Witness: A true crime story Part 7 of 7: Life after death

News Mar 13, 2010 Hamilton Spectator

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2002

Major Crime Unit, 9 a.m.

Over the racket of detectives talking in the homicide office, Don Forgan could barely hear Dave Sibley tell him the big news: He had identified the palm print on the murder weapon.

"Just a minute, Dave," Forgan said.

He held the receiver to his shoulder. Forgan was not one to curse. This time was an exception. Shut up, he yelled, but with added emphasis.

And then: "Go ahead."

"It's Carl Hall."

"It's Carl Hall!" Forgan shouted.

Joy, relief, 20 months after Charlisa and Pat's murders, Forgan finally knew who held the baseball bat that night. He had told Eugene he would catch the bad man. Looked like they had him -- and that the mystery informant had been bang on.

Detective Mike Thomas walked over to Forgan. "Hall?" he said. "We're about to charge him on Jackie McLean."

Forgan could now see the walls closing in on the killer -- for all three homicides.

Carl was still in jail up in Penetanguishene, but time was not on their side. He would be a free man on March 16, released on the assault conviction he was serving. Carl had actually been due to get out on March 9, but had been kept for another week due to bad behaviour. He had been fighting; also pulled the fire sprinkler in his cell.

On March 11 at 4 p.m., a judge granted Hamilton police a DNA warrant for Carl. The next day, he was ordered in jail to provide a DNA sample.

Four days later, on March 15 at 5 p.m., Detective Dave Place received a call from the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto. Big news. It was a match: Carl Hall's DNA matched the high vaginal semen sample taken from Jackie McLean.

That night at 7 p.m., Place and Thomas checked out an unmarked white Crown Victoria and drove two hours to a Best Western hotel in Midland, 20 minutes from the jail in Penetang.

The next morning broke sunny and very cold. Just after 8 a.m., a guard came calling on Carl at his cell. He had visitors. Carl knew something was up after having been asked to give a DNA sample, but just what, he was not sure.

He was led into an office where he saw two large men in suits. And now he knew what was happening. They're gating me, he thought, arresting him just as he's about to be released.

Dave Place towered over Carl, diminishing him in the space.

"I am arresting you for the first-degree murder of Jackie McLean," he said. "You may also be charged with the murder of Charlisa Clark and Pasquale Del Sordo. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

Carl was cuffed with a waist chain and leg irons, and loaded into the Crown Vic. A Hamilton police cruiser followed behind.

The detectives had a two-hour drive back to Hamilton. Dave Place got Carl talking.

"Any of your family know you're getting out today?" he asked.

"No, don't have any family," Carl said. "Black sheep. I have one sister, haven't talked to her in four years. My parents, four or five years."

"The girl that visited you in Brantford -- is it Lise?" Place asked.

"Yeah."

"How do you know her?"

"She's from rehab."

"When were you in rehab?"

"In Simcoe, I'm not sure exactly the date. I figured you guys would know I was there."

"No, we missed that one. What's the name of that place?"

"Holmes House."

Carl told the detectives he had to use a bathroom. Mike Thomas pulled the car in at a sprawling highway service centre. The two detectives escorted him in, his chains clanking.

Back at Central Station in Hamilton, Place checked Carl into a cell just before 11:30 a.m. At 2 p.m., Place interviewed him. He asked about that night with Jackie McLean. Carl said they had sex in unit No. 4 above the Sandbar, but he did not harm her; they both left the unit and returned downstairs to another where people had been smoking crack.

"Here's the problem we have," Place said. "She's killed in the apartment ... the one you're in with her. That's where she's found dead."

Place told him about the high vaginal swab, indicating Carl's DNA on the victim.

"I hear what you're saying, but I can't explain it," Carl said. "I can't, I'm not going to change what I said, I can't explain it."

Place showed Carl a photo of the metal bar, the murder weapon.

"That's the weapon that was used to cave in her head."

"OK."

"And there's no question as to the finding, that you're responsible for her death."

Later, Place put it to him directly.

"Did you kill Jackie?"

"No."

"What happened in there?"

"I told you."

"Yeah, but it wasn't the truth."

"As I know it to be."

Place moved on to ask him about the murders for which he had not yet been charged, of Charlisa and Pat.

"Can we just take a break a bit?" Carl replied. "This is all just nuts."

Place left for a moment. Alone in the room, Carl looked up at the video camera.

"This is crazy," he said to himself, then swore several times. "How did I get caught up in this?"

When Place returned, Carl said he didn't want to talk anymore, not without his lawyer.

"Is there any reason," Place continued, "that your fingerprints would be found in (Charlisa's) apartment?"

"I don't know. I know people that used to live there ... So we are done with the questions now. OK?"

"Charlisa?" Place said. "Does that name sound familiar?"

"Not really."

"She goes by Char. And her boyfriend was Pat."

"No, I don't know them."

"Is there any reason your palm print would be on a bat in that apartment?"

"No, unless it was Paul's." Paul was a former tenant of that apartment, and a friend of Carl's.

"Would it surprise you to know the prints were there?"

"Yeah, a little bit. Maybe when I was there and sold pot ... I don't, I can't see it. You guys are way out in left field."

Carl asked if Place was charging him with the double murder.

"Should I?" Place asked.

"Go ahead."

"Did you kill them?"

"No. No, I don't even, no. That's crazy. No. I never killed anybody."

"Should I believe you?"

"Yeah."

"Why should I?"

"Because I'm telling you straight."

Place told Hall about the tip from the informant, that Carl had confessed to a double murder.

"If you say so, but that's unbelievable," Carl said.

"How would someone be in a position to pass that on to us?"

"I don't know ... I think it sounds like a pipe dream. You guys are way off base."

"How do you think everything's going to turn out, when all is said and done with?"

"I'm not worried ... you're barking up the wrong tree."

After two hours of questioning, Place left. Carl looked up at the camera again. "A pipe dream," he said, shaking his head, cursing.

Warren Korol, who had been watching the interview on a monitor in another room, entered.

"I know you think this is a pipe dream, Carl," Korol said. "But you know, there is somebody out there, you admitted to them that you killed two people. I'm going to find that person."

"OK, but that's inaccurate. I never did it."

"It's no pipe dream, Carl."

Carl had been pressured by Place, but now there was something about Korol's coolly aggressive manner that bothered him. Korol stared at Carl as though he knew what made him tick, like he was trying to bore a hole through his eyes and out the back of his skull. Carl did not like it.

"Carl," Korol said, "you need some help, bud."

"I need help," Carl said, sarcastically.

"You do. You need help."

Korol continued: "How did your palm print show up on the bat out of the blue? It was her baseball bat."

"If you're so sure about it, why don't you charge me?"

"One day I will charge you for that double murder. You'll be charged for three murders ... You need some help, Carl."

"I'm not -- I'm not sick."

"You need some help, you do. You've got some troubles, my friend."

* * *

With Carl now locked away in Barton Street jail, Forgan, Thomas and Korol met to review details of Carl's confession that the informant had provided through the RCMP. Korol read the points aloud to the others: Male and female victims; baseball bat weapon; white van outside the apartment. It all rang true from the crime scene.

"A fridge blocked the apartment door, Carl had to move it out of the way," Korol continued.

"Pardon me, what was that about the fridge?" Thomas said.

Thomas had become case manager for both McLean and Clark/Del Sordo, the only one in the room familiar with the details of both. The fridge behind the door had been in the Sandbar apartment, not Charlisa's place.

"It's the same guy, the killer is mixing details of both homicides into one story," Thomas said.

They had to find the informant, get his statement on the record and get him to testify in court. Korol kept pressuring the RCMP: they needed the name. RCMP officials refused; a confidential informant could not be named.

Korol was bitter. It wasn't just about getting another witness in line. If the informant's identity remained a secret, in court the defence would surely point at the tipster as an alternative suspect. The defence would argue, who had intimate knowledge of the double homicide? Carl Hall? Well, what about the guy who ratted him out -- maybe the guy assisted in the murders. Maybe he was the killer and is framing Carl.

Was there another way to find the informant?

"A guy like Hall has to confess like that when he's at his lowest point," Korol said.

Counselling? Rehab? In his car-ride interview from Penetang, Carl had mentioned attending Holmes House.

On March 28, Forgan, Thomas and Korol checked out a car and headed to Simcoe. They had a search warrant for the rehab centre, to check records to see if Carl had been treated there, maybe they could learn who he had confided in; a counsellor, perhaps. But before executing the warrant, they spoke informally with the manager. The detectives said they were investigating a homicide case involving a man named Carl Hall.

"Carl? I remember him being here," the manager said. "He admitted to a resident named Shane Mosher that he murdered two people."

The informant. Just like that.

It was one of those rare moments in homicide where time really did seem to stand still. The three cops stood there, deadpan at first, then turned and looked at each other, and smiled. Knew it.

"Well, that's why we're here," Forgan said.

Later: A knock on the door at a house in Brantford. A man answered. Slim, dark hair, boyish face. He saw three men in suits, all of them clean cut, he could smell their cologne.

"I bet you guys are from Hamilton," said Shane Mosher. "I figured you'd show up one day."

Shane agreed to come to the Brantford police station for an interview. He told Forgan he had passed along Carl's confession several months earlier, to an uncle of his named Don Scott, a retired RCMP officer. Shane asked that his name be kept confidential, his uncle assured him it would.

Did Shane wish to have a lawyer present for the interview, Forgan asked him. Shane thought yes at first, then changed his mind. He was now ready to jump in with both feet. And he had sensed from that moment in Holmes House, when he knew he would inform on Carl, that it would go like this. Wasn't crazy about the idea of having his name out there, but knew it was probably inevitable.

Still, while he was pleased to hear that Carl was in custody, he was fearful that, if Carl was released or found not guilty in court, that he'd be coming after Shane and his family.

When the detectives told him that Carl had been taken into custody initially for a charge in Brantford, fear rippled through him. Had Carl left Simcoe and gone looking for Shane?

Shane told Forgan everything Carl had confessed to him, he always had strong recall of events. As he did, the goosebumps returned, Shane shaking with the memory of that night. He was going to be an effective witness on the stand, Forgan reflected.

The detectives dropped Shane off at his home. Korol turned to Shane's wife, Shannon. "You should be proud of your husband," Korol said. "He did the right thing."

Forgan now tightened the screws on the case. He found a man living in Toronto named Paul, who had been a previous tenant at 781 King East, Charlisa's apartment. Carl's confession to Shane had suggested that Carl killed Pat and Charlisa out of mistaken identity, that he intended to get payback on a drug dealer. The man named Paul admitted he had indeed known Carl and sold him drugs. There had been a dispute between the two.

Was it enough to offer a motive? Perhaps it was, given that Carl was a man prone to anger and violence, and who was routinely high on crack for days at a time. In addition, he had told Shane he was upset that he was not allowed to see his young daughter on Father's Day that weekend.

On April 16, 2002, Carl Hall was charged with the murder of Charlisa Clark and Pat Del Sordo. Before the news was released to the media, Forgan informed the families.

When he met with Charlisa's mother, Sue Ross, she wept. She was happy they caught the killer after all this time, but also surprised, because she thought there had been more than one attacker.

Most of all she felt pain and regret. The murders, she now knew, were a random act. Wrong place, wrong time. And if Sue had not found Char that apartment on King East, her girl would be alive. Don't do that to yourself, others told Sue, obviously she could not have known what would happen. Yes, yes, of course, Sue knew all that, the logic of it, but it was no good. She was Char's mom, had to protect her, always.

The guilt would never leave, Sue could not stop retracing her steps, as though doing so might retroactively turn back time and alter Charlisa's fate. Why couldn't she have just found her daughter a different place to live? For that matter, why did Sue even have to get remarried? If she hadn't, maybe she would have got a house with Char and she'd still be alive.

A week after the arrest, Forgan came by the house for Eugene's fifth birthday party. The boy now knew that the bad man was in jail. He cheered when he heard the news. It was, Eugene thought, the best birthday present ever.

At the preliminary hearings held before a judge, family members of the victims -- Jackie, Charlisa and Pat -- heard details of the murders, watched video of the crime scenes.

At one point, Pat's mom, Ruth, experienced something very odd. She was certain that, after a court officer turned on the crime-scene video from 781 King St. E., showing her murdered son's body, that while the judge and lawyers could see the images on the screen, she could not. The picture appeared fuzzy, snow on the screen, she could not make out anything. It was a spiritual experience, felt like she was being protected from seeing her boy like that.

Charlisa's father, Al Clark, meanwhile, confined to his wheelchair, burned with rage seeing Carl in the prisoner's box at the hearing. If he was able, he felt as if he could jump over the barrier and take the guy out himself.

Jackie's older sister, Cindy, was a regular in court. She cried, but at other times felt angry, thought she could kill Carl if she had the chance. A couple of times she stared at him trying to make eye contact, send a message. He looked right back at her, his expression flat.

The video and photos at the prelim were difficult to watch, but what Cindy would always regret the most, was having gone to the morgue soon after the murder. Detectives had urged her not to, but she had insisted. She could never forget how cold it had felt in that room, nor could she ever erase that image of her baby sister.

But then, Cindy felt some comfort having made sure to provide Jackie with the resting place she would have wanted. It was right next to their mother, the beloved Bella. Cindy wrote a note to their mom, put it in plastic and buried it with Jackie: "I know you're waiting for her, so here she is, waiting for your lovely arms."

Ashley, Jackie's eldest child, also attended the prelim every day. She had grown up to have Jackie's dark hair and eyes, she looked a lot like her. When she had heard about Carl's arrest, she had, like the others, believed there had been more than one attacker; her mother had been a fiery woman, she would not have gone without a fight.

Ashley's friends worried about her, the stress of it through the prelim and into the trial. It was true that Ashley had been upset during the investigation. After police had vacated the Sandbar crime scene, she had sent her boyfriend to check it for her, look for clues. Crazy, but she couldn't help it, she had to do something. And if anyone mentioned hearing a rumour about the case, she would corner them, ask them for more information.

In court, it was surreal for her, the crime-scene photos, it was like the victim she was seeing was someone else, not her mother. But she made it through.

When Jackie was alive, she would give Ashley little gifts here and there. One of them was just this Nike T-shirt Jackie had worn. Ashley didn't think much of it at the time, but now she treasured it, wore it often. And she never stopped seeing her mom in her dreams. In one of them, Jackie appeared and said to Ashley, "This is the last time you'll see me." And Ashley argued with her: "No mom, you're wrong. It's not." She kept having that same dream, over and over.

* * *

The first of the trials was scheduled to begin in the spring of 2005, but Carl fired his lawyers, delayed the process further. The Jackie McLean trial started, finally, in January 2006.

"The position of the Crown is that this murder was committed during the course of a sexual assault and that, by definition, is first-degree murder," assistant Crown attorney John Nixon told the jury.

Carl continued to cause trouble. He threatened courtroom guards, refused to enter court several times. Six Hamilton police officers were added for extra security.

Carl's defence lawyer, Michael Puskas, called Barry Lane to the stand as an alternative suspect to his client in the Sandbar murder. But the forensic evidence linking Carl to the sexual assault in the loft of the apartment was critical. In the end, after a six-week trial, it took a jury just 10 hours to render its verdict: Guilty. First-degree murder. Carl was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 25 years.

Carl stood in court after the verdict was announced.

"I have no remorse for something I didn't do," he said. "I thought justice should be done. So the woman is dead. Now basically I'm dead, too."

He was led from the prisoner's box. On his way out he turned to a detective in the crowd, the gentle giant who had nailed down the case.

"Dave Place," Carl said, "you're a goof."

It was, reflected Place, a curious remark from someone as violent and foul-mouthed as Carl. It might have been something of a show of respect. But then, Place did not spend much time trying to psychoanalyze the man. Carl had done wrong and left evidence. Place followed it. It felt good to hear the conviction.

* * *

Just over a year later, on May 17, 2007, assistant Crown attorney Ed Slater rose for his opening remarks in the Clark/Del Sordo trial. Carl was defended by Russell Silverstein, a Toronto lawyer who had represented serial poisoner Sukhwinder Dhillon in two high-profile homicide trials. Silverstein had lost both, but had mounted strong defences in each.

Slater began by telling the jury the story of Eugene, the "lost boy," on Father's Day 2000, and Constable Randy Carter who had attended the crime scene. Slater spoke of the murders, the baseball bat, Shane Mosher's meeting with Carl Hall, and the confession.

Forgan sat in court. The room was dead quiet yet electric with emotion. Forgan thought Slater's address was the most powerful opening he had ever heard. The detective studied the jurors, saw a couple of them wipe tears away, and evidence had not even been presented yet. Slater had them already.

"The case that you are about to hear," Slater said, "has everything to do with what Randy Carter found when he took that boy home."

Carl listened in the prisoner's box. What was it that stirred inside him? Did the talk of the little lost boy, the one that Carl had seen the night of the murders, get to him? The boy, Eugene, was the one he spoke of with regret, the one victim who gave him pause.

Later, Carl would wonder about his motivation for what he did next. Was it a crisis of conscience? He didn't think that was it. In the past he had wondered if he had been born without one. No, he was more than ready to try to beat the rap. It was more a calculation of the odds. His lawyer confirmed for him that the Crown would lead with evidence of his palm print on the bat. Not good. Maybe, Carl thought, he could run with the story that he had held the bat another time, prior to the murders, when visiting the former tenant, Paul. Or, he could say the cops fabricated evidence. Carl recalled having wiped it down after the murders. How could they get a print from it? But then, part of him just wanted to get it over with. He killed them and wanted it to end.

That first day of the trial, after Slater's opening address, court took a recess. Behind closed doors, Carl wept like a baby. That same day he decided to enter a guilty plea. There would be no trial.

A week later he was sentenced to two counts of second-degree murder. He would serve three concurrent life sentences. And Charlisa's and Pat's families were spared going through a public trial, and the evidence from the crime scenes raised in court for all to see.

At sentencing Carl came face to face one more time with the lost boy. Eugene had recently turned 10. He was offered the opportunity to present a victim-impact statement in court. He wanted to do it. Dressed in a suit and tie, he rose from his seat and took the stand. With Carl sitting close by in the prisoner's box, the blond-haired boy looked out at all the people in the courtroom, and began.

"Hello, your honour," he said.

Eugene thanked the Crown, and Don Forgan and Mike Thomas. The detectives sat together in court, the entire room pulsed with emotion, some in the audience quietly sobbed as the boy spoke. Forgan felt so proud of him, of how brave he was to be up there.

Eugene could see that his uncle, Charlisa's brother, Greg, was choked up. It was the first time he had ever seen Greg cry, and that made him feel emotional. But Eugene was determined to hold it in. He felt very mad at Carl Hall. But he was not going to let Carl Hall see him cry.

"Thank you for letting me talk today," he continued. "I have been waiting a long time for this day. On June 18th, 2000, I was three years old. I had a great room, lots of toys, a bike and a goldfish and a mom that loved me a lot. When I woke up that morning everything changed. I saw lots of blood. I was scared and I will never forget. I know how life was, I know -- shoot, now I live with my grandma and uncle. I still get scared when it is night time. And now I call my grandma my mom."

The boy in the suit stepped down from the stand, not a single tear in his dark eyes -- Charlisa's eyes -- and walked right past the killer.

And then, out of the courtroom, behind closed doors, out of sight, after it was over, Eugene cried a lot.

Epilogue

The present

Kingston Penitentiary

A cold hard wind blows off the water, meeting the razor wire, guard towers and concrete walls of maximum-security Kingston Pen. The jail is 175 years old, visitors enter through a hulking front door and down into a lobby that is dark and cramped, a medieval feel to the place.

No friends or family ever come through the door to visit Carl Hall. His uncle came and saw him back when he was in the bucket, in Barton jail. But not here. He is not in touch much with his family. Doesn't blame his upbringing for the way he turned out. He wrote his parents a letter soon after he was jailed for the murders. It wasn't your fault, he said. He was the one who did it, period.

Carl now reconsiders the letter.

"Is it my dad's fault? I guess that's up for debate. I can't say, 'oh poor me, you know, abused child.' Won't use that as a scapegoat. On the East Coast, you grow up hard, that's just the way it is."

There is a trailer at the pen where inmates with good behaviour can enjoy conjugal visits. Carl misbehaves in jail, gets in fights. He tells inmates, he's a nice guy, if he's in the wrong, he'll apologize. But if he's in the right, let's go into the yard. But I will kill you.

In any case, no one is coming to see Carl for a conjugal visit, either. He does look forward to just hanging in the trailer alone, though, make himself some food, watch DVDs in peace.

He still denies murdering Jackie. He is appealing the conviction in that case, so does not want to talk about it. But he does point the finger at Barry Lane as a better suspect. And he says the sex he had with Jackie was consensual, and that he left her "alive and kicking."

The notion that he would have sex with a woman who was dead or nearly dead is crazy, he says. Certainly that reputation would not help in prison. In the inmate culture, rapists, child molesters are not treated well.

He blames police for falsely portraying him as a serial killer.

"Anyone can be a killer. Doesn't mean I'm a serial nutbar or something like that." He tells a journalist that he hopes he is "humanized" in a story being written about him.

"I'm just a working dude, a normal guy who got into a bad scene ... the drugs made me a man that I'm not, brought out the worst in me."

As for murdering Charlisa and Pat, he never mentions them by name. He says not a day goes by he doesn't regret what happened.

"I would give away my life for them if it would bring them back."

Why did he do it? No one will ever know for sure exactly what happened, and why. He claims that it was just a break and enter. He wasn't hitting the place to get revenge on anyone. Just broke in because he could see that the balcony door on King Street to the apartment was open. He saw a guy sleeping on the bed, lights on in the room, he grabbed the guy's pants on the floor to get his wallet, and the guy grabbed his hand, fought back. So Carl hit him with the bat, again and again, and the woman, she was in the bed too, started screaming. So he killed her, too.

"The guy put his hand on me, I was terrified, I fought for my life. He was a lot bigger than me. And the rage ... I just kept going."

His story seems off. Pat's body was found face down on the mattress, as though he had never moved from a resting position. Charlisa's body, on her knees, suggested that she had been standing up, had come in from the hallway. It seems more likely that Carl killed Pat in cold blood, an attack from behind from which Pat had no chance to defend himself.

He does not sound angry at Shane Mosher for talking to police. He confessed to Shane to get it off his chest, and it felt good. He figured he had fudged enough of the details, but realized he had talked too much. Never thought Shane would tell. Regrets it now. Never should have told him.

If Carl wins his appeal on the Jackie McLean case, he says maybe the sentence could be dropped down to second-degree murder from first-degree. Then he'd be serving three 15-years-to-life concurrent sentences.

"Three second-degree murders? I'm never getting out. Maybe when I'm 70. But I won't live that long. But I just don't care."

If Canada had the death penalty, would he deserve it?

"I guess I do deserve it. And I'm growing less scared of dying, because life doesn't have much to offer."

He is not religious, but sometimes, if he's feeling really sick or about to get in a fight, he says a prayer, asks God to forgive him his sins. Carl hints at other dark things he's done in his past, "a whole other incident" that has not been made public. He could say some things that could really screw him, he says.

Carl is 35 now, but the pale skin, red hair, pudgy cast to his face and frequent smirk, make him look much younger. Physically, he is far from what he calls the "hate machine" he was building in jail prior to his convictions, when he worked out like a demon. The muscles have softened, he is overweight, all he does now is watch TV, read. It was a woman's fault, a girlfriend he had, a long-distance relationship with a Hamilton girl named Shellee. For four years, while he was in jail awaiting trial, they dated, talked about getting married. On his fingers, Carl has the tattoo "SH" for Shellee Hall. But she broke up with him. Just as well, he figures, he wants to get back in a groove, get back in shape.

He reads mystery fiction, Stephen King, Grisham. He is a big fan of Dexter, the darkly twisted TV show about a vigilante forensic investigator who is a serial killer -- but of bad guys. Does Dexter remind Carl of his experiences?

"Yeah, a bit. Although I never killed anyone who deserved it. That's the problem."

* * *

Today Shane Mosher lives in the Hamilton area, with Shannon and Riley. Shane has a good job, and so does his wife, and life has never been better. One of the detectives called Shane a hero; Shannon was proud of him.

Shane never did have to take the stand in a full trial against Carl. He was not called in the McLean case, and in Clark/Del Sordo, Carl plead guilty -- a development Shane had been very relieved to hear.

Shane had taken the stand once in court, at the preliminary hearing into the double murder. He was frightened that day, had to walk past Carl to take the stand. It was the first time they had seen each other since that morning at Holmes House, when he was leaving to go home with Shannon and he was sure Carl had seen his address affixed to his suitcase. That was the morning after Carl's chilling confession.

He testified to the confession Carl had made, and he felt Carl's eyes on him the whole time, but no words were spoken. And then, after the prelim, Shane prepared for the trial at home, reviewed his evidence. He was the star witness. He figured, if he blows it, Carl is found not guilty -- and might well come after his family. He had to get it right.

And then came the phone call from Forgan, telling Shane that Carl had plead guilty. He felt such relief, so much anxiety had built up inside him about the trial.

With Carl locked away, he and Shannon could breathe again. And he never again felt the urge to do crack. His addiction phase seemed like a lifetime ago; he could never fathom that had been him.

Shane was able to gradually put Carl out of his head. These days, he thinks more about Eugene, hoping the boy is OK, wishing that one day he'll be able to meet him. Shane does, on occasion, pause to reflect about the road travelled. In the depths of his addiction, he had called out to God, wondered why he had plunged into the crack cocaine sinkhole. In retrospect, he felt he knew. Only by going through that ordeal was he taken to Carl and put in a position to hear the confession, and contact police.

And, more than that, it seemed to Shane that his whole life had in a sense been a prelude to that horrible summer; growing up out East, which gave him a connection with Carl when they met, and all the curious twists in the road along the way. It was like it had all been meant to be from the start.

* * *

Ruth and Flavio Del Sordo purchased a plot in the City of Angels cemetery in Stoney Creek, and a monument as well, a big stone, for the three of them: Pasquale, Ruth and Flavio. That way, they figured, in the end Pat will not lie alone.

Ruth goes to the cemetery two, three times a week. She is unable to stand at the stone, it is too emotional, and so she kneels before it. She talks to Pat, tells him what's been going on.

Ruth's sadness has never waned and neither has her anger. She laments aspects of the police investigation and the trial, still feels like justice was not done for her son, still believes there had to have been another attacker, not just Carl Hall.

The loss of Pat is a wound for the family that never heals. None of them attend counselling, Ruth says they don't believe in it. But Ruth, she wants to talk about her Pasquale. When prompted she can barely bring herself to stop talking about her boy, how much he loved his family, life, a breath of fresh air, a ball of energy. But she cannot find many ears to listen. For others in the family, almost 10 years after his murder, it is too raw, you can't bring it up.

All their kids are wonderful, Ruth feels blessed with all of them. But her first-born was a special light, and she will never be the same.

"Pasquale was my confidant, my right arm, my music man, and his mother and father's saviour, because we knew that if we ever needed anything, he'd be right there."

Not too long ago, Pat's sister got married. Pat's father, Flavio, could not bring himself to enter the church to go and meet the priest in advance. He had not been a consistent churchgoer before his son's death, but after the murder, lost his faith entirely. God had let him down. Ruth? She still has faith, but then it also prompts more questions than she can answer. If God wills all, if everything happens for a reason, why did this happen to her Pasquale?

Words do not comfort, nothing does. She does not play Pat's music, his CDs are packed away in the house. She cannot play any kind of music without thinking of him, and so she avoids it entirely.

Such a waste, losing Pat's smile and joy and also what he would have lovingly created with his talent for woodworking, a passion that ran in his blood.

Ruth feels a smile when she remembers a line spoken by one of the readers at his funeral. It is from John 14:2. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

"Yes," one of Pat's brothers added, "and now He will have many more rooms, and have the best carpenter to build them."

* * *

"More coffee?" the waitress asks.

The elderly customer nods yes, but does not smile. The waitress, in her red uniform, hair up, tops up the mug, steam wafting and returns to the kitchen. She used to teach ballet, but that was a long time ago. She works in the Zellers restaurant in the east end, the site of the old Centre Mall, in the shadow of the steel mills, smoke from the stacks paused against a leaden sky. In the kitchen she chats with other staff, Lorna and Kristen, who are much younger than she. The waitress is Char-lisa's mom, Sue Ross.

She talks about Charlisa to those she trusts, about what happened, and her feelings. The girls she works with adore Sue, her openness, her sense of humour. She is a tough woman, but they can always tell when she's feeling it. She is like a mom to them, and Sue likes that, they remind her of Char, but at the same time it also makes her wary. She does not want to get too close, it would feel wrong. That is also a reason she hesitates to return to teaching ballet, she's not ready for it yet. She does have her moments, though, the girls from Zellers convinced her to get together for a back-yard party last summer, they had more than a few drinks, a lot of smiles, it was nice.

Sue is 57 and lives in a tiny old house in the east end with her son Greg, who is now 26, and Eugene. Sue's first husband, Charlisa's father, Al Clark, died a couple of years ago. Sue and her second husband, Bruce, split up not long after Charlisa's murder.

After obsessively watching crime shows on TV in the years leading up to the trial, Sue can no longer watch any of it. Now it's lighter fare, comedies. As for the pain, it will always run deep, and she does not look for silver linings, but at least she did ultimately find out that her belief that Char had been pregnant at the time of her murder proved not to be true; the autopsy showed she had not been.

Pictures of Char adorn her home, as do cows -- Char collected cow-themed ornaments, mugs, and so friends of Sue keep giving them to her as gifts.

Eugene turns 13 in April. He no longer has a biological mother, does not know or want to know his biological father. He has no brothers or sisters. Greg is his uncle but more like a big brother. Greg knows Eugene's upbringing has been unconventional, he wants to make sure the kid has solid memories when he gets older, of Christmases and birthdays and trips.

Greg thinks about his sister all the time; he's careful not to let himself linger too long in sorrow, Char would not want that. He will never forget one moment, it was maybe a few weeks before she died. He babysat for Char at her apartment. When she got home from her night out, she gave him a long lingering hug. She hadn't done that in a long time. He thinks about that a lot.

He is a burly looking guy, big arms, looks like he should be playing football. But he is also soft-spoken, inside he is a lot like Charlisa; artistic in his way, a thinker, a seeker. He is studying to be a chef. Greg yearns to travel, discover the world. But he does not do that, choosing instead to stay and help his mom raise Eugene. His life is in a sense on hold, has been since Charlisa's death, the killer did that to him. So for now, short of actually slipping the bonds of his hometown, he reads Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and imagines.

As for Eugene, he comes off to those who meet him as a regular kid. He does tell his closest friends about his story.

"Sometimes someone will ask me, how's your mom? And I say, I have to tell you something, I call my grandma mom, because my mom passed away, she got murdered when I was three. I tell them I was there."

There are times he thinks about what happened that night, and what he saw, but not very often. Sometimes he sees it in his dreams. It does not upset him to talk about it. Perhaps he was just young enough that, while the memory exists, it is not strong enough to define him. The distant past is an old skin he was able to mostly shed; a part of him, but separate at the same time. His youth at the time of his mother's murder is tragic but maybe it also saved him.

Every night at bedtime Eugene does not pray, but he talks to his mom, asks her how she's doing, what is she up to. He figures she's having fun somewhere with her grandfather, and Brody, their old dog, who died a while back. Eugene enjoys his video games, there's one he plays called Resident Evil. He is a strong player, working the controls, staring at the screen. His secret, he says, is that he does not blink.

He's not sure what he wants to be when he grows up, he has wondered about being a cop. A few weeks ago, Don Forgan took him to the Hamilton Police Association's private club. Forgan sprung for wings and beer -- root beer for the boy. Eugene likes Forgan a lot. That night the boy inhaled a basket of wings, barely touched his fries, and then teamed with Forgan for a game of pool against two others. Forgan went on a run to win it; the boy and the cop slapped high-fives in celebration.

Back at the family's house one recent night, Sue brought out a piece of Charlisa's artwork, the one that had been on exhibit in a gallery at a show just days before her murder. It depicts two hands cupped over a glowing ball of energy, representing the spirit. Eugene had seen the piece many times, but this time, he stared closer, as thought witnessing it for the first time.

"Nana said she could see Char in the painting," Eugene says.

And then, the dark eyes lit up, the voice excited, as though opening a gift on Christmas morning.

"There! Oh, I see it now! The head, the body. She must have made it so that she's in it. There's the legs, the belly - probably with me in it."

Charlisa gave her last work a title. She called it Life After Death.

Caption: Photo: About the series JON WELLS' research for Witness included studying investigation documents and video, court transcripts, interviewing homicide and forensic detectives, family members of the victims, and the killer. All of the detail and dialogue in the story is true, drawn directly from research. Jon has won two National Newspaper Awards for his true crime serials and has had five books published, most recently, Vanished.

Photo: About the series RON ALBERTSON returned to photography nearly five years ago after 17 years as The Spectator's photo editor, and is an award-winning photojournalist. The photographs in this series are a combination of Ron's original portraiture and those provided by families and police.

Caption: Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

The apartment balcony that killer Carl Hall scaled in June 2000. His victims there: Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo, top, and Charlisa Clark, bottom. In August 2001, he killed Jackie McLean, middle, in a crack den downtown. He received three concurrent life sentences, and is appealing the McLean verdict.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

It's been almost 10 years since Constable Randy Carter encountered Eugene, Charlisa Clark's son, in this King Street East store after her murder. Eugene had wandered about for hours.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Detective Don Forgan and Eugene, now almost 13, have grown close over the years. They've been known to polish off some wings and root beer, and defeat others at pool at the police club.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Sue Ross often took her daughter Charlisa to this Mountain playground. Charlisa's son, Eugene, who turns 13 next month, lives with her in the east end. Pictures of 'Char' adorn her home.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Flavio and Ruth Del Sordo at home. Ruth goes to the cemetery two or three times a week to visit her Pat, her sadness and anger have not receded.

Photo: Carl Hall: He's in maximum security in Kingston, no one ever visits. Does he deserve the death penalty? 'I guess I do deserve it. And I'm growing less scared of dying, because life doesn't have much to offer.'

Witness: A true crime story Part 7 of 7: Life after death

News Mar 13, 2010 Hamilton Spectator

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2002

Major Crime Unit, 9 a.m.

Over the racket of detectives talking in the homicide office, Don Forgan could barely hear Dave Sibley tell him the big news: He had identified the palm print on the murder weapon.

"Just a minute, Dave," Forgan said.

He held the receiver to his shoulder. Forgan was not one to curse. This time was an exception. Shut up, he yelled, but with added emphasis.

And then: "Go ahead."

"It's Carl Hall."

"It's Carl Hall!" Forgan shouted.

Joy, relief, 20 months after Charlisa and Pat's murders, Forgan finally knew who held the baseball bat that night. He had told Eugene he would catch the bad man. Looked like they had him -- and that the mystery informant had been bang on.

Detective Mike Thomas walked over to Forgan. "Hall?" he said. "We're about to charge him on Jackie McLean."

Forgan could now see the walls closing in on the killer -- for all three homicides.

Carl was still in jail up in Penetanguishene, but time was not on their side. He would be a free man on March 16, released on the assault conviction he was serving. Carl had actually been due to get out on March 9, but had been kept for another week due to bad behaviour. He had been fighting; also pulled the fire sprinkler in his cell.

On March 11 at 4 p.m., a judge granted Hamilton police a DNA warrant for Carl. The next day, he was ordered in jail to provide a DNA sample.

Four days later, on March 15 at 5 p.m., Detective Dave Place received a call from the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto. Big news. It was a match: Carl Hall's DNA matched the high vaginal semen sample taken from Jackie McLean.

That night at 7 p.m., Place and Thomas checked out an unmarked white Crown Victoria and drove two hours to a Best Western hotel in Midland, 20 minutes from the jail in Penetang.

The next morning broke sunny and very cold. Just after 8 a.m., a guard came calling on Carl at his cell. He had visitors. Carl knew something was up after having been asked to give a DNA sample, but just what, he was not sure.

He was led into an office where he saw two large men in suits. And now he knew what was happening. They're gating me, he thought, arresting him just as he's about to be released.

Dave Place towered over Carl, diminishing him in the space.

"I am arresting you for the first-degree murder of Jackie McLean," he said. "You may also be charged with the murder of Charlisa Clark and Pasquale Del Sordo. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

Carl was cuffed with a waist chain and leg irons, and loaded into the Crown Vic. A Hamilton police cruiser followed behind.

The detectives had a two-hour drive back to Hamilton. Dave Place got Carl talking.

"Any of your family know you're getting out today?" he asked.

"No, don't have any family," Carl said. "Black sheep. I have one sister, haven't talked to her in four years. My parents, four or five years."

"The girl that visited you in Brantford -- is it Lise?" Place asked.

"Yeah."

"How do you know her?"

"She's from rehab."

"When were you in rehab?"

"In Simcoe, I'm not sure exactly the date. I figured you guys would know I was there."

"No, we missed that one. What's the name of that place?"

"Holmes House."

Carl told the detectives he had to use a bathroom. Mike Thomas pulled the car in at a sprawling highway service centre. The two detectives escorted him in, his chains clanking.

Back at Central Station in Hamilton, Place checked Carl into a cell just before 11:30 a.m. At 2 p.m., Place interviewed him. He asked about that night with Jackie McLean. Carl said they had sex in unit No. 4 above the Sandbar, but he did not harm her; they both left the unit and returned downstairs to another where people had been smoking crack.

"Here's the problem we have," Place said. "She's killed in the apartment ... the one you're in with her. That's where she's found dead."

Place told him about the high vaginal swab, indicating Carl's DNA on the victim.

"I hear what you're saying, but I can't explain it," Carl said. "I can't, I'm not going to change what I said, I can't explain it."

Place showed Carl a photo of the metal bar, the murder weapon.

"That's the weapon that was used to cave in her head."

"OK."

"And there's no question as to the finding, that you're responsible for her death."

Later, Place put it to him directly.

"Did you kill Jackie?"

"No."

"What happened in there?"

"I told you."

"Yeah, but it wasn't the truth."

"As I know it to be."

Place moved on to ask him about the murders for which he had not yet been charged, of Charlisa and Pat.

"Can we just take a break a bit?" Carl replied. "This is all just nuts."

Place left for a moment. Alone in the room, Carl looked up at the video camera.

"This is crazy," he said to himself, then swore several times. "How did I get caught up in this?"

When Place returned, Carl said he didn't want to talk anymore, not without his lawyer.

"Is there any reason," Place continued, "that your fingerprints would be found in (Charlisa's) apartment?"

"I don't know. I know people that used to live there ... So we are done with the questions now. OK?"

"Charlisa?" Place said. "Does that name sound familiar?"

"Not really."

"She goes by Char. And her boyfriend was Pat."

"No, I don't know them."

"Is there any reason your palm print would be on a bat in that apartment?"

"No, unless it was Paul's." Paul was a former tenant of that apartment, and a friend of Carl's.

"Would it surprise you to know the prints were there?"

"Yeah, a little bit. Maybe when I was there and sold pot ... I don't, I can't see it. You guys are way out in left field."

Carl asked if Place was charging him with the double murder.

"Should I?" Place asked.

"Go ahead."

"Did you kill them?"

"No. No, I don't even, no. That's crazy. No. I never killed anybody."

"Should I believe you?"

"Yeah."

"Why should I?"

"Because I'm telling you straight."

Place told Hall about the tip from the informant, that Carl had confessed to a double murder.

"If you say so, but that's unbelievable," Carl said.

"How would someone be in a position to pass that on to us?"

"I don't know ... I think it sounds like a pipe dream. You guys are way off base."

"How do you think everything's going to turn out, when all is said and done with?"

"I'm not worried ... you're barking up the wrong tree."

After two hours of questioning, Place left. Carl looked up at the camera again. "A pipe dream," he said, shaking his head, cursing.

Warren Korol, who had been watching the interview on a monitor in another room, entered.

"I know you think this is a pipe dream, Carl," Korol said. "But you know, there is somebody out there, you admitted to them that you killed two people. I'm going to find that person."

"OK, but that's inaccurate. I never did it."

"It's no pipe dream, Carl."

Carl had been pressured by Place, but now there was something about Korol's coolly aggressive manner that bothered him. Korol stared at Carl as though he knew what made him tick, like he was trying to bore a hole through his eyes and out the back of his skull. Carl did not like it.

"Carl," Korol said, "you need some help, bud."

"I need help," Carl said, sarcastically.

"You do. You need help."

Korol continued: "How did your palm print show up on the bat out of the blue? It was her baseball bat."

"If you're so sure about it, why don't you charge me?"

"One day I will charge you for that double murder. You'll be charged for three murders ... You need some help, Carl."

"I'm not -- I'm not sick."

"You need some help, you do. You've got some troubles, my friend."

* * *

With Carl now locked away in Barton Street jail, Forgan, Thomas and Korol met to review details of Carl's confession that the informant had provided through the RCMP. Korol read the points aloud to the others: Male and female victims; baseball bat weapon; white van outside the apartment. It all rang true from the crime scene.

"A fridge blocked the apartment door, Carl had to move it out of the way," Korol continued.

"Pardon me, what was that about the fridge?" Thomas said.

Thomas had become case manager for both McLean and Clark/Del Sordo, the only one in the room familiar with the details of both. The fridge behind the door had been in the Sandbar apartment, not Charlisa's place.

"It's the same guy, the killer is mixing details of both homicides into one story," Thomas said.

They had to find the informant, get his statement on the record and get him to testify in court. Korol kept pressuring the RCMP: they needed the name. RCMP officials refused; a confidential informant could not be named.

Korol was bitter. It wasn't just about getting another witness in line. If the informant's identity remained a secret, in court the defence would surely point at the tipster as an alternative suspect. The defence would argue, who had intimate knowledge of the double homicide? Carl Hall? Well, what about the guy who ratted him out -- maybe the guy assisted in the murders. Maybe he was the killer and is framing Carl.

Was there another way to find the informant?

"A guy like Hall has to confess like that when he's at his lowest point," Korol said.

Counselling? Rehab? In his car-ride interview from Penetang, Carl had mentioned attending Holmes House.

On March 28, Forgan, Thomas and Korol checked out a car and headed to Simcoe. They had a search warrant for the rehab centre, to check records to see if Carl had been treated there, maybe they could learn who he had confided in; a counsellor, perhaps. But before executing the warrant, they spoke informally with the manager. The detectives said they were investigating a homicide case involving a man named Carl Hall.

"Carl? I remember him being here," the manager said. "He admitted to a resident named Shane Mosher that he murdered two people."

The informant. Just like that.

It was one of those rare moments in homicide where time really did seem to stand still. The three cops stood there, deadpan at first, then turned and looked at each other, and smiled. Knew it.

"Well, that's why we're here," Forgan said.

Later: A knock on the door at a house in Brantford. A man answered. Slim, dark hair, boyish face. He saw three men in suits, all of them clean cut, he could smell their cologne.

"I bet you guys are from Hamilton," said Shane Mosher. "I figured you'd show up one day."

Shane agreed to come to the Brantford police station for an interview. He told Forgan he had passed along Carl's confession several months earlier, to an uncle of his named Don Scott, a retired RCMP officer. Shane asked that his name be kept confidential, his uncle assured him it would.

Did Shane wish to have a lawyer present for the interview, Forgan asked him. Shane thought yes at first, then changed his mind. He was now ready to jump in with both feet. And he had sensed from that moment in Holmes House, when he knew he would inform on Carl, that it would go like this. Wasn't crazy about the idea of having his name out there, but knew it was probably inevitable.

Still, while he was pleased to hear that Carl was in custody, he was fearful that, if Carl was released or found not guilty in court, that he'd be coming after Shane and his family.

When the detectives told him that Carl had been taken into custody initially for a charge in Brantford, fear rippled through him. Had Carl left Simcoe and gone looking for Shane?

Shane told Forgan everything Carl had confessed to him, he always had strong recall of events. As he did, the goosebumps returned, Shane shaking with the memory of that night. He was going to be an effective witness on the stand, Forgan reflected.

The detectives dropped Shane off at his home. Korol turned to Shane's wife, Shannon. "You should be proud of your husband," Korol said. "He did the right thing."

Forgan now tightened the screws on the case. He found a man living in Toronto named Paul, who had been a previous tenant at 781 King East, Charlisa's apartment. Carl's confession to Shane had suggested that Carl killed Pat and Charlisa out of mistaken identity, that he intended to get payback on a drug dealer. The man named Paul admitted he had indeed known Carl and sold him drugs. There had been a dispute between the two.

Was it enough to offer a motive? Perhaps it was, given that Carl was a man prone to anger and violence, and who was routinely high on crack for days at a time. In addition, he had told Shane he was upset that he was not allowed to see his young daughter on Father's Day that weekend.

On April 16, 2002, Carl Hall was charged with the murder of Charlisa Clark and Pat Del Sordo. Before the news was released to the media, Forgan informed the families.

When he met with Charlisa's mother, Sue Ross, she wept. She was happy they caught the killer after all this time, but also surprised, because she thought there had been more than one attacker.

Most of all she felt pain and regret. The murders, she now knew, were a random act. Wrong place, wrong time. And if Sue had not found Char that apartment on King East, her girl would be alive. Don't do that to yourself, others told Sue, obviously she could not have known what would happen. Yes, yes, of course, Sue knew all that, the logic of it, but it was no good. She was Char's mom, had to protect her, always.

The guilt would never leave, Sue could not stop retracing her steps, as though doing so might retroactively turn back time and alter Charlisa's fate. Why couldn't she have just found her daughter a different place to live? For that matter, why did Sue even have to get remarried? If she hadn't, maybe she would have got a house with Char and she'd still be alive.

A week after the arrest, Forgan came by the house for Eugene's fifth birthday party. The boy now knew that the bad man was in jail. He cheered when he heard the news. It was, Eugene thought, the best birthday present ever.

At the preliminary hearings held before a judge, family members of the victims -- Jackie, Charlisa and Pat -- heard details of the murders, watched video of the crime scenes.

At one point, Pat's mom, Ruth, experienced something very odd. She was certain that, after a court officer turned on the crime-scene video from 781 King St. E., showing her murdered son's body, that while the judge and lawyers could see the images on the screen, she could not. The picture appeared fuzzy, snow on the screen, she could not make out anything. It was a spiritual experience, felt like she was being protected from seeing her boy like that.

Charlisa's father, Al Clark, meanwhile, confined to his wheelchair, burned with rage seeing Carl in the prisoner's box at the hearing. If he was able, he felt as if he could jump over the barrier and take the guy out himself.

Jackie's older sister, Cindy, was a regular in court. She cried, but at other times felt angry, thought she could kill Carl if she had the chance. A couple of times she stared at him trying to make eye contact, send a message. He looked right back at her, his expression flat.

The video and photos at the prelim were difficult to watch, but what Cindy would always regret the most, was having gone to the morgue soon after the murder. Detectives had urged her not to, but she had insisted. She could never forget how cold it had felt in that room, nor could she ever erase that image of her baby sister.

But then, Cindy felt some comfort having made sure to provide Jackie with the resting place she would have wanted. It was right next to their mother, the beloved Bella. Cindy wrote a note to their mom, put it in plastic and buried it with Jackie: "I know you're waiting for her, so here she is, waiting for your lovely arms."

Ashley, Jackie's eldest child, also attended the prelim every day. She had grown up to have Jackie's dark hair and eyes, she looked a lot like her. When she had heard about Carl's arrest, she had, like the others, believed there had been more than one attacker; her mother had been a fiery woman, she would not have gone without a fight.

Ashley's friends worried about her, the stress of it through the prelim and into the trial. It was true that Ashley had been upset during the investigation. After police had vacated the Sandbar crime scene, she had sent her boyfriend to check it for her, look for clues. Crazy, but she couldn't help it, she had to do something. And if anyone mentioned hearing a rumour about the case, she would corner them, ask them for more information.

In court, it was surreal for her, the crime-scene photos, it was like the victim she was seeing was someone else, not her mother. But she made it through.

When Jackie was alive, she would give Ashley little gifts here and there. One of them was just this Nike T-shirt Jackie had worn. Ashley didn't think much of it at the time, but now she treasured it, wore it often. And she never stopped seeing her mom in her dreams. In one of them, Jackie appeared and said to Ashley, "This is the last time you'll see me." And Ashley argued with her: "No mom, you're wrong. It's not." She kept having that same dream, over and over.

* * *

The first of the trials was scheduled to begin in the spring of 2005, but Carl fired his lawyers, delayed the process further. The Jackie McLean trial started, finally, in January 2006.

"The position of the Crown is that this murder was committed during the course of a sexual assault and that, by definition, is first-degree murder," assistant Crown attorney John Nixon told the jury.

Carl continued to cause trouble. He threatened courtroom guards, refused to enter court several times. Six Hamilton police officers were added for extra security.

Carl's defence lawyer, Michael Puskas, called Barry Lane to the stand as an alternative suspect to his client in the Sandbar murder. But the forensic evidence linking Carl to the sexual assault in the loft of the apartment was critical. In the end, after a six-week trial, it took a jury just 10 hours to render its verdict: Guilty. First-degree murder. Carl was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 25 years.

Carl stood in court after the verdict was announced.

"I have no remorse for something I didn't do," he said. "I thought justice should be done. So the woman is dead. Now basically I'm dead, too."

He was led from the prisoner's box. On his way out he turned to a detective in the crowd, the gentle giant who had nailed down the case.

"Dave Place," Carl said, "you're a goof."

It was, reflected Place, a curious remark from someone as violent and foul-mouthed as Carl. It might have been something of a show of respect. But then, Place did not spend much time trying to psychoanalyze the man. Carl had done wrong and left evidence. Place followed it. It felt good to hear the conviction.

* * *

Just over a year later, on May 17, 2007, assistant Crown attorney Ed Slater rose for his opening remarks in the Clark/Del Sordo trial. Carl was defended by Russell Silverstein, a Toronto lawyer who had represented serial poisoner Sukhwinder Dhillon in two high-profile homicide trials. Silverstein had lost both, but had mounted strong defences in each.

Slater began by telling the jury the story of Eugene, the "lost boy," on Father's Day 2000, and Constable Randy Carter who had attended the crime scene. Slater spoke of the murders, the baseball bat, Shane Mosher's meeting with Carl Hall, and the confession.

Forgan sat in court. The room was dead quiet yet electric with emotion. Forgan thought Slater's address was the most powerful opening he had ever heard. The detective studied the jurors, saw a couple of them wipe tears away, and evidence had not even been presented yet. Slater had them already.

"The case that you are about to hear," Slater said, "has everything to do with what Randy Carter found when he took that boy home."

Carl listened in the prisoner's box. What was it that stirred inside him? Did the talk of the little lost boy, the one that Carl had seen the night of the murders, get to him? The boy, Eugene, was the one he spoke of with regret, the one victim who gave him pause.

Later, Carl would wonder about his motivation for what he did next. Was it a crisis of conscience? He didn't think that was it. In the past he had wondered if he had been born without one. No, he was more than ready to try to beat the rap. It was more a calculation of the odds. His lawyer confirmed for him that the Crown would lead with evidence of his palm print on the bat. Not good. Maybe, Carl thought, he could run with the story that he had held the bat another time, prior to the murders, when visiting the former tenant, Paul. Or, he could say the cops fabricated evidence. Carl recalled having wiped it down after the murders. How could they get a print from it? But then, part of him just wanted to get it over with. He killed them and wanted it to end.

That first day of the trial, after Slater's opening address, court took a recess. Behind closed doors, Carl wept like a baby. That same day he decided to enter a guilty plea. There would be no trial.

A week later he was sentenced to two counts of second-degree murder. He would serve three concurrent life sentences. And Charlisa's and Pat's families were spared going through a public trial, and the evidence from the crime scenes raised in court for all to see.

At sentencing Carl came face to face one more time with the lost boy. Eugene had recently turned 10. He was offered the opportunity to present a victim-impact statement in court. He wanted to do it. Dressed in a suit and tie, he rose from his seat and took the stand. With Carl sitting close by in the prisoner's box, the blond-haired boy looked out at all the people in the courtroom, and began.

"Hello, your honour," he said.

Eugene thanked the Crown, and Don Forgan and Mike Thomas. The detectives sat together in court, the entire room pulsed with emotion, some in the audience quietly sobbed as the boy spoke. Forgan felt so proud of him, of how brave he was to be up there.

Eugene could see that his uncle, Charlisa's brother, Greg, was choked up. It was the first time he had ever seen Greg cry, and that made him feel emotional. But Eugene was determined to hold it in. He felt very mad at Carl Hall. But he was not going to let Carl Hall see him cry.

"Thank you for letting me talk today," he continued. "I have been waiting a long time for this day. On June 18th, 2000, I was three years old. I had a great room, lots of toys, a bike and a goldfish and a mom that loved me a lot. When I woke up that morning everything changed. I saw lots of blood. I was scared and I will never forget. I know how life was, I know -- shoot, now I live with my grandma and uncle. I still get scared when it is night time. And now I call my grandma my mom."

The boy in the suit stepped down from the stand, not a single tear in his dark eyes -- Charlisa's eyes -- and walked right past the killer.

And then, out of the courtroom, behind closed doors, out of sight, after it was over, Eugene cried a lot.

Epilogue

The present

Kingston Penitentiary

A cold hard wind blows off the water, meeting the razor wire, guard towers and concrete walls of maximum-security Kingston Pen. The jail is 175 years old, visitors enter through a hulking front door and down into a lobby that is dark and cramped, a medieval feel to the place.

No friends or family ever come through the door to visit Carl Hall. His uncle came and saw him back when he was in the bucket, in Barton jail. But not here. He is not in touch much with his family. Doesn't blame his upbringing for the way he turned out. He wrote his parents a letter soon after he was jailed for the murders. It wasn't your fault, he said. He was the one who did it, period.

Carl now reconsiders the letter.

"Is it my dad's fault? I guess that's up for debate. I can't say, 'oh poor me, you know, abused child.' Won't use that as a scapegoat. On the East Coast, you grow up hard, that's just the way it is."

There is a trailer at the pen where inmates with good behaviour can enjoy conjugal visits. Carl misbehaves in jail, gets in fights. He tells inmates, he's a nice guy, if he's in the wrong, he'll apologize. But if he's in the right, let's go into the yard. But I will kill you.

In any case, no one is coming to see Carl for a conjugal visit, either. He does look forward to just hanging in the trailer alone, though, make himself some food, watch DVDs in peace.

He still denies murdering Jackie. He is appealing the conviction in that case, so does not want to talk about it. But he does point the finger at Barry Lane as a better suspect. And he says the sex he had with Jackie was consensual, and that he left her "alive and kicking."

The notion that he would have sex with a woman who was dead or nearly dead is crazy, he says. Certainly that reputation would not help in prison. In the inmate culture, rapists, child molesters are not treated well.

He blames police for falsely portraying him as a serial killer.

"Anyone can be a killer. Doesn't mean I'm a serial nutbar or something like that." He tells a journalist that he hopes he is "humanized" in a story being written about him.

"I'm just a working dude, a normal guy who got into a bad scene ... the drugs made me a man that I'm not, brought out the worst in me."

As for murdering Charlisa and Pat, he never mentions them by name. He says not a day goes by he doesn't regret what happened.

"I would give away my life for them if it would bring them back."

Why did he do it? No one will ever know for sure exactly what happened, and why. He claims that it was just a break and enter. He wasn't hitting the place to get revenge on anyone. Just broke in because he could see that the balcony door on King Street to the apartment was open. He saw a guy sleeping on the bed, lights on in the room, he grabbed the guy's pants on the floor to get his wallet, and the guy grabbed his hand, fought back. So Carl hit him with the bat, again and again, and the woman, she was in the bed too, started screaming. So he killed her, too.

"The guy put his hand on me, I was terrified, I fought for my life. He was a lot bigger than me. And the rage ... I just kept going."

His story seems off. Pat's body was found face down on the mattress, as though he had never moved from a resting position. Charlisa's body, on her knees, suggested that she had been standing up, had come in from the hallway. It seems more likely that Carl killed Pat in cold blood, an attack from behind from which Pat had no chance to defend himself.

He does not sound angry at Shane Mosher for talking to police. He confessed to Shane to get it off his chest, and it felt good. He figured he had fudged enough of the details, but realized he had talked too much. Never thought Shane would tell. Regrets it now. Never should have told him.

If Carl wins his appeal on the Jackie McLean case, he says maybe the sentence could be dropped down to second-degree murder from first-degree. Then he'd be serving three 15-years-to-life concurrent sentences.

"Three second-degree murders? I'm never getting out. Maybe when I'm 70. But I won't live that long. But I just don't care."

If Canada had the death penalty, would he deserve it?

"I guess I do deserve it. And I'm growing less scared of dying, because life doesn't have much to offer."

He is not religious, but sometimes, if he's feeling really sick or about to get in a fight, he says a prayer, asks God to forgive him his sins. Carl hints at other dark things he's done in his past, "a whole other incident" that has not been made public. He could say some things that could really screw him, he says.

Carl is 35 now, but the pale skin, red hair, pudgy cast to his face and frequent smirk, make him look much younger. Physically, he is far from what he calls the "hate machine" he was building in jail prior to his convictions, when he worked out like a demon. The muscles have softened, he is overweight, all he does now is watch TV, read. It was a woman's fault, a girlfriend he had, a long-distance relationship with a Hamilton girl named Shellee. For four years, while he was in jail awaiting trial, they dated, talked about getting married. On his fingers, Carl has the tattoo "SH" for Shellee Hall. But she broke up with him. Just as well, he figures, he wants to get back in a groove, get back in shape.

He reads mystery fiction, Stephen King, Grisham. He is a big fan of Dexter, the darkly twisted TV show about a vigilante forensic investigator who is a serial killer -- but of bad guys. Does Dexter remind Carl of his experiences?

"Yeah, a bit. Although I never killed anyone who deserved it. That's the problem."

* * *

Today Shane Mosher lives in the Hamilton area, with Shannon and Riley. Shane has a good job, and so does his wife, and life has never been better. One of the detectives called Shane a hero; Shannon was proud of him.

Shane never did have to take the stand in a full trial against Carl. He was not called in the McLean case, and in Clark/Del Sordo, Carl plead guilty -- a development Shane had been very relieved to hear.

Shane had taken the stand once in court, at the preliminary hearing into the double murder. He was frightened that day, had to walk past Carl to take the stand. It was the first time they had seen each other since that morning at Holmes House, when he was leaving to go home with Shannon and he was sure Carl had seen his address affixed to his suitcase. That was the morning after Carl's chilling confession.

He testified to the confession Carl had made, and he felt Carl's eyes on him the whole time, but no words were spoken. And then, after the prelim, Shane prepared for the trial at home, reviewed his evidence. He was the star witness. He figured, if he blows it, Carl is found not guilty -- and might well come after his family. He had to get it right.

And then came the phone call from Forgan, telling Shane that Carl had plead guilty. He felt such relief, so much anxiety had built up inside him about the trial.

With Carl locked away, he and Shannon could breathe again. And he never again felt the urge to do crack. His addiction phase seemed like a lifetime ago; he could never fathom that had been him.

Shane was able to gradually put Carl out of his head. These days, he thinks more about Eugene, hoping the boy is OK, wishing that one day he'll be able to meet him. Shane does, on occasion, pause to reflect about the road travelled. In the depths of his addiction, he had called out to God, wondered why he had plunged into the crack cocaine sinkhole. In retrospect, he felt he knew. Only by going through that ordeal was he taken to Carl and put in a position to hear the confession, and contact police.

And, more than that, it seemed to Shane that his whole life had in a sense been a prelude to that horrible summer; growing up out East, which gave him a connection with Carl when they met, and all the curious twists in the road along the way. It was like it had all been meant to be from the start.

* * *

Ruth and Flavio Del Sordo purchased a plot in the City of Angels cemetery in Stoney Creek, and a monument as well, a big stone, for the three of them: Pasquale, Ruth and Flavio. That way, they figured, in the end Pat will not lie alone.

Ruth goes to the cemetery two, three times a week. She is unable to stand at the stone, it is too emotional, and so she kneels before it. She talks to Pat, tells him what's been going on.

Ruth's sadness has never waned and neither has her anger. She laments aspects of the police investigation and the trial, still feels like justice was not done for her son, still believes there had to have been another attacker, not just Carl Hall.

The loss of Pat is a wound for the family that never heals. None of them attend counselling, Ruth says they don't believe in it. But Ruth, she wants to talk about her Pasquale. When prompted she can barely bring herself to stop talking about her boy, how much he loved his family, life, a breath of fresh air, a ball of energy. But she cannot find many ears to listen. For others in the family, almost 10 years after his murder, it is too raw, you can't bring it up.

All their kids are wonderful, Ruth feels blessed with all of them. But her first-born was a special light, and she will never be the same.

"Pasquale was my confidant, my right arm, my music man, and his mother and father's saviour, because we knew that if we ever needed anything, he'd be right there."

Not too long ago, Pat's sister got married. Pat's father, Flavio, could not bring himself to enter the church to go and meet the priest in advance. He had not been a consistent churchgoer before his son's death, but after the murder, lost his faith entirely. God had let him down. Ruth? She still has faith, but then it also prompts more questions than she can answer. If God wills all, if everything happens for a reason, why did this happen to her Pasquale?

Words do not comfort, nothing does. She does not play Pat's music, his CDs are packed away in the house. She cannot play any kind of music without thinking of him, and so she avoids it entirely.

Such a waste, losing Pat's smile and joy and also what he would have lovingly created with his talent for woodworking, a passion that ran in his blood.

Ruth feels a smile when she remembers a line spoken by one of the readers at his funeral. It is from John 14:2. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

"Yes," one of Pat's brothers added, "and now He will have many more rooms, and have the best carpenter to build them."

* * *

"More coffee?" the waitress asks.

The elderly customer nods yes, but does not smile. The waitress, in her red uniform, hair up, tops up the mug, steam wafting and returns to the kitchen. She used to teach ballet, but that was a long time ago. She works in the Zellers restaurant in the east end, the site of the old Centre Mall, in the shadow of the steel mills, smoke from the stacks paused against a leaden sky. In the kitchen she chats with other staff, Lorna and Kristen, who are much younger than she. The waitress is Char-lisa's mom, Sue Ross.

She talks about Charlisa to those she trusts, about what happened, and her feelings. The girls she works with adore Sue, her openness, her sense of humour. She is a tough woman, but they can always tell when she's feeling it. She is like a mom to them, and Sue likes that, they remind her of Char, but at the same time it also makes her wary. She does not want to get too close, it would feel wrong. That is also a reason she hesitates to return to teaching ballet, she's not ready for it yet. She does have her moments, though, the girls from Zellers convinced her to get together for a back-yard party last summer, they had more than a few drinks, a lot of smiles, it was nice.

Sue is 57 and lives in a tiny old house in the east end with her son Greg, who is now 26, and Eugene. Sue's first husband, Charlisa's father, Al Clark, died a couple of years ago. Sue and her second husband, Bruce, split up not long after Charlisa's murder.

After obsessively watching crime shows on TV in the years leading up to the trial, Sue can no longer watch any of it. Now it's lighter fare, comedies. As for the pain, it will always run deep, and she does not look for silver linings, but at least she did ultimately find out that her belief that Char had been pregnant at the time of her murder proved not to be true; the autopsy showed she had not been.

Pictures of Char adorn her home, as do cows -- Char collected cow-themed ornaments, mugs, and so friends of Sue keep giving them to her as gifts.

Eugene turns 13 in April. He no longer has a biological mother, does not know or want to know his biological father. He has no brothers or sisters. Greg is his uncle but more like a big brother. Greg knows Eugene's upbringing has been unconventional, he wants to make sure the kid has solid memories when he gets older, of Christmases and birthdays and trips.

Greg thinks about his sister all the time; he's careful not to let himself linger too long in sorrow, Char would not want that. He will never forget one moment, it was maybe a few weeks before she died. He babysat for Char at her apartment. When she got home from her night out, she gave him a long lingering hug. She hadn't done that in a long time. He thinks about that a lot.

He is a burly looking guy, big arms, looks like he should be playing football. But he is also soft-spoken, inside he is a lot like Charlisa; artistic in his way, a thinker, a seeker. He is studying to be a chef. Greg yearns to travel, discover the world. But he does not do that, choosing instead to stay and help his mom raise Eugene. His life is in a sense on hold, has been since Charlisa's death, the killer did that to him. So for now, short of actually slipping the bonds of his hometown, he reads Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and imagines.

As for Eugene, he comes off to those who meet him as a regular kid. He does tell his closest friends about his story.

"Sometimes someone will ask me, how's your mom? And I say, I have to tell you something, I call my grandma mom, because my mom passed away, she got murdered when I was three. I tell them I was there."

There are times he thinks about what happened that night, and what he saw, but not very often. Sometimes he sees it in his dreams. It does not upset him to talk about it. Perhaps he was just young enough that, while the memory exists, it is not strong enough to define him. The distant past is an old skin he was able to mostly shed; a part of him, but separate at the same time. His youth at the time of his mother's murder is tragic but maybe it also saved him.

Every night at bedtime Eugene does not pray, but he talks to his mom, asks her how she's doing, what is she up to. He figures she's having fun somewhere with her grandfather, and Brody, their old dog, who died a while back. Eugene enjoys his video games, there's one he plays called Resident Evil. He is a strong player, working the controls, staring at the screen. His secret, he says, is that he does not blink.

He's not sure what he wants to be when he grows up, he has wondered about being a cop. A few weeks ago, Don Forgan took him to the Hamilton Police Association's private club. Forgan sprung for wings and beer -- root beer for the boy. Eugene likes Forgan a lot. That night the boy inhaled a basket of wings, barely touched his fries, and then teamed with Forgan for a game of pool against two others. Forgan went on a run to win it; the boy and the cop slapped high-fives in celebration.

Back at the family's house one recent night, Sue brought out a piece of Charlisa's artwork, the one that had been on exhibit in a gallery at a show just days before her murder. It depicts two hands cupped over a glowing ball of energy, representing the spirit. Eugene had seen the piece many times, but this time, he stared closer, as thought witnessing it for the first time.

"Nana said she could see Char in the painting," Eugene says.

And then, the dark eyes lit up, the voice excited, as though opening a gift on Christmas morning.

"There! Oh, I see it now! The head, the body. She must have made it so that she's in it. There's the legs, the belly - probably with me in it."

Charlisa gave her last work a title. She called it Life After Death.

Caption: Photo: About the series JON WELLS' research for Witness included studying investigation documents and video, court transcripts, interviewing homicide and forensic detectives, family members of the victims, and the killer. All of the detail and dialogue in the story is true, drawn directly from research. Jon has won two National Newspaper Awards for his true crime serials and has had five books published, most recently, Vanished.

Photo: About the series RON ALBERTSON returned to photography nearly five years ago after 17 years as The Spectator's photo editor, and is an award-winning photojournalist. The photographs in this series are a combination of Ron's original portraiture and those provided by families and police.

Caption: Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

The apartment balcony that killer Carl Hall scaled in June 2000. His victims there: Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo, top, and Charlisa Clark, bottom. In August 2001, he killed Jackie McLean, middle, in a crack den downtown. He received three concurrent life sentences, and is appealing the McLean verdict.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

It's been almost 10 years since Constable Randy Carter encountered Eugene, Charlisa Clark's son, in this King Street East store after her murder. Eugene had wandered about for hours.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Detective Don Forgan and Eugene, now almost 13, have grown close over the years. They've been known to polish off some wings and root beer, and defeat others at pool at the police club.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Sue Ross often took her daughter Charlisa to this Mountain playground. Charlisa's son, Eugene, who turns 13 next month, lives with her in the east end. Pictures of 'Char' adorn her home.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Flavio and Ruth Del Sordo at home. Ruth goes to the cemetery two or three times a week to visit her Pat, her sadness and anger have not receded.

Photo: Carl Hall: He's in maximum security in Kingston, no one ever visits. Does he deserve the death penalty? 'I guess I do deserve it. And I'm growing less scared of dying, because life doesn't have much to offer.'

Witness: A true crime story Part 7 of 7: Life after death

News Mar 13, 2010 Hamilton Spectator

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2002

Major Crime Unit, 9 a.m.

Over the racket of detectives talking in the homicide office, Don Forgan could barely hear Dave Sibley tell him the big news: He had identified the palm print on the murder weapon.

"Just a minute, Dave," Forgan said.

He held the receiver to his shoulder. Forgan was not one to curse. This time was an exception. Shut up, he yelled, but with added emphasis.

And then: "Go ahead."

"It's Carl Hall."

"It's Carl Hall!" Forgan shouted.

Joy, relief, 20 months after Charlisa and Pat's murders, Forgan finally knew who held the baseball bat that night. He had told Eugene he would catch the bad man. Looked like they had him -- and that the mystery informant had been bang on.

Detective Mike Thomas walked over to Forgan. "Hall?" he said. "We're about to charge him on Jackie McLean."

Forgan could now see the walls closing in on the killer -- for all three homicides.

Carl was still in jail up in Penetanguishene, but time was not on their side. He would be a free man on March 16, released on the assault conviction he was serving. Carl had actually been due to get out on March 9, but had been kept for another week due to bad behaviour. He had been fighting; also pulled the fire sprinkler in his cell.

On March 11 at 4 p.m., a judge granted Hamilton police a DNA warrant for Carl. The next day, he was ordered in jail to provide a DNA sample.

Four days later, on March 15 at 5 p.m., Detective Dave Place received a call from the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto. Big news. It was a match: Carl Hall's DNA matched the high vaginal semen sample taken from Jackie McLean.

That night at 7 p.m., Place and Thomas checked out an unmarked white Crown Victoria and drove two hours to a Best Western hotel in Midland, 20 minutes from the jail in Penetang.

The next morning broke sunny and very cold. Just after 8 a.m., a guard came calling on Carl at his cell. He had visitors. Carl knew something was up after having been asked to give a DNA sample, but just what, he was not sure.

He was led into an office where he saw two large men in suits. And now he knew what was happening. They're gating me, he thought, arresting him just as he's about to be released.

Dave Place towered over Carl, diminishing him in the space.

"I am arresting you for the first-degree murder of Jackie McLean," he said. "You may also be charged with the murder of Charlisa Clark and Pasquale Del Sordo. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

Carl was cuffed with a waist chain and leg irons, and loaded into the Crown Vic. A Hamilton police cruiser followed behind.

The detectives had a two-hour drive back to Hamilton. Dave Place got Carl talking.

"Any of your family know you're getting out today?" he asked.

"No, don't have any family," Carl said. "Black sheep. I have one sister, haven't talked to her in four years. My parents, four or five years."

"The girl that visited you in Brantford -- is it Lise?" Place asked.

"Yeah."

"How do you know her?"

"She's from rehab."

"When were you in rehab?"

"In Simcoe, I'm not sure exactly the date. I figured you guys would know I was there."

"No, we missed that one. What's the name of that place?"

"Holmes House."

Carl told the detectives he had to use a bathroom. Mike Thomas pulled the car in at a sprawling highway service centre. The two detectives escorted him in, his chains clanking.

Back at Central Station in Hamilton, Place checked Carl into a cell just before 11:30 a.m. At 2 p.m., Place interviewed him. He asked about that night with Jackie McLean. Carl said they had sex in unit No. 4 above the Sandbar, but he did not harm her; they both left the unit and returned downstairs to another where people had been smoking crack.

"Here's the problem we have," Place said. "She's killed in the apartment ... the one you're in with her. That's where she's found dead."

Place told him about the high vaginal swab, indicating Carl's DNA on the victim.

"I hear what you're saying, but I can't explain it," Carl said. "I can't, I'm not going to change what I said, I can't explain it."

Place showed Carl a photo of the metal bar, the murder weapon.

"That's the weapon that was used to cave in her head."

"OK."

"And there's no question as to the finding, that you're responsible for her death."

Later, Place put it to him directly.

"Did you kill Jackie?"

"No."

"What happened in there?"

"I told you."

"Yeah, but it wasn't the truth."

"As I know it to be."

Place moved on to ask him about the murders for which he had not yet been charged, of Charlisa and Pat.

"Can we just take a break a bit?" Carl replied. "This is all just nuts."

Place left for a moment. Alone in the room, Carl looked up at the video camera.

"This is crazy," he said to himself, then swore several times. "How did I get caught up in this?"

When Place returned, Carl said he didn't want to talk anymore, not without his lawyer.

"Is there any reason," Place continued, "that your fingerprints would be found in (Charlisa's) apartment?"

"I don't know. I know people that used to live there ... So we are done with the questions now. OK?"

"Charlisa?" Place said. "Does that name sound familiar?"

"Not really."

"She goes by Char. And her boyfriend was Pat."

"No, I don't know them."

"Is there any reason your palm print would be on a bat in that apartment?"

"No, unless it was Paul's." Paul was a former tenant of that apartment, and a friend of Carl's.

"Would it surprise you to know the prints were there?"

"Yeah, a little bit. Maybe when I was there and sold pot ... I don't, I can't see it. You guys are way out in left field."

Carl asked if Place was charging him with the double murder.

"Should I?" Place asked.

"Go ahead."

"Did you kill them?"

"No. No, I don't even, no. That's crazy. No. I never killed anybody."

"Should I believe you?"

"Yeah."

"Why should I?"

"Because I'm telling you straight."

Place told Hall about the tip from the informant, that Carl had confessed to a double murder.

"If you say so, but that's unbelievable," Carl said.

"How would someone be in a position to pass that on to us?"

"I don't know ... I think it sounds like a pipe dream. You guys are way off base."

"How do you think everything's going to turn out, when all is said and done with?"

"I'm not worried ... you're barking up the wrong tree."

After two hours of questioning, Place left. Carl looked up at the camera again. "A pipe dream," he said, shaking his head, cursing.

Warren Korol, who had been watching the interview on a monitor in another room, entered.

"I know you think this is a pipe dream, Carl," Korol said. "But you know, there is somebody out there, you admitted to them that you killed two people. I'm going to find that person."

"OK, but that's inaccurate. I never did it."

"It's no pipe dream, Carl."

Carl had been pressured by Place, but now there was something about Korol's coolly aggressive manner that bothered him. Korol stared at Carl as though he knew what made him tick, like he was trying to bore a hole through his eyes and out the back of his skull. Carl did not like it.

"Carl," Korol said, "you need some help, bud."

"I need help," Carl said, sarcastically.

"You do. You need help."

Korol continued: "How did your palm print show up on the bat out of the blue? It was her baseball bat."

"If you're so sure about it, why don't you charge me?"

"One day I will charge you for that double murder. You'll be charged for three murders ... You need some help, Carl."

"I'm not -- I'm not sick."

"You need some help, you do. You've got some troubles, my friend."

* * *

With Carl now locked away in Barton Street jail, Forgan, Thomas and Korol met to review details of Carl's confession that the informant had provided through the RCMP. Korol read the points aloud to the others: Male and female victims; baseball bat weapon; white van outside the apartment. It all rang true from the crime scene.

"A fridge blocked the apartment door, Carl had to move it out of the way," Korol continued.

"Pardon me, what was that about the fridge?" Thomas said.

Thomas had become case manager for both McLean and Clark/Del Sordo, the only one in the room familiar with the details of both. The fridge behind the door had been in the Sandbar apartment, not Charlisa's place.

"It's the same guy, the killer is mixing details of both homicides into one story," Thomas said.

They had to find the informant, get his statement on the record and get him to testify in court. Korol kept pressuring the RCMP: they needed the name. RCMP officials refused; a confidential informant could not be named.

Korol was bitter. It wasn't just about getting another witness in line. If the informant's identity remained a secret, in court the defence would surely point at the tipster as an alternative suspect. The defence would argue, who had intimate knowledge of the double homicide? Carl Hall? Well, what about the guy who ratted him out -- maybe the guy assisted in the murders. Maybe he was the killer and is framing Carl.

Was there another way to find the informant?

"A guy like Hall has to confess like that when he's at his lowest point," Korol said.

Counselling? Rehab? In his car-ride interview from Penetang, Carl had mentioned attending Holmes House.

On March 28, Forgan, Thomas and Korol checked out a car and headed to Simcoe. They had a search warrant for the rehab centre, to check records to see if Carl had been treated there, maybe they could learn who he had confided in; a counsellor, perhaps. But before executing the warrant, they spoke informally with the manager. The detectives said they were investigating a homicide case involving a man named Carl Hall.

"Carl? I remember him being here," the manager said. "He admitted to a resident named Shane Mosher that he murdered two people."

The informant. Just like that.

It was one of those rare moments in homicide where time really did seem to stand still. The three cops stood there, deadpan at first, then turned and looked at each other, and smiled. Knew it.

"Well, that's why we're here," Forgan said.

Later: A knock on the door at a house in Brantford. A man answered. Slim, dark hair, boyish face. He saw three men in suits, all of them clean cut, he could smell their cologne.

"I bet you guys are from Hamilton," said Shane Mosher. "I figured you'd show up one day."

Shane agreed to come to the Brantford police station for an interview. He told Forgan he had passed along Carl's confession several months earlier, to an uncle of his named Don Scott, a retired RCMP officer. Shane asked that his name be kept confidential, his uncle assured him it would.

Did Shane wish to have a lawyer present for the interview, Forgan asked him. Shane thought yes at first, then changed his mind. He was now ready to jump in with both feet. And he had sensed from that moment in Holmes House, when he knew he would inform on Carl, that it would go like this. Wasn't crazy about the idea of having his name out there, but knew it was probably inevitable.

Still, while he was pleased to hear that Carl was in custody, he was fearful that, if Carl was released or found not guilty in court, that he'd be coming after Shane and his family.

When the detectives told him that Carl had been taken into custody initially for a charge in Brantford, fear rippled through him. Had Carl left Simcoe and gone looking for Shane?

Shane told Forgan everything Carl had confessed to him, he always had strong recall of events. As he did, the goosebumps returned, Shane shaking with the memory of that night. He was going to be an effective witness on the stand, Forgan reflected.

The detectives dropped Shane off at his home. Korol turned to Shane's wife, Shannon. "You should be proud of your husband," Korol said. "He did the right thing."

Forgan now tightened the screws on the case. He found a man living in Toronto named Paul, who had been a previous tenant at 781 King East, Charlisa's apartment. Carl's confession to Shane had suggested that Carl killed Pat and Charlisa out of mistaken identity, that he intended to get payback on a drug dealer. The man named Paul admitted he had indeed known Carl and sold him drugs. There had been a dispute between the two.

Was it enough to offer a motive? Perhaps it was, given that Carl was a man prone to anger and violence, and who was routinely high on crack for days at a time. In addition, he had told Shane he was upset that he was not allowed to see his young daughter on Father's Day that weekend.

On April 16, 2002, Carl Hall was charged with the murder of Charlisa Clark and Pat Del Sordo. Before the news was released to the media, Forgan informed the families.

When he met with Charlisa's mother, Sue Ross, she wept. She was happy they caught the killer after all this time, but also surprised, because she thought there had been more than one attacker.

Most of all she felt pain and regret. The murders, she now knew, were a random act. Wrong place, wrong time. And if Sue had not found Char that apartment on King East, her girl would be alive. Don't do that to yourself, others told Sue, obviously she could not have known what would happen. Yes, yes, of course, Sue knew all that, the logic of it, but it was no good. She was Char's mom, had to protect her, always.

The guilt would never leave, Sue could not stop retracing her steps, as though doing so might retroactively turn back time and alter Charlisa's fate. Why couldn't she have just found her daughter a different place to live? For that matter, why did Sue even have to get remarried? If she hadn't, maybe she would have got a house with Char and she'd still be alive.

A week after the arrest, Forgan came by the house for Eugene's fifth birthday party. The boy now knew that the bad man was in jail. He cheered when he heard the news. It was, Eugene thought, the best birthday present ever.

At the preliminary hearings held before a judge, family members of the victims -- Jackie, Charlisa and Pat -- heard details of the murders, watched video of the crime scenes.

At one point, Pat's mom, Ruth, experienced something very odd. She was certain that, after a court officer turned on the crime-scene video from 781 King St. E., showing her murdered son's body, that while the judge and lawyers could see the images on the screen, she could not. The picture appeared fuzzy, snow on the screen, she could not make out anything. It was a spiritual experience, felt like she was being protected from seeing her boy like that.

Charlisa's father, Al Clark, meanwhile, confined to his wheelchair, burned with rage seeing Carl in the prisoner's box at the hearing. If he was able, he felt as if he could jump over the barrier and take the guy out himself.

Jackie's older sister, Cindy, was a regular in court. She cried, but at other times felt angry, thought she could kill Carl if she had the chance. A couple of times she stared at him trying to make eye contact, send a message. He looked right back at her, his expression flat.

The video and photos at the prelim were difficult to watch, but what Cindy would always regret the most, was having gone to the morgue soon after the murder. Detectives had urged her not to, but she had insisted. She could never forget how cold it had felt in that room, nor could she ever erase that image of her baby sister.

But then, Cindy felt some comfort having made sure to provide Jackie with the resting place she would have wanted. It was right next to their mother, the beloved Bella. Cindy wrote a note to their mom, put it in plastic and buried it with Jackie: "I know you're waiting for her, so here she is, waiting for your lovely arms."

Ashley, Jackie's eldest child, also attended the prelim every day. She had grown up to have Jackie's dark hair and eyes, she looked a lot like her. When she had heard about Carl's arrest, she had, like the others, believed there had been more than one attacker; her mother had been a fiery woman, she would not have gone without a fight.

Ashley's friends worried about her, the stress of it through the prelim and into the trial. It was true that Ashley had been upset during the investigation. After police had vacated the Sandbar crime scene, she had sent her boyfriend to check it for her, look for clues. Crazy, but she couldn't help it, she had to do something. And if anyone mentioned hearing a rumour about the case, she would corner them, ask them for more information.

In court, it was surreal for her, the crime-scene photos, it was like the victim she was seeing was someone else, not her mother. But she made it through.

When Jackie was alive, she would give Ashley little gifts here and there. One of them was just this Nike T-shirt Jackie had worn. Ashley didn't think much of it at the time, but now she treasured it, wore it often. And she never stopped seeing her mom in her dreams. In one of them, Jackie appeared and said to Ashley, "This is the last time you'll see me." And Ashley argued with her: "No mom, you're wrong. It's not." She kept having that same dream, over and over.

* * *

The first of the trials was scheduled to begin in the spring of 2005, but Carl fired his lawyers, delayed the process further. The Jackie McLean trial started, finally, in January 2006.

"The position of the Crown is that this murder was committed during the course of a sexual assault and that, by definition, is first-degree murder," assistant Crown attorney John Nixon told the jury.

Carl continued to cause trouble. He threatened courtroom guards, refused to enter court several times. Six Hamilton police officers were added for extra security.

Carl's defence lawyer, Michael Puskas, called Barry Lane to the stand as an alternative suspect to his client in the Sandbar murder. But the forensic evidence linking Carl to the sexual assault in the loft of the apartment was critical. In the end, after a six-week trial, it took a jury just 10 hours to render its verdict: Guilty. First-degree murder. Carl was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 25 years.

Carl stood in court after the verdict was announced.

"I have no remorse for something I didn't do," he said. "I thought justice should be done. So the woman is dead. Now basically I'm dead, too."

He was led from the prisoner's box. On his way out he turned to a detective in the crowd, the gentle giant who had nailed down the case.

"Dave Place," Carl said, "you're a goof."

It was, reflected Place, a curious remark from someone as violent and foul-mouthed as Carl. It might have been something of a show of respect. But then, Place did not spend much time trying to psychoanalyze the man. Carl had done wrong and left evidence. Place followed it. It felt good to hear the conviction.

* * *

Just over a year later, on May 17, 2007, assistant Crown attorney Ed Slater rose for his opening remarks in the Clark/Del Sordo trial. Carl was defended by Russell Silverstein, a Toronto lawyer who had represented serial poisoner Sukhwinder Dhillon in two high-profile homicide trials. Silverstein had lost both, but had mounted strong defences in each.

Slater began by telling the jury the story of Eugene, the "lost boy," on Father's Day 2000, and Constable Randy Carter who had attended the crime scene. Slater spoke of the murders, the baseball bat, Shane Mosher's meeting with Carl Hall, and the confession.

Forgan sat in court. The room was dead quiet yet electric with emotion. Forgan thought Slater's address was the most powerful opening he had ever heard. The detective studied the jurors, saw a couple of them wipe tears away, and evidence had not even been presented yet. Slater had them already.

"The case that you are about to hear," Slater said, "has everything to do with what Randy Carter found when he took that boy home."

Carl listened in the prisoner's box. What was it that stirred inside him? Did the talk of the little lost boy, the one that Carl had seen the night of the murders, get to him? The boy, Eugene, was the one he spoke of with regret, the one victim who gave him pause.

Later, Carl would wonder about his motivation for what he did next. Was it a crisis of conscience? He didn't think that was it. In the past he had wondered if he had been born without one. No, he was more than ready to try to beat the rap. It was more a calculation of the odds. His lawyer confirmed for him that the Crown would lead with evidence of his palm print on the bat. Not good. Maybe, Carl thought, he could run with the story that he had held the bat another time, prior to the murders, when visiting the former tenant, Paul. Or, he could say the cops fabricated evidence. Carl recalled having wiped it down after the murders. How could they get a print from it? But then, part of him just wanted to get it over with. He killed them and wanted it to end.

That first day of the trial, after Slater's opening address, court took a recess. Behind closed doors, Carl wept like a baby. That same day he decided to enter a guilty plea. There would be no trial.

A week later he was sentenced to two counts of second-degree murder. He would serve three concurrent life sentences. And Charlisa's and Pat's families were spared going through a public trial, and the evidence from the crime scenes raised in court for all to see.

At sentencing Carl came face to face one more time with the lost boy. Eugene had recently turned 10. He was offered the opportunity to present a victim-impact statement in court. He wanted to do it. Dressed in a suit and tie, he rose from his seat and took the stand. With Carl sitting close by in the prisoner's box, the blond-haired boy looked out at all the people in the courtroom, and began.

"Hello, your honour," he said.

Eugene thanked the Crown, and Don Forgan and Mike Thomas. The detectives sat together in court, the entire room pulsed with emotion, some in the audience quietly sobbed as the boy spoke. Forgan felt so proud of him, of how brave he was to be up there.

Eugene could see that his uncle, Charlisa's brother, Greg, was choked up. It was the first time he had ever seen Greg cry, and that made him feel emotional. But Eugene was determined to hold it in. He felt very mad at Carl Hall. But he was not going to let Carl Hall see him cry.

"Thank you for letting me talk today," he continued. "I have been waiting a long time for this day. On June 18th, 2000, I was three years old. I had a great room, lots of toys, a bike and a goldfish and a mom that loved me a lot. When I woke up that morning everything changed. I saw lots of blood. I was scared and I will never forget. I know how life was, I know -- shoot, now I live with my grandma and uncle. I still get scared when it is night time. And now I call my grandma my mom."

The boy in the suit stepped down from the stand, not a single tear in his dark eyes -- Charlisa's eyes -- and walked right past the killer.

And then, out of the courtroom, behind closed doors, out of sight, after it was over, Eugene cried a lot.

Epilogue

The present

Kingston Penitentiary

A cold hard wind blows off the water, meeting the razor wire, guard towers and concrete walls of maximum-security Kingston Pen. The jail is 175 years old, visitors enter through a hulking front door and down into a lobby that is dark and cramped, a medieval feel to the place.

No friends or family ever come through the door to visit Carl Hall. His uncle came and saw him back when he was in the bucket, in Barton jail. But not here. He is not in touch much with his family. Doesn't blame his upbringing for the way he turned out. He wrote his parents a letter soon after he was jailed for the murders. It wasn't your fault, he said. He was the one who did it, period.

Carl now reconsiders the letter.

"Is it my dad's fault? I guess that's up for debate. I can't say, 'oh poor me, you know, abused child.' Won't use that as a scapegoat. On the East Coast, you grow up hard, that's just the way it is."

There is a trailer at the pen where inmates with good behaviour can enjoy conjugal visits. Carl misbehaves in jail, gets in fights. He tells inmates, he's a nice guy, if he's in the wrong, he'll apologize. But if he's in the right, let's go into the yard. But I will kill you.

In any case, no one is coming to see Carl for a conjugal visit, either. He does look forward to just hanging in the trailer alone, though, make himself some food, watch DVDs in peace.

He still denies murdering Jackie. He is appealing the conviction in that case, so does not want to talk about it. But he does point the finger at Barry Lane as a better suspect. And he says the sex he had with Jackie was consensual, and that he left her "alive and kicking."

The notion that he would have sex with a woman who was dead or nearly dead is crazy, he says. Certainly that reputation would not help in prison. In the inmate culture, rapists, child molesters are not treated well.

He blames police for falsely portraying him as a serial killer.

"Anyone can be a killer. Doesn't mean I'm a serial nutbar or something like that." He tells a journalist that he hopes he is "humanized" in a story being written about him.

"I'm just a working dude, a normal guy who got into a bad scene ... the drugs made me a man that I'm not, brought out the worst in me."

As for murdering Charlisa and Pat, he never mentions them by name. He says not a day goes by he doesn't regret what happened.

"I would give away my life for them if it would bring them back."

Why did he do it? No one will ever know for sure exactly what happened, and why. He claims that it was just a break and enter. He wasn't hitting the place to get revenge on anyone. Just broke in because he could see that the balcony door on King Street to the apartment was open. He saw a guy sleeping on the bed, lights on in the room, he grabbed the guy's pants on the floor to get his wallet, and the guy grabbed his hand, fought back. So Carl hit him with the bat, again and again, and the woman, she was in the bed too, started screaming. So he killed her, too.

"The guy put his hand on me, I was terrified, I fought for my life. He was a lot bigger than me. And the rage ... I just kept going."

His story seems off. Pat's body was found face down on the mattress, as though he had never moved from a resting position. Charlisa's body, on her knees, suggested that she had been standing up, had come in from the hallway. It seems more likely that Carl killed Pat in cold blood, an attack from behind from which Pat had no chance to defend himself.

He does not sound angry at Shane Mosher for talking to police. He confessed to Shane to get it off his chest, and it felt good. He figured he had fudged enough of the details, but realized he had talked too much. Never thought Shane would tell. Regrets it now. Never should have told him.

If Carl wins his appeal on the Jackie McLean case, he says maybe the sentence could be dropped down to second-degree murder from first-degree. Then he'd be serving three 15-years-to-life concurrent sentences.

"Three second-degree murders? I'm never getting out. Maybe when I'm 70. But I won't live that long. But I just don't care."

If Canada had the death penalty, would he deserve it?

"I guess I do deserve it. And I'm growing less scared of dying, because life doesn't have much to offer."

He is not religious, but sometimes, if he's feeling really sick or about to get in a fight, he says a prayer, asks God to forgive him his sins. Carl hints at other dark things he's done in his past, "a whole other incident" that has not been made public. He could say some things that could really screw him, he says.

Carl is 35 now, but the pale skin, red hair, pudgy cast to his face and frequent smirk, make him look much younger. Physically, he is far from what he calls the "hate machine" he was building in jail prior to his convictions, when he worked out like a demon. The muscles have softened, he is overweight, all he does now is watch TV, read. It was a woman's fault, a girlfriend he had, a long-distance relationship with a Hamilton girl named Shellee. For four years, while he was in jail awaiting trial, they dated, talked about getting married. On his fingers, Carl has the tattoo "SH" for Shellee Hall. But she broke up with him. Just as well, he figures, he wants to get back in a groove, get back in shape.

He reads mystery fiction, Stephen King, Grisham. He is a big fan of Dexter, the darkly twisted TV show about a vigilante forensic investigator who is a serial killer -- but of bad guys. Does Dexter remind Carl of his experiences?

"Yeah, a bit. Although I never killed anyone who deserved it. That's the problem."

* * *

Today Shane Mosher lives in the Hamilton area, with Shannon and Riley. Shane has a good job, and so does his wife, and life has never been better. One of the detectives called Shane a hero; Shannon was proud of him.

Shane never did have to take the stand in a full trial against Carl. He was not called in the McLean case, and in Clark/Del Sordo, Carl plead guilty -- a development Shane had been very relieved to hear.

Shane had taken the stand once in court, at the preliminary hearing into the double murder. He was frightened that day, had to walk past Carl to take the stand. It was the first time they had seen each other since that morning at Holmes House, when he was leaving to go home with Shannon and he was sure Carl had seen his address affixed to his suitcase. That was the morning after Carl's chilling confession.

He testified to the confession Carl had made, and he felt Carl's eyes on him the whole time, but no words were spoken. And then, after the prelim, Shane prepared for the trial at home, reviewed his evidence. He was the star witness. He figured, if he blows it, Carl is found not guilty -- and might well come after his family. He had to get it right.

And then came the phone call from Forgan, telling Shane that Carl had plead guilty. He felt such relief, so much anxiety had built up inside him about the trial.

With Carl locked away, he and Shannon could breathe again. And he never again felt the urge to do crack. His addiction phase seemed like a lifetime ago; he could never fathom that had been him.

Shane was able to gradually put Carl out of his head. These days, he thinks more about Eugene, hoping the boy is OK, wishing that one day he'll be able to meet him. Shane does, on occasion, pause to reflect about the road travelled. In the depths of his addiction, he had called out to God, wondered why he had plunged into the crack cocaine sinkhole. In retrospect, he felt he knew. Only by going through that ordeal was he taken to Carl and put in a position to hear the confession, and contact police.

And, more than that, it seemed to Shane that his whole life had in a sense been a prelude to that horrible summer; growing up out East, which gave him a connection with Carl when they met, and all the curious twists in the road along the way. It was like it had all been meant to be from the start.

* * *

Ruth and Flavio Del Sordo purchased a plot in the City of Angels cemetery in Stoney Creek, and a monument as well, a big stone, for the three of them: Pasquale, Ruth and Flavio. That way, they figured, in the end Pat will not lie alone.

Ruth goes to the cemetery two, three times a week. She is unable to stand at the stone, it is too emotional, and so she kneels before it. She talks to Pat, tells him what's been going on.

Ruth's sadness has never waned and neither has her anger. She laments aspects of the police investigation and the trial, still feels like justice was not done for her son, still believes there had to have been another attacker, not just Carl Hall.

The loss of Pat is a wound for the family that never heals. None of them attend counselling, Ruth says they don't believe in it. But Ruth, she wants to talk about her Pasquale. When prompted she can barely bring herself to stop talking about her boy, how much he loved his family, life, a breath of fresh air, a ball of energy. But she cannot find many ears to listen. For others in the family, almost 10 years after his murder, it is too raw, you can't bring it up.

All their kids are wonderful, Ruth feels blessed with all of them. But her first-born was a special light, and she will never be the same.

"Pasquale was my confidant, my right arm, my music man, and his mother and father's saviour, because we knew that if we ever needed anything, he'd be right there."

Not too long ago, Pat's sister got married. Pat's father, Flavio, could not bring himself to enter the church to go and meet the priest in advance. He had not been a consistent churchgoer before his son's death, but after the murder, lost his faith entirely. God had let him down. Ruth? She still has faith, but then it also prompts more questions than she can answer. If God wills all, if everything happens for a reason, why did this happen to her Pasquale?

Words do not comfort, nothing does. She does not play Pat's music, his CDs are packed away in the house. She cannot play any kind of music without thinking of him, and so she avoids it entirely.

Such a waste, losing Pat's smile and joy and also what he would have lovingly created with his talent for woodworking, a passion that ran in his blood.

Ruth feels a smile when she remembers a line spoken by one of the readers at his funeral. It is from John 14:2. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

"Yes," one of Pat's brothers added, "and now He will have many more rooms, and have the best carpenter to build them."

* * *

"More coffee?" the waitress asks.

The elderly customer nods yes, but does not smile. The waitress, in her red uniform, hair up, tops up the mug, steam wafting and returns to the kitchen. She used to teach ballet, but that was a long time ago. She works in the Zellers restaurant in the east end, the site of the old Centre Mall, in the shadow of the steel mills, smoke from the stacks paused against a leaden sky. In the kitchen she chats with other staff, Lorna and Kristen, who are much younger than she. The waitress is Char-lisa's mom, Sue Ross.

She talks about Charlisa to those she trusts, about what happened, and her feelings. The girls she works with adore Sue, her openness, her sense of humour. She is a tough woman, but they can always tell when she's feeling it. She is like a mom to them, and Sue likes that, they remind her of Char, but at the same time it also makes her wary. She does not want to get too close, it would feel wrong. That is also a reason she hesitates to return to teaching ballet, she's not ready for it yet. She does have her moments, though, the girls from Zellers convinced her to get together for a back-yard party last summer, they had more than a few drinks, a lot of smiles, it was nice.

Sue is 57 and lives in a tiny old house in the east end with her son Greg, who is now 26, and Eugene. Sue's first husband, Charlisa's father, Al Clark, died a couple of years ago. Sue and her second husband, Bruce, split up not long after Charlisa's murder.

After obsessively watching crime shows on TV in the years leading up to the trial, Sue can no longer watch any of it. Now it's lighter fare, comedies. As for the pain, it will always run deep, and she does not look for silver linings, but at least she did ultimately find out that her belief that Char had been pregnant at the time of her murder proved not to be true; the autopsy showed she had not been.

Pictures of Char adorn her home, as do cows -- Char collected cow-themed ornaments, mugs, and so friends of Sue keep giving them to her as gifts.

Eugene turns 13 in April. He no longer has a biological mother, does not know or want to know his biological father. He has no brothers or sisters. Greg is his uncle but more like a big brother. Greg knows Eugene's upbringing has been unconventional, he wants to make sure the kid has solid memories when he gets older, of Christmases and birthdays and trips.

Greg thinks about his sister all the time; he's careful not to let himself linger too long in sorrow, Char would not want that. He will never forget one moment, it was maybe a few weeks before she died. He babysat for Char at her apartment. When she got home from her night out, she gave him a long lingering hug. She hadn't done that in a long time. He thinks about that a lot.

He is a burly looking guy, big arms, looks like he should be playing football. But he is also soft-spoken, inside he is a lot like Charlisa; artistic in his way, a thinker, a seeker. He is studying to be a chef. Greg yearns to travel, discover the world. But he does not do that, choosing instead to stay and help his mom raise Eugene. His life is in a sense on hold, has been since Charlisa's death, the killer did that to him. So for now, short of actually slipping the bonds of his hometown, he reads Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and imagines.

As for Eugene, he comes off to those who meet him as a regular kid. He does tell his closest friends about his story.

"Sometimes someone will ask me, how's your mom? And I say, I have to tell you something, I call my grandma mom, because my mom passed away, she got murdered when I was three. I tell them I was there."

There are times he thinks about what happened that night, and what he saw, but not very often. Sometimes he sees it in his dreams. It does not upset him to talk about it. Perhaps he was just young enough that, while the memory exists, it is not strong enough to define him. The distant past is an old skin he was able to mostly shed; a part of him, but separate at the same time. His youth at the time of his mother's murder is tragic but maybe it also saved him.

Every night at bedtime Eugene does not pray, but he talks to his mom, asks her how she's doing, what is she up to. He figures she's having fun somewhere with her grandfather, and Brody, their old dog, who died a while back. Eugene enjoys his video games, there's one he plays called Resident Evil. He is a strong player, working the controls, staring at the screen. His secret, he says, is that he does not blink.

He's not sure what he wants to be when he grows up, he has wondered about being a cop. A few weeks ago, Don Forgan took him to the Hamilton Police Association's private club. Forgan sprung for wings and beer -- root beer for the boy. Eugene likes Forgan a lot. That night the boy inhaled a basket of wings, barely touched his fries, and then teamed with Forgan for a game of pool against two others. Forgan went on a run to win it; the boy and the cop slapped high-fives in celebration.

Back at the family's house one recent night, Sue brought out a piece of Charlisa's artwork, the one that had been on exhibit in a gallery at a show just days before her murder. It depicts two hands cupped over a glowing ball of energy, representing the spirit. Eugene had seen the piece many times, but this time, he stared closer, as thought witnessing it for the first time.

"Nana said she could see Char in the painting," Eugene says.

And then, the dark eyes lit up, the voice excited, as though opening a gift on Christmas morning.

"There! Oh, I see it now! The head, the body. She must have made it so that she's in it. There's the legs, the belly - probably with me in it."

Charlisa gave her last work a title. She called it Life After Death.

Caption: Photo: About the series JON WELLS' research for Witness included studying investigation documents and video, court transcripts, interviewing homicide and forensic detectives, family members of the victims, and the killer. All of the detail and dialogue in the story is true, drawn directly from research. Jon has won two National Newspaper Awards for his true crime serials and has had five books published, most recently, Vanished.

Photo: About the series RON ALBERTSON returned to photography nearly five years ago after 17 years as The Spectator's photo editor, and is an award-winning photojournalist. The photographs in this series are a combination of Ron's original portraiture and those provided by families and police.

Caption: Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

The apartment balcony that killer Carl Hall scaled in June 2000. His victims there: Pasquale (Pat) Del Sordo, top, and Charlisa Clark, bottom. In August 2001, he killed Jackie McLean, middle, in a crack den downtown. He received three concurrent life sentences, and is appealing the McLean verdict.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

It's been almost 10 years since Constable Randy Carter encountered Eugene, Charlisa Clark's son, in this King Street East store after her murder. Eugene had wandered about for hours.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Detective Don Forgan and Eugene, now almost 13, have grown close over the years. They've been known to polish off some wings and root beer, and defeat others at pool at the police club.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Sue Ross often took her daughter Charlisa to this Mountain playground. Charlisa's son, Eugene, who turns 13 next month, lives with her in the east end. Pictures of 'Char' adorn her home.

Photo: Ron Albertson, the Hamilton Spectator

Flavio and Ruth Del Sordo at home. Ruth goes to the cemetery two or three times a week to visit her Pat, her sadness and anger have not receded.

Photo: Carl Hall: He's in maximum security in Kingston, no one ever visits. Does he deserve the death penalty? 'I guess I do deserve it. And I'm growing less scared of dying, because life doesn't have much to offer.'