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UPDATE: Life Without Parole for Farmhand who Brutally Murdered Woman

By: Grover Tadlock; Andrew Colegrove; WSAZ News Staff Email
By: Grover Tadlock; Andrew Colegrove; WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 10/16/12 @ 11:35 a.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The man found guilty last week in the brutal murder of a Gallia County woman is headed to prison for life.

Lee Hawkins, 47, was sentenced Tuesday for the murder of Betsy Ball.

Last week during his trial, Hawkins was found guilty of aggravated murder, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

Prior to the sentencing, the victim's husband, David Ball, approached the stand to speak on behalf of the family.

After a long pause and being visibly too emotional to speak, Ball asked one of the Assistant Prosecutors to read his statement for him. Part of the statement read "Betsy was a great great lady and you robbed her from us, most of all you robbed her from her great enjoyment of life. You robbed her from her family, her friends that she could bring a smile to their faces"

Hawkins was sentenced to life without parole on the aggravated murder charge. That was the maximum penalty.

On the tampering with evidence charge, which was merged with the abuse of a corpse charge for sentencing, Hawkins was given 36 months to be served consecutively with his life sentenced.

Hawkins was also ordered no contact with victims family.

On March 1, 2012, the body of 67-year-old Betsy Ball was found along a rural road about 6 miles from her home in Morgan Township. She had been reported missing the evening before her body was found.



UPDATE 10/9/12 @ 8:25 p.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- An aggravated murder verdict was returned Tuesday evening by a jury in the case of a farmhand charged with killing a 67-year-old woman.

While Lee Hawkins, 47, of Bidwell, Ohio, was found guilty of the aggravated murder charge, he was found not guilty of a murder charge.

Hawkins also was found guilty of tampering of evidence and guilty of abuse of a corpse.

On March 1, the body of 67-year-old Betsy Ball was found along a rural road about 6 miles from her home in Morgan Township. She had been reported missing the evening before her body was found.

The coroner says Ball died primarily from strangulation. There was no word on a motive for the murder.

Hawkins had been employed off and on as a farmhand by David and Betsy Ball for about 15 to 20 years. He sat emotionless as the verdict was read -- after nearly three hours of deliberation by the jury.

After hearing the verdict, family and friends of the Balls sobbed with joy that closure was finally here after a six-day long trial. David Ball, the husband of Betsy Ball, was too emotional to speak with WSAZ on camera, but he did say he was glad the trial was over.

Deborah Kerwood, a niece of Betsy Ball, said justice was served Tuesday.

"We can rest assured that Lee Hawkins will spend eternity in hell and at least the rest of his physical life in prison" Kerwood said.

Assistant Prosecutor Eric Milford said they were pleased with the verdict, and this was what they expected.

"We felt this case was pretty clear," Milford said. "Like we told the jury, this has been a very lengthy trial, but the case itself is not difficult. There's just a lot of evidence."

Assistant Prosecutor Britt Wiseman said this verdict allows the family and especially David Ball to begin the healing process.

"I could see tonight on his face that he was glad to turn at least one page in this book that he has ... this nightmare that he has been having to live for the last so many months," Wiseman said.

Hawkins could face life without parole on the aggravated murder charge alone. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/9/12 @ 4 p.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The fate of man charged with murder is now in the hands of a jury.

Closing arguments by prosecution and defense were heard by a jury Tuesday afternoon in the murder trial of Lee Hawkins.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Eric Mulford began his argument reminding the jury that the defendant told six different lies as to what happened the night Betsey Ball was murdered. Mulford also said the fingerprints, semen, and other evidence collected from the scene and from Mrs. Ball's body "only pointed to Lee Hawkins as the one who committed a cowardly act when he killed Mrs. Ball."

Defense Attorney Barbra Wallen argued that investigators rushed to find someone to pin this crime on and found Hawkins and immediately stopped the investigation.

At one point sighs and moans were heard from the audience as the defense attorney stated that there was no evidence of forced intercourse between the defendant and the victim indicating that intercourse must have been consensual. The defense says Hawkins did not give six different stories but rather gave out bits and pieces of the truth as investigators questioned him.

Wallen says that because no weapons were found, not enough evidence was collected and the rush and sloppiness of investigators to wrap up the case quickly does not prove that Hawkins was guilty of any crime.

The jury was given the case just before 4 p.m.

Jurors must decide on charges of aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/9/12 @ 11:15 a.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Closing arguments are set for Tuesday afternoon in the trial for the man charged with murdering 67-year-old Betsy Ball.

Lee Hawkins, 47, of Bidwell, is charged with aggravated murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with Ball’s murder.

On March 1, Ball’s body was found along a rural road about 6 miles from her home in Morgan Township. She had been reported missing the evening before her body was found. The coroner says Ball died primarily from strangulation. No word on a motive for the murder.

Hawkins had been employed off and on as a farmhand by David and Betsy Ball for approximately 15 to 20 years.

The trial started on October 1 in Gallia County Common Pleas Court.

Last week jurors visited the crime scene and the location where Ball’s body was found.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/2/12 @ 11 a.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The trial for murder suspect Lee Hawkins resumed Tuesday with the prosecution calling the husband of the victim to the witness stand.

Hawkins is charged with aggravated murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with the death of 67-year-old Betsy Ball, of Morgan Township in Gallia County.

Hawkins had been employed off and on as a farmhand by David and Betsy Ball for approximately 15 to 20 years.

David Ball, who is the husband of the victim, Betsy Ball, testified about the night his wife was murdered.

Ball came home from work and noticed several things were out of order around the garage: rags, shoes and items out of place, lights on and dog still outside. Ball said he began searching the house and went through closets, rooms, outside, around the pond and called a neighbor to help search -- then called police.

The next day Sheriff Joe Browning informed Ball that the body of of his wife had been found.

At one point Hawkins came and told Ball that he was very sorry for what happened to his wife and didn't understand why anyone would do such a thing.

Forensic Pathologist Dr. Shott was then called to the stand.

Shott said several external injuries were found on the body of Betsy Ball -- some of which pointed to an increase blood pressure in the head area often seen in strangulation or hanging deaths.

Shott also testified that there was evidence supporting that some type of cord or rope going around the neck. Also a 12-inch-long cut across Ball's stomach area was found, this caused by a sharp object. Dr Shott said the primary cause of death was strangulation.

As pictures of the wounds were shown, several members of the audience, mostly friends of Ball, were noticeably upset and had to leave the courtroom.

Hawkins never looked up, keeping his eyes staring down at the desk where he was seated.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information on the trial.



UPDATE 10/1/12 @ 1:36 p.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A jury has been seated and trial is underway for the man accused of murdering Betsy Ball.

Lee Hawkins, 47, of Bidwell, Ohio, is charged with aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

Jury selection started at 9 a.m. Monday in Gallia County Commons Pleas Court. The selection process went quicker than expected -- and the trial began Monday afternoon.

The prosecution will give their opening statement Monday and the defense will give their opening statement to jurors Tuesday morning.

On March 1, Ball’s body was found along a rural road about 6 miles from her home in Morgan Township. She had been reported missing the evening before her body was found. The coroner says Ball, 67, died primarily from strangulation. No word on a motive for the murder.

Investigators say Hawkins worked for the Ball’s on their family farm. His trial was originally supposed to start in September, but was postponed after Hawkins became ill.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/1/12 @ 1:36 p.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Jury selection is underway for the man charged with the murder Betsy Ball.

Lee Hawkins, 47, of Bidwell, Ohio, is charged with aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

Jury selection is expected to take all day Monday in Gallia County Common Pleas Court. Opening statements are expected to take place Tuesday morning.

On March 1, Ball’s body was found along a rural road about 6 miles from her home in Morgan Township. She had been reported missing the evening before her body was found.

Investigators say Hawkins worked for the Ball’s on their family farm. The coroner says Ball, 67, died primarily from strangulation. No word on a motive for the murder.

The trial was originally supposed to start last month, but was postponed after Hawkins became ill.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 8/20/12
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- An illness has postponed the trial of the man charged with the murder Betsy Ball.

Lee Hawkins, 47, of Bidwell, Ohio, was charged with aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

On March 1, Ball’s body was found along a rural road about 6 miles from her home in Morgan Township. She had been reported missing the evening before her body was found.

Investigators say Hawkins worked for the Ball’s on their family farm. The coroner says Ball died primarily from strangulation. No word on a motive for the murder.

Hawkins' trial was scheduled to begin Monday in Gallia County Common Pleas Court, but had to be postponed after he became ill, according to court officials.

A new trial date could be set later this week.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/19/12 @ 3:40 p.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) – The man indicted for the murder of Betsy Ball was in court Monday.

Last week, Lee Hawkins, 47, of Bidwell, Ohio was charged with aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

Hawkins was arraigned on the indictment Monday in Gallia County Common Pleas Court. His bond was set at one million dollars.

A May 15 trial date was set in the case.

Back on March 1, Ball’s body was found along a rural road near Vinton, which is about 6 miles from her home in Morgan Township. She had been reported missing the evening before her body was found.

Last Tuesday, Gallia County Deputies arrested Hawkins, who worked for the Ball’s on their family farm.

The coroner says Ball died primarily from strangulation.

No word on a motive for the murder.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/16/12 @ 11:23 a.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) – The man arrested earlier this week for the murder of Betsy Ball has been indicted by a Gallia County Grand Jury.

Lee Hawkins, 47, of Bidwell, Ohio is charged with aggravated murder, murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.

Hawkins could be arraigned on the charges as early as Friday afternoon in Gallia County Common Pleas Court.

Back on March 1, Ball’s body was found along a rural road near Vinton, which is about 6 miles from her home in Morgan Township. She had been reported missing the evening before her body was found.

On Tuesday, Gallia County Deputies arrested Hawkins, who worked for the Ball’s on their family farm.

The coroner says Ball died primary from strangulation.

No word on a motive for the murder.

Keep clicking WSAZ.com for updated information.



UPDATE 3/14/12 @ 11 p.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Charges have been filed in connection with the death of a Gallia County woman.

According to a release from Sheriff Joe Browning, Lee Hawkins, 47, of Bidwell, Ohio, is charged with aggravated murder, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse. Hawkins was arrested Tuesday by Gallia County deputies and Ohio BCI&I agents.

The charges against Hawkins stem from an investigation into the death of Betsy Ball, 67, of Gallia County, Ohio.

Gallia County Deputies responded along with other emergency service workers and searched for Ball in the area around her home when she was reported missing. After receiving a phone tip, her body was discovered later that day in a rural area off of Piper Road near the Village of Vinton. The site where she was found is about six miles from her home.

According to preliminary autopsy reports released by County Coroner Daniel Whitely, Ball died primarily as a result of strangulation.

Hawkins was a farm worker that had been employed by the Ball’s at their family farm.

Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning stated that the expertise and assistance rendered by the Ohio Attorney Generals BCI&I and the Gallia County Prosecutors Office as well Sheriff’s Deputies and staff at the GCSO was invaluable in solving the case.

“Our public can rest assured that we have pursued every lead brought to us, and plan to aggressively prosecute the responsible party in these types of heinous crimes.”

Beth Caldwell is the cousin of Betsy's widower David Ball.

"It's just a shock to everybody, especially that he would do something to a lady like her that just loved and cared about everybody," Caldwell said. "She just didn't deserve it."

She says their family has reached some closure now that an arrest has been made, but knowing who’s accused of the heinous crime has added to the pain and confusion.

"Knowing he did it just makes it worse,” Caldwell said, “knowing it was somebody who was basically like part of their family because they'd known him so long. David had put it on him to do everything on the farm, and then he went and did something like this."

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/6/12 @ 2 p.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The Gallia County Sheriff's Office is still investigating the death of a woman found six miles from her home.

67-year-old Betsy Ball was found along a rural road near Vinton about 1 p.m. Thursday.

As of Tuesday, no suspects or persons of interest have been identified.

Her cause of death has not been released.

Gallia County Sheriff Browning says both Ball’s house and where her body was found are considered crime scenes. He says good evidence has been collected at both sites.

Anyone with information on Ball’s death is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office tip line at 1-740-446-6655

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updated information.



UPDATE 3/2/12 @ 11:55 a.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The body of a 67-year-old woman found dead in a rural area of Gallia County has been positively identified as Betsy Ball of Morgan Township.

Sheriff Joe Browning says Ball’s body was found along a rural road near Vinton about 1 p.m Thursday. The site is about six miles from her home.

Sheriff Browning tells WSAZ.com that Ball’s death is being investigated as a homicide. Browning is waiting on the autopsy for a cause of death.

Browning says both Ball’s house and where her body was found are considered crime scenes. He says good evidence has been collected at both sites.

The Sheriff says investigators continue to interview people who knew Ball and were close to her.

Right now there are no suspects or persons of interest in the case.

Browning also tells WSAZ.com that at this time investigators do not believe the murder of Vinton County is connected to Ball’s death.

Anyone with information on Ball’s death is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office tip line at 740-446-6655

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updated information.



ORIGINAL STORY 3/1/12 @ 1:44 p.m.
GALLIA COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Emergency responders have apparently found the body of a missing 67-year-old woman from Gallia County.

The Sheriff’s Office says Betsy Ball of the Morgan Township area of Gallia County was last seen about 7:30 Wednesday night.

Sheriff Joe Browning says she was not reported missing until about 1:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Search crews then spent the night looking for Ball.

Sheriff Browning says the body, believed to Ball, was found about six miles from her home sometime Thursday morning. It was discovered along a rural gravel road in the Vinton area of the county.

Browning tells WSAZ.com that his office got a tip which led them to the body.

The medical examiner will still have to make a positive ID.

The Sheriff say they consider the death suspicious at this time. No other details are being released. The BCI has been called to the scene.

We have a crew in Gallia County.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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