Pulaski County’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith said Monday he has received notification that Gina Hall’s killer – Stephen Epperly – has an upcoming parole interview on May 17.
The notification prompted Griffith to write a second letter to a member of the Virginia Parole Board asking that parole for Epperly be denied.
“In addition, I requested an appointment to meet face to face with the parole board imploring them to listen to my objections and keep him incarcerated until he takes his last breath,” Griffith said in a press release this week.
“I have said it before and I will say it again, the only way he should ever leave prison is in a pine box,” Griffith added.
In his letter to the parole board member, Griffith said he is “strenuously and unequivocally opposed to his parole, under any circumstances.
“The heinous, brutal crime he was convicted of occurred in 1980, three years prior to my birth. However, I can assure you that I have
been aware of the impact on this community my whole life,” Griffith wrote.
About Hall’s murder, Griffith wrote that it is his understanding “the evidence at trial showed blood splatter that was consistent with her being beaten to death.”
“I write ‘consistent with,’ because Gina Renee Hall’s body has never been located. Her family has suffered not knowing where her remains are for over 40 years.”
Griffith wrote that Epperly’s prosecutor, Everett Shockley, “is still a pillar in the legal community here in the New River Valley. His work on this case was nothing short of remarkable. He is still a voice of justice in this case, as proven by his May 12, 2020 letter to you.
“According to Mr. Shockley, to this very day, Epperly denies any involvement in her death or disappearance. As a lawyer, friend, and the foremost expert on this case, I implore you to take Mr. Shockley’s word for it in this case. His level of concern for the safety of the public surrounding any release of Epperly speaks to not only Mr. Shockley’s passion for justice, but the dangerousness of Mr. Epperly.”
Griffith continued that both he and Shockley plan to attend a face-to-face meeting with the parole board – should it be granted.
“Freedom should not now be nor should it ever be an option for him (Epperly),” Griffith wrote. “He forfeited that right with his actions and the sentence recommended by a jury of his peers.”
Saying he was proud to speak for the whole county and urge the board to see fit that Epperly remains incarcerated, Griffith closed by saying Epperly “is indeed an unrepentant predator who shattered the Hall family and the innocence of those in this county.
“He is exactly where he needs to be and he needs to remain there for the rest of his natural life,” Griffith closed.
On June 28 of last year, the county marked 40 years since Epperly killed Hall. Six months later, in early December of 1980 Epperly was found guilty of first-degree murder, becoming the first person in Virginia to be convicted of first-degree murder in a case in which there was no body, confession or eyewitness.
Epperly was 28 at the time of his conviction.
During a 2020 interview with The Patriot, Shockley expressed fears that the state parole board’s recent push to release violent prisoners would result in Epperly being freed.
Shockley said last year that when he writes to the parole board, which he has done several times, he reminds them that Epperly is very dangerous and that – even now if he got out – Shockley thinks he’d be a danger to women and possibly to others who may have been involved in the case as a witness or otherwise.
Shockley added that prisoners are paroled because, in the parole board’s opinion, they been rehabilitated.
Shockley said because to this day Epperly denies any involvement in the murder, he hasn’t been rehabilitated.
“In never taking any action whatsoever to accept responsibility or to not help in finding the body or tell what he did with it – well, he’s not rehabilitated,” Shockley told The Patriot in 2020.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot