Update #2 on 1903 Cold Case

This is the second update on the 1903 James Patterson murder cold case. Here’s a link to the original story and a link to part one of the update. The first update is about new information uncovered about the time before the murder. This post deals with what happened after the murder.

Incidentally, is a murder that took place over a century ago really a cold case? A case can be cold in a matter of weeks – as soon as the active investigation ends. This one may be cryogenically frozen.

Anyway. South Carolina Governor Cole Blease, a fascinating character in his own right, paroled Charley Hall in May 1912, nine years after he was sentenced to life “at hard labor” in the state penitentiary.

Governor Cole Blease's signature on Charley Hall's parole document
Governor Cole Blease’s signature on Charley Hall’s parole document

Blease had a regular mania for pardoning and paroling convicted criminals, at least 2,000 convicts were set free under his watch. The governor’s reasoning in many cases was unfathomable, but in this case, it appears to be grounded in something factual. The more I learn of Cole Blease the more weirdly fascinating he becomes. Check out the link to the post about the Governor at the end of this entry.

When he addressed the legislature in 1913, Governor Blease mentioned Charley Hall and cited a parole board recommendation as the basis for setting him free:

A fragment of Governor Blease's 1913 address
A surviving fragment of Governor Blease’s 1913 address

What evidence?! From the information in the case records, the murder seems pretty cut-and-dried. There were several eye witnesses, and the victim gave a statement before his death identifying Charley Hall as his murderer. If there were “grave doubts, it would explain why he was “recommended to mercy”. Could it have been a case of mistaken identity? An evil twin?

Charley Hall made a final appearance in the state’s records in 1918: one week shy of the 6-year anniversary of his parole, Charley Hall was himself murdered with a pistol at 10 a.m. on May 14, 1918.

Charley Hall's death certificate
Charley Hall’s death certificate

The death certificate tells us a couple of interesting things:

  • He may have been an illegitimate child. No father is listed on his death certificate, though his mother’s name (Harriett) is recorded.
  • Charley was married to a woman named Irene when he died. Apparently he used those nine years in the state pen to get over Annie Laurie.
  • His wife knew the year he was born – but not his exact birthday. Maybe he didn’t know it either?
  • He was 3o years old at the time James Patterson was murdered.
  • After his release from prison, he was a farmer.
  • He was 44 or 45 when he died.

Will we ever learn anything else? Maybe not, but you won’t catch me making foolish blanket statements like “that’s the last we’ll ever know of Charley Hall” again. Never say never.

Click here to find out more about Governor Cole Blease, if you dare!

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