette.com/article/20160516/NEWS/160519158
Reynolds, Ruth. “When Justice Triumphed.” Sunday News [New York, New York]. January 26, 1946
“Hall Dies in Electric Chair 7:22 A.M. Today.” Hope Star. January 4, 1946
“Governor Laney Last Hope Of James Hall, Sentenced To Die At State Prison Farm.” Northwest Arkansas Times [Fayetteville, Arkansa]. January 3, 1946
“Murder on Tour.” Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph. July 15, 1945
“Alleged Slayer Of Six Plans Insanity Plea.” The Knoxville Journal. May 7, 1945
“Confessed Slayer To Trial Monday.” Joplin Globe. May 6, 1945
Walsh, Pat. “4 Counties Fight to Try Strutting Slayer of Six.” Sunday News. March 18, 1945