By Shavonne Potts
Bess Moorefield was probably closer to her sister Helen than anyone. And as sisters, they shared family secrets.
But as an adult, Helen would die as a result of a well-kept secret for years her husband abused her.
Sarah Helen Propst Hall died at 47, when her estranged husband, James Reynolds Hall, shot her several times. Now, nearly 20 years later, James Hall could be eligible for parole, even though he was sentenced to life in prison.
Helen Hall's family still struggles with her death, especially on Christmas Eve, the day she was killed. They are adamantly opposed to the possibility of Hall, now 57, being set free.
The N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission will consider parole at a Dec. 20 hearing.
In October, the state commission began reviewing Hall's status. During its investigation, the commission will gather comments from people for and against paroling Hall and review facts of the case.
"She didn't tell many people of the abuse," Moorefield starts off when talking about Helen.
Domestic violence wasn't taken as seriously as it should've been back then, she added.
Hall's sister-in-law, Sherry Hall, said last week the relationship between the two was so volatile, it was only a matter of time before one of them shot the other.
Moorefield, of Lexington, also believes her sister would have fought back, in time. But she disagrees with the insinuation that her sister was also a violent person.
"She was terrified of him, and the only reason she returned was because she was afraid he'd kill her," Moorefield said.
She said Helen wasn't antagonistic. In fact, Moorefield describes herself as the aggressive one of the two.
"I'm the rebel in the family," she said.
Moorefield said in the months leading up to her sister's death, Helen had left her husband.
Helen left in July 1987; she died five months later.
When asked by a Post reporter if James Hall thought Helen was coming back to him, Moorefield said she believes he knew she wasn't returning.
"She had been gone long enough for him to know she wasn't coming home," she said.
The family always celebrated together on Christmas Eve and then spent Christmas Day with their own families.
"We always did that. He knew she'd be there," Moorefield said.
On the night of the murder, Hall called his wife numerous times while she was having dinner at the home of her sister Ruth Lentz Curlee.
"This is a bad time because of the holidays it's a constant reminder," Moorefield said.
Of her brother-in-law killing her sister, she thinks "he was a coward."
Moorefield said she knew Hall would eventually get out of prison.
He is incarcerated at Mountain View Correctional Institution in Spruce Pine.
"The hurt," she said, "doesn't ever go away."
"She'll still be dead when he gets out."
William "Willie" Propst agrees with his sister, also intending to protest Hall's parole.
"He should pay for the crime for the rest of his life," Propst said.
He misses his sister everyday.
"I think about her all of the time," he said.
Ruth Curlee doesn't put too much faith in any rehabilitation Hall might have undergone while in prison.
"He probably would say he's changed, but I don't think so," she said.
Helen was a good person, Curlee said.
"My sister wanted to live," she added.
Helen had five children, one she shared with Hall.
"They would love to have her," she said. "... My nieces and nephews don't have a mother he took her."
Hall's possible parole stirs up painful memories for Curlee.
"It's like him killing her all over again," Curlee said.
When the family gathers for the holidays, as they still do every Christmas Eve, they share fond memories of their sister.
The pain is getting a little less severe, she said.
The commission has the responsibility of paroling offenders who were sentenced under earlier guidelines.
The state's current structured sentencing law eliminates parole for people sentenced to life in prison on or after Oct. 1, 1994. Helen Hall died on Christmas Eve 1987.
For more information or questions concerning James Reynolds Hall, contact the N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission at 919-716-3010.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.