Early tragedy didn’t deter Hale

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2005

Suffolk News-Herald

When Kelly Hale was 12 years old, his father was murdered. For the rest of his life, Hale and his family would have to deal with the senseless loss of a beloved family member.

&uot;That tragedy should have taught him restraint,&uot; Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Will Jamerson told the Suffolk Circuit Court Thursday. &uot;It should have taught him respect for life. But it didn’t.&uot;

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Indeed, a decade after losing his father, Hale made the decision to put another family through the pain that he himself had once experienced. Over what Hale’s own mother called, &uot;not even an argument, just an exchange of words,&uot; Hale shot Jonathan Williams at a party on Oct. 25, 2003. Williams, 49, died the next day. On Thursday, Hale was sentenced to 63 years in prison.

But when Hale pulled that trigger, he did more than just take a human life. He robbed two parents of ever seeing their son again. He took away Williams’ chance to play with his nieces, nephews, and possibly someday, his own children. He took away his own son’s right to a father, and his fianc\u00E9e’s chance at a husband.

At the party, Hale apparently said something rude to his mother Joyce, according to court testimony. Williams told him not to speak that way to his mom. To Hale, it meant a death sentence.

&uot;Had I known anything like that would happen,&uot; Joyce Hale said to the court. &uot;I never would have gone to the party. I’ve never seen any violence in my son. I told him to put the gun away, and I walked away. The next thing I knew, ‘bam!’&uot;

An admitted drug dealer, Hale had taken out a gun that he claimed he’d bought on the street for protection, and put a bullet into Williams’ abdomen. Someone shouted that there were children in the home, and his alleged response was &uot;(Expletive) the children!,&uot; additional court testimony would detail.

In town for a reunion with her fellow Hampton University alumni, Pamelyn Liles was supposed to go to a football game with her brother the night before he died. Williams asked her to sell his ticket, as he had to be at work early the next morning. The next day, Liles stumbled out of a deep sleep and went to quiet her dog. She saw her brother dozing on a cot and spoke to him for a few minutes. At 2

the next morning, Liles came home, and saw the light on in the home. Right away, she knew that something was wrong.

&uot;My mother never stays up that late,&uot; he said. &uot;I saw her standing in the foyer, fully clothed.&uot;

Her mother Helen told her that Jonathan had been shot, and the two raced to the hospital. They went to the intensive care unit, and met Liles’ father Leon.

&uot;I gave him a hug,&uot; she said. &uot;I felt him collapse in my arms.&uot;

Jonathan was given several pints of blood, but it was too late; at about 4 a.m. that morning, he died, Liles added.

Liles burst out of the room and called her brother Dwight to tell him what had happened. Then she and her parents went downstairs to the morgue and saw Jonathan lying in a table, she recalled in court.

&uot;I felt his hand,&uot; she said. &uot;It was so cold. Sometimes I try to forget that by pretending it didn’t happen. I never in a million years thought I’d be helping my mom and dad plan my brother’s funeral.

&uot;The one thing that I regret that I never got to say is that I loved him,&uot; she said. &uot;I love you, bro.&uot;

While she was speaking on the stand, Liles broke down, and a deputy brought her a cup of water. He laid it near the witness stand, but she didn’t drink any. Then she stepped off the stand, and Hale, clad in an orange Western Tidewater Jail jumpsuit, slowly walked forward to explain his actions. Just after she sat down, Hale spied Liles’ drink, and gulped it down.

&uot;Someone that is incarcerated with me knew Mr. Williams, and all I’ve heard is that he was a good man,&uot; he said slowly. &uot;My carelessness took him away from his family. I pray that the Williams family can get their life back in order. I ask that I get another chance to raise my son, and keep him from falling into the traps that I fell into.&uot;

But Circuit Court Judge Westbrook Parker felt Hale’s crime warranted a long sentence.

&uot;This is one of those cases that plays itself out too often every day,&uot; Parker said.

&uot;Guns and drugs. The witnesses blame drugs for this tragedy, but they were the same drugs that this man was dealing to other people. With the gun in his pocket, what else could we expect to happen to the victim?

&uot;Mr. Williams was the kind of person that we all want our children to be,&uot; Parker continued &uot;He was doing exactly what his parents raised him to do, being kind and helpful to everyone. There’s no question that the defendant is guilty of first-degree murder.&uot;