The day before Jeff Hall was murdered, his 10-year-old son, Joseph Hall, showed a family friend a leather belt emblazoned with an SS emblem. “Look what my dad got me,” he said. Unbeknownst to anybody at the time, Joseph would murder his Nazi father the very next day.1
Jeff devoted his life to the National Socialist Movement, the nation’s largest neo-Nazi party. He led a chapter of the group in Riverside, California. “I want a white society. I believe in secession. I believe in giving my life for secession,” Jeff once said. Jeff held numerous hate-filled rallies that were frequented with members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. He would often be seen spewing hatred outside Synagogues or “patrolling” the US-Mexico border, looking for so-called “illegal immigrants.” In a 2009 YouTube video from an anti-immigration rally in Southern California, Hall can be spotted holding a megaphone with a smiling Hitler emoji sticker on it as he proclaims the need for a “pro-white America.”2
The Hall family lived in the Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles. This area was amongst the worst hit when the real estate market crashed, marking fifth in foreclosures nationwide. Unemployment reached 15% and due to the economic turn down in the construction industry, Jeff found it difficult to find a job. However, he blamed his inability to work on both Jews and people of colour. In 2010, Jeff even ran for elections in California and disturbingly, he took in almost 30% of the vote as an open National Socialist.
Growing up in a household fraught with violence and hatred, it’s no surprise that 10-year-old Joseph was a volatile child. He attacked his elementary school teachers, stabbed his sister and clubbed his uncle. He was indoctrinated in the beliefs of white supremacy and would eventually be expelled from several elementary schools which led to him being home-schooled by his racist father. At least 20 complaints were reported to the California Department of Public Social Services over the course of seven years but no action was ever taken.3
It was later revealed that Joseph suffered from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and low-average intelligence. While still in the womb, Joseph was exposed to alcohol and drugs; his mother consumed heroin, meth, LSD, marijuana and alcohol while pregnant. At the time of Jeff’s murder, Joseph was already embroiled in a custody battle between his father and his biological mother during which allegations of sexual abuse were made.
Jeff would hold monthly meetings at his home that were a strange mix of Nazi propaganda and party games. “This isn’t dress-up; this isn’t a game,” said Jeff to a group of men at one of the meetings. “We’re fighting for our children’s future.” In the background, Joseph would look on as his father taught his followers how to “apply what we learn from Mein Kampf.” Jeff frequently bragged that he was teaching Joseph how to shoot a gun. These lessons were typically held at the US-Mexican border. “My son was able to operate a Gen-1 night vision and the infrared scope. At the age of nine, my son’s out at the border,” he bragged.
It would soon become apparent just how well Joseph had been taught.
At around 4AM on the 1st of May, 2011, Joseph retrieved a .357 revolver from a shelf in the closet. He aimed the gun at his father’s head as he slept on the couch and pulled the trigger. Afterwards, he woke his stepmother, Krista McCary, and calmly stated: “I shot dad.”4 By the time police arrived, Jeff was dead and Joseph was hiding in his bed.
Following Joseph’s arrest, disturbing details about his upbringing began to emerge. Joseph said that he was fed up with being abused and beaten by his father and that his father had threatened to remove the fire alarms from the home and set it on fire as the family slept. When the family home was searched, police found that the family had been living in squalor. There were dirty clothes and nappies strewn across floors and the entire home smelt of urine. The bathrooms were dirty and the bed clothing was soiled. Beer bottles littered the living room which was decorated with swastikas. As a matter of fact, there are been numerous complaints about the living conditions to Riverside County child Protective Services but these were determined to be “unfounded.”5 During the search, police also found an unloaded .22-caliber rifle in the garage beside an unlocked cabinet of ammunition. They also found a number of knives. Since Jeff was dead, McCary was charged with five counts of criminal endangerment and four counts of criminal storage of a firearm.
Joseph was taken to an interrogation room where Riverside police recited each sentence of the Miranda warning and asked Joseph whether he understood. On several occasions, the officer had to correct Joseph who had misunderstood a number of sentences. When told “you have the right to remain silent,” Joseph thought it meant he had “the right to stay calm.” Joseph also reportedly asked: “How many lives do people usually get?” During the interrogation, Joseph even said to police that he thought it would have been okay for him to kill his father after he saw a drama on TV wherein a young boy killed his abusive father and wasn’t arrested because he told the truth.
After being ruled legally responsible for his father’s death, Joseph was transported to a juvenile hall to await his trial. When he arrived, he was so little that they didn’t have shoes to fit him so had to go out and buy him a pair of sneakers. Completely oblivious to the severity of his actions, Joseph asked if he would be able to keep the sneakers when he left.6
During opening statements, Riverside County prosecutor Michael Soccio dismissed the notion that Jeff’s neo-Nazi beliefs contributed to his son’s behaviour. He said that the motivation behind the murder was simply to stop the domestic violence, arguing that Jeff’s affiliation with National Socialist Movement was irrelevant. McCary testified that Jeff – who was addicted to methamphetamine – would frequently beat and kick his son, even for minor discretions such as “getting in the way” or being “too loud.” The day before the murder, Joseph had told his younger sister of his plans to kill their father and she told him not to. The following evening, Joseph saw his opportunity. Jeff had come home from a party but was locked out. He had to climb through a window. Once inside, he fell asleep on the couch. Joseph “held the gun about a foot away and as he explained, he took four fingers and put them on the trigger and pulled the trigger back and the gun discharged,” said Soccio.7
Joseph’s defence lawyer, Matthew Hardy, countered Soccio’s argument and contended that Joseph had grown up in an abusive and violent environment and was conditioned to believe that it was right to kill people who were a threat to one’s safety and the safety of one’s family. He said that Joseph was too young to fully understand his angry emotions or comprehend the severity of what he had done. “If you were going to create a monster, if you were going to create a killer, what would you do?” he asked. “You’d put him in a house where there’s domestic violence, child abuse, racism.” Hardy also alleged that McCrary had manipulated Joseph into killing his father because he was planning on leaving her for another woman. The night of his murder, Jeff had texted McCrary and told her that he was going to divorce her and that he had left the party with another woman. Joseph had earlier told a police officer that he was afraid McCrary and his father were going to split up and he was going to be forced to live with his father.
Joseph was found responsible for Jeff’s murder and was sent to a juvenile detention centre where he is eligible for parole when he’s 20-years-old. The conviction was met with much dismay from advocates who argued that a 10-year-old troubled boy could not comprehend the wrongfulness of his actions. Joseph’s supporters said that Joseph could not have understood the complexity of waiving his Miranda rights while being interrogated. His legal team petitioned for the Supreme Court to review his case. “There is not a 10-year-old on the planet who ought to be in a position of waiving a constitutional right without any advice from an adult,” said Scott Ballenger, part of Joseph’s legal team. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.
At the juvenile detention centre, Joseph has attended class and therapy and has reportedly made extensive progress. To say he was a product of his environment is an understatement. In fact, he won the affection of the prosecutor that fought for his conviction. “I have grown attached to him in an odd way. He seems to like it, he knows what the rules are and what is expected and he is treated with dignity,” said Riverside County Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Soccio.
- The Cincinnati Enquirer, 14 May, 2011 – “Steeped in Dad’s Neo-Nazism, Son now Accused in his Death”
- Standard-Examiner, 27 August, 2016 – “The Tragic Case of a Child Who Killed His Abusive, Neo-Nazi Father”
- News & Politics Examiner, 14 January, 2013 – “10-Year-Old Boy Found Guilty of Shooting Neo-Nazi Father in Head”
- The Independent, 7 October, 2016 – “Boy Who Shot Neo-Nazi Father Will Not Be Given Chance to Appeal Conviction”
- The Los Angeles Times, 19 May, 2011 – “Neo-Nazi’s 10-Year-Old Son Describes Shooting”
- 60 Minutes, 3 March, 2014 – “The Murder of an American Nazi”
- The Desert Sun, 31 October, 2012 – “Trial Begins in Neo-Nazi Man’s Death”