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May 9, 2014

Man has bond modified in Topix solicitation case

Indicted after allegedly advertising he would pay for murder of woman

WHITLEY COUNTY — A Corbin man facing one charge of solicitation to commit murder had his bond modified Thursday morning in Whitley County Circuit Court.

Tristan Hall, 30, will now be under home incarceration with an ankle bracelet requirement until his Aug. 6 jury trial.

Hall was indicted for this solicitation charge in June 2013 after he allegedly advertised on the well-known website Topix that he would pay $5,000 in cash for the murder of Melissa Jones Davis.

The request allegedly included the hired killer would be required to conceal the body.

On Thursday, Hall appeared before Judge Paul Winchester with his defense attorney, Warren Scoville, for a hearing to discuss the motion made by the Commonwealth to restrict Hall further while awaiting trial on bond.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Robert Stephens explained that Hall was originally released on a $75,000 fully-secured bond with a monitored conditional requirement, and was to have no access to a computer. “The reason he was placed on that (was because) Mr. Hall is charged with threatening a woman’s life,” Stephens explained. “He (allegedly) used the computer (and) placed a hit for money to kill her.”

Stephens added that he felt in order to protect the victim, the public and “all of us” that this was necessary.

Stephens then explained the defendant said he planned to take classes as part of earning a law degree from the University of Tennessee, and that he was going to live in Knoxville, Tenn.

Because of that situation, Stephens said the court agreed to not place Hall on the ankle bracelet.

He then reminded the court that Hall was supposed to give his new Knoxville address to Pretrial Services, as Hall reportedly planned to move to the city in August 2013.

Stephens then said the court agreed that information be given to Pretrial Services, and that Hall had to provide proof he was in those classes, which prepares a student to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

“(But) as we’ve gone along, I think we’ve lost sight of where to be on this,” Stephens said. “(We’ve) had instances where stuff was written on the window (of the Commonwealth Attorney’s office), and and an attempt to contact the court.

“With all that in context, (it) shows he has no proper respect for the position he’s in,” Stephens added.

Further, Stephens said that Hall pleaded guilty on a speeding ticket received in February, where Hall was allegedly driving 91 mph in a 70 mph zone.

In that paperwork, Stephens said there was a Corbin address. “He was not in Knoxville, Tennessee where he told the court he was,” he said. “He never provided his Knoxville address.”

Stephens then referred to a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) report. He explained that in May, dispatch received a call, allegedly from Hall, that advised a woman named Angela Reeves had reportedly “busted the windows” out of Hall’s truck.

That CAD reports lists Hall with a Williamsburg address.

Stephens said neither of those cases shows Hall “was where he told the court he was living.”

He also briefly referred to an alleged domestic dispute, but it was unclear as to the nature of those circumstances.

“We’re asking the court (for) restrictions,” Stephens said. “We’re asking for ankle monitoring.”

Winchester agreed that he remembered that court appearance last July concerning the LSAT classes at UT.

Scoville then had the opportunity to argue against the Commonwealth’s motion, and he began with the speeding ticket Hall received.

Scoville explained that while Hall did receive that ticket, he had called the county attorney and had that ticket amended to 9 mph over the posted 70 mph speed limit — and Hall paid that ticket.

“Never in my 37 years (have) I known someone’s bond was amended or revoked (over a traffic ticket),” Scoville said.

He added that the Knoxville address had been provided. “This may be my fault,” Scoville said, explaining that Hall was to attend UT for the 16 weeks of LSAT classes last fall but was “late to get in.”

He added that Hall was taking the LSAT school and the LSAT itself and was “planning to go to the University of Dayton” in Ohio. “That was not clear before (but) that’s what did happen,” Scoville said.

He further said that when he read the motion filed by the Commonwealth, he felt some things appeared not right.

He reiterated that Hall was attending LSAT school at UT, and that he “thought everyone knew that address.”

He then addressed the other issues brought by Stephens before the court.

“I respect that it is suspicious (when) someone writes on the wall of the Commonwealth Attorney,” Scoville said. “(Or) delivers (a box) to your house at 8:30 at night.”

But he said he has concerns about the Wi-Fi situation. “There’s no proof Mr. Hall did that,” Scoville said, then added “I wish he was on an ankle bracelet — I wish that had happened.”

He then said “I have to rely on what (my) client tells me — and he tells me he did not do those things.”

Scoville added he hoped the change would resolve anything prior to the August trial.

“(It’s) a weak case,” Scoville said. “Yes, that’s Hall’s router, (but) we can’t say who sent the message (to Topix).”

Winchester asked where Hall was living — and learned it was with his grandmother in Williamsburg. The judge asked if Hall was currently employed — and learned he was not.

Winchester asked about classes, and Hall said he was taking two classes online for a master’s degree.

Scoville then continued, saying that an ankle bracelet will still allow Hall “to come and go and be tracked.”

“(He) doesn’t intend to go any place,” Scoville said. “He’s a hands-on client — (he comes) to my office often (and) he runs errands for his grandmother.”

He added that Hall’s mother was “in bad health.”

“I wish he’d’ve been on an ankle bracelet all the time,” Scoville said again.

Stephens then interjected and asked the court limit Hall’s destinations to the doctor, his lawyer or church, alleging that Hall “has been seen at numerous bars.”

“That’s a gross exaggeration,” Scoville said, adding that the people of Corbin voted it was not against the law to go to a bar.

“He’s in special circumstances,” Stephens said.

Then Winchester took a turn to speak.

“(With) everything that’s happened, (it) would be better for everybody (if Hall was placed) on home incarceration with an ankle bracelet until he’s tried in August,” the judge said. “(It) will benefit your client as well.”

Winchester added that if Hall wanted to go somewhere that he would be required to follow a specified procedure to be approved to leave the residence prior to the actual scheduled appointment.

“(He needs) to stay at one spot until we get this case concluded,” Winchester added.

Stephens then said that his office contacted UT and learned there was no LSAT preparatory program on campus — adding they don’t allow the classes on campus. He requested Hall bring proof before the court that he completed the LSAT classes.

“We want to whip (on Hall),” Scoville said.

“We want the truth, Warren,” Stephens said to Scoville.

Scoville then angrily requested Stephens speak to the court, not directly to him.

Stephens said that “with all the problems we’ve had in this case,” including harassment, the Commonwealth feels it “is not inappropriate” for Hall to prove he attended those classes at UT.

According to Kentucky State Trooper First Class Don Trosper, Hall turned himself approximately one year ago at KSP Post 11 in London after the intended victim, Melissa Jones Davis, saw the post and notified police.

He was arrested in May 2013 by KSP Detective Richie Baxter and jailed at the Whitley County Detention Center.

JailTracker records show he was booked into the detention center May 16, 2013, and released June 18 on bond.

JailTracker records also show Hall was arrested Dec. 6 for contempt of court, libel/slander resistance to order — and released three days later on an unknown bond.

Trosper alleged when the Topix message was traced back to Hall by law enforcement, Davis didn’t think the threat was credible at the time.

Trosper added the investigation took approximately five months, because time was needed to trace the origin of the post through Internet service providers and websites.

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