Homicide City has another disturbing murder case from the city of brotherly love; in 1987, Rosella Atkinson was murdered on a night out by Brian Hall, who then dumped her remains on the edge of a high school athletic field.
In October 1987, 18-year-old Rosella left her home in Nicetown, Philadelphia, to visit a bar, and was never seen alive again by her family. Her remains were discovered months later at the edge of playing fields at the Central High School.
Unfortunately, the remains went unidentified until 1990, when forensic sculptor Frank Bender recreated the victim’s likeness, and Rosella’s aunt recognized her niece’s face while attending an exhibition of his work. Dental records were then used to confirm it was Rosella.
Despite the identification, the case remained unsolved until September 2005, when Brian Hall walked into a police station and confessed to being the murderer.
Brian Hall had met Rosella Atkinson at a bar
Hall claimed he’d met Rosella at the bar before the pair had sex at the playing fields. He said when he awoke to discover that he was missing money and when he accused Rosella of stealing from him, the argument grew violent. He said: “I put my hands around her neck,” and strangled her to death.
However, Hall told detectives that his conscience had been eating away at him for years and that visions of his victim’s face haunted him. “My conscience is eating at me, and I know it’s time to get right,” he told police. “I see her face all the time.”
He pleaded guilty to murder, but in an unusual measure for a case of this type, the killer asked the jury to determine his degree of guilt. In 2007, the 55-year-old was convicted of third-degree murder and was sentenced to a maximum of 10 to 20 years in prison.
At his sentencing, Hall apologized to the family and said he had found the Lord; “He made me confess, and I am sorry,” explained the killer.
The prosecution had argued against the defense trying to paint their client as some kind of good samaritan, which they claimed was not the case. They argued that he deserved the maximum penalty, and the judge agreed.
More from Homicide City
Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on Homicide City.
In 1989, Rudolph Churchill raped and murdered two sex workers, Ruby Ellis and Cheryl Hanible, within a few months of each other in north Philadelphia. It took a quarter of a century before DNA evidence pointed the finger at Churchill, and he was finally brought to justice for his crimes.
In another cold case from Philadelphia, Rafael Crespo raped and murdered 17-year-old schoolgirl Anjeanette Maldonado and left her in an abandoned house. After DNA evidence caught up to Crespo 16 years later, he admitted to choking her but denied killing her. The police refused to believe his lies.
Homicide City airs at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.