A man has reportedly confessed to the murder of a Maryland deputy sheriff that has remained unsolved for a half-century. Larry David Smith, who formerly went by Larry David Becker, admitted to fatally shooting Montgomery County Special Deputy Sheriff Capt. James Tappen Hall in 1971 in what became the police department's only unsolved homicide involving law enforcement, officers announced Wednesday, per CBS News. Police said the 53-year-old deputy was working as a security guard at Rockville's Manor Country Club on Oct. 23, 1971, when he interrupted a burglary at a nearby home. He died three days after he was found in the country club parking lot with a gunshot wound to the head, per the Washington Post.
Smith, who's spent the last 45 years in New York, was identified as a suspect after the cold case was reopened on its 50th anniversary, police said. During a 1973 interview, he'd offered to talk about the killing only "if he could receive consideration for leniency" in unrelated charges, according to an application for an arrest warrant, per the Post. He was never named as a suspect. Interviewed again last week, Smith confessed to the murder, saying he'd accidentally shot Hall when confronted carrying stolen property to a waiting vehicle, police said. The 71-year-old added he only recently learned the deputy had died and asked that detectives direct his apology to Hall's family, according to the application.
"To obtain a confession for someone who committed a crime 51 years ago is a tremendous, tremendous accomplishment," Chief Marcus G. Jones said Wednesday, per Law & Crime. "We have never shown that we have given up on finding justice for this case," he added. "They have been dedicated and committed to finding justice." Hall's daughter, Carolyn Hall Philo, thanked law enforcement for their tireless work to solve the case. "I just knew somebody was out there," she said, per the Post. Smith was arrested Sept. 1 on a charge of first-degree murder. He's waived his extradition and will arrive in Maryland this week, per CBS. (Read more cold cases stories.)