GAITHERSBURG, Md. -- A New York man has been arrested and charged with killing a law enforcement officer in Maryland more than 50 years ago, police said Wednesday.
Larry David Smith, 70, admitted to shooting Montgomery County Special Deputy Sheriff Capt. James Tappen Hall in 1971 when police detectives interviewed him in New York last Thursday, the Montgomery County Police Department said in a news release.
Smith told detectives that he accidentally shot Hall when the deputy confronted Smith as he carried property from a residential burglary to a waiting vehicle, police said in an application for an arrest warrant. Smith said he only recently learned that Hall had died and asked the detectives to apologize to the deputy's family for the shooting, the application says.
Hall, 53, died from a gunshot wound three days after he was found lying face down in a parking lot in Rockville, Maryland, on Oct. 23, 1971. Investigators believe Hall was off duty and working as a security guard at a country club when he interrupted a burglary at a nearby home and confronted somebody who shot him.
Smith, also known as Larry David Becker, was interviewed by investigators in 1973. He said he knew about the deputy's killing and would talk to them “if he could receive consideration for leniency” in unrelated charges, the warrant application says. His brother told police that he overhead Smith talking about handguns and saying that he knew who owned the gun involved in the shooting, according to the application.
But the police department's news release says Smith wasn’t labeled a suspect in Hall’s killing back then.
Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department's cold case unit reopened the investigation last year around the 50th anniversary of the deadly shooting. When they reviewed a recording of Smith's 1973 interview, they concluded that he knew details about the killing that pointed to him as a suspect instead of just an eyewitness to the shooting, the arrest warrant application says.
The police detectives determined that Becker began using the last name Smith — the last name of his birth parents — around 1975 and had been living in Little Falls, New York, for more than 45 years, police said. Little Falls, a city with roughly 5,000 residents in New York's Herkimer County, is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of Albany.
Smith was arrested last Thursday on a first-degree murder charge. Authorities expect to bring him back to Maryland by the end of this week.
The department says Hall’s killing is the oldest cold case that it has ever solved.
Police Chief Marcus Jones said the department is “pleased to bring justice” to Hall’s family.
“This shows you the impact that we never forget,” Jones said at a news conference.
Hall's daughter, Carolyn Hall Philo, thanked investigators for their work on the case.
“I just knew somebody was out there,” she said.
This story has corrected Smith's age to 70 years old, not 71.