Montgomery County Special Deputy Sheriff Captain James Tappen Hall. Credit: Courtesy of Montgomery County Police

A Montgomery County grand jury on Thursday indicted a man for first-degree murder in the 1971 death of Capt. James Tappen Hall, more than 50 years after the county sheriff’s deputy was fatally shot while on duty in Aspen Hill.

The grand jury found that Larry David Smith, now 71, did “feloniously, willfully and of deliberately premeditated malice aforethought kill and murder James Hall” in “the perpetration of a burglary,” according to the indictment released by the office of the State’s Attorney. Smith was formerly known as Larry David Becker at the time of the alleged killing, according to authorities.

In early September, county police announced the arrest of Smith, who officials said had been living in upstate New York under a different surname for more than 45 years. Police officials said the arrest marked the solving of the county police department’s oldest cold case.

According to authorities, police were called to the Manor Country Club in the 14900 block of Carrolton Road around 10:40 p.m. on Oct. 23, 1971. Officers found Hall suffering from a gunshot wound. He was taken to a local hospital and died of his injuries three days later.

During a press conference announcing the arrest, Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin, who grew up in the county, recalled the shock and sadness that rippled through the community after Hall’s death. Hall was working as an off-duty deputy the night he was shot in order to supplement income for his family, Popkin said.

“Sadly, that night at age 53, Jim was ambushed, rushed to the hospital and passed away a few days later at Montgomery General Hospital,” he said.

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Police Chief Marcus Jones said that in October 2021, on the 50th anniversary of Hall’s death, Detective Katie Leggett and Cpl. Lisa Killen of the department’s cold case unit decided to take another look at the unsolved case. Leggett and Killen determined that investigators had interviewed Smith in 1973, but he wasn’t labeled a suspect at the time.

Leggett and Killen then determined that Smith had changed his name from “Becker” starting around 1975 and had been living in Little Falls, N.Y., Jones said.

On Sept. 1, Leggett and Killen interviewed Smith and he admitted to shooting Hall, Jones said. Smith was arrested and charged with murder. Smith is being held at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds.

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Court records did not list an attorney for Smith.

Julie Rasicot

Julie Rasicot can be reached at julie.rasicot@bethesdamagazine.com