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Archive for Monday, September 25, 2006

Dead children of slain mother found in washer and dryer

Autopsies suggest 3 were drowned

September 25, 2006

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— By all accounts, Tiffany Hall and Jimella Tunstall were like sisters, survivors in this place defined by crime, poverty, crumbling buildings and potholed roads.

The two were quiet loners who gravitated toward each other at school. They both became teenage mothers. Years later with two children of her own, according to media reports, Hall baby-sat Tunstall's three kids.

With numbing grief, both families are trying to fathom how things went so horrifically wrong.

Hall, 24, is jailed on $5 million bond, accused Saturday of killing 23-year-old Tunstall and the fetus that authorities say was cut from her womb, perhaps with scissors.

Later Saturday, a furious two-day search for Tunstall's missing children - ages 7, 2 and 1 - ended with another grisly discovery: Authorities found the children's decomposing bodies stuffed in the washer and dryer at the apartment they shared with their mother.

"At least they're at peace with their mom," LaDonna Tunstall, the slain woman's stepmother, told the Belleville News-Democrat.

As for Hall, she added, "God is going to have to deal with her."

Hall hasn't been charged in the children's deaths, which preliminary autopsy findings Sunday suggested were caused by drowning, deputy St. Clair County coroner Ace Hart said. While in custody, Hart says, Hall told investigators she killed the children at another location, then hauled them home and hid them in the washer and dryer.

Shawn Crawford places stuffed animals in front of an apartment Sunday in the John DeShields public housing complex in East St. Louis, Ill., near where three children were found slain Saturday. This struggling community turned to prayer Sunday in trying to understand the slaying of a pregnant mother, whose fetus was cut from her womb, and her three children, who were found stuffed in their apartment's washer and dryer.

Shawn Crawford places stuffed animals in front of an apartment Sunday in the John DeShields public housing complex in East St. Louis, Ill., near where three children were found slain Saturday. This struggling community turned to prayer Sunday in trying to understand the slaying of a pregnant mother, whose fetus was cut from her womb, and her three children, who were found stuffed in their apartment's washer and dryer.

As authorities wait for toxicology tests that would show if the children were drugged or poisoned, investigators were tracing back over a 10-day stretch that appeared to get darker by the second.

Refusing to discuss a motive, prosecutors say Hall killed Tunstall, who was seven months pregnant, on or about Sept. 15. Later that night, Hart says, Hall summoned authorities to the Frank Holten State Park where police found her with a dead baby she claims she delivered stillborn.

Hall and the baby were taken to a hospital, where she refused to let doctors examine her and gave conflicting accounts of why she went into labor, alternately saying she had consensual sex and was raped, Hart says.

The baby girl showed no signs of trauma and an autopsy the next day failed to pinpoint a cause of death.

"We didn't even figure it was a homicide," Hart said.

When the funeral for the baby, who was buried as Taylor Horn, took place six days later, the mortuary's director found Hall acting strangely. Just minutes before the service, Levi King says, Hall called to ask if she could reschedule for a different day so more family could attend.

Hall turned up two hours late.

"That's never happened before," King says.

Then during the service, Police Chief James Mister says, the woman confided in her boyfriend - a sailor home on leave - that the child belonged to a pregnant woman she said she killed. The boyfriend told police, who arrested Hall hours later.

By that time, authorities already had found Tunstall's body in a weedy lot just blocks from the sprawling state park where Hall had summoned police six days earlier. Near the body were scissors Hart suspects were used to carve out the woman's fetus.

In his nearly quarter century in the coroner's business, Hart says he'd seen it all in this city where violent crime typically dominates the headlines. But this carnage, he admits, "was very graphic and very brutal."

It got worse.

By the next morning, investigators were imploring the media and public to help find Tunstall's three children, who they said were last seen four days earlier with Hall.

Dozens of law enforcers and volunteers converged on the state park in a frantic search by horseback, foot, air and boat. Everything, including cadaver dogs, proved fruitless.

Little did investigators know they'd already brushed past the kids.

Hart says investigators on Friday had been inside Tunstall's apartment 28J at the John DeShields public housing complex to get photographs of the missing children for media outlets to publicize during the search.

Authorities found nothing unusual and left, only to return on Saturday night when Hall "'fessed up where the kids were," Hart says. Police found 7-year-old DeMond Tunstall's body - 4 feet tall, 55 pounds - in the dryer. The other two children - 2-year-old Ivan Tunstall-Collins and 1-year-old Jinela Tunstall - were lifeless in the washer.

Comments

tearful 7 years, 5 months ago

If she don't get the chair. I hope they kill her in prison she is a very horrible person. If a person can tell their boyfriend what they have done ther is no way they can say she was in sane because she knew what she was doing and i hope she gets what i coming to her..

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Angie Dick 7 years, 6 months ago

That lady needs the death sentence, I hope she rots in hell for what she has done. sick sick sick. How in the world could someone harm a child? Let alone the mother ect. This lady is a sick O. If they choose not to give this lady the death sentence, I hope she pay's hell in prison for the rest of her life.

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Linda Endicott 7 years, 6 months ago

Maybe it's small comfort, but I read that the children were drowned and already dead before being put in the washer and dryer. I think she probably did it just to hide them and avoid detection longer.

It apparently worked, as the police had already been in the apartment and hadn't checked the appliances. If the woman hadn't confessed to her boyfriend/husband (I'm not sure now which he is), they wouldn't have known for awhile where the children were.

I just don't understand people like this. How could anyone even think about doing things like this? It's horrible.

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my_black_lab_told_me_so 7 years, 6 months ago

I think that when this killer gets convicted the punishment should be stuffing her in a great, big commercial washer for about a half hour (hot water, lots of detergent).

.........and if she somehow manages to survive that one.......

then she should be stuffed in a huge commercial dryer for another half hour (set on high, with no static cling sheet)!

That should do it!

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Pywacket 7 years, 6 months ago

Why? Is the father her husband?

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sybil 7 years, 6 months ago

It does matter there are crazy people every where and we must remember that. I know a pscyo who would like nothing better than to cut the baby out of me simply because of who the Father is. We must be ever wary of nut cases.

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billyflay 7 years, 6 months ago

what's not surprising is that he has regularly voted democrate.

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Pywacket 7 years, 6 months ago

couranna1~ The horror of the situation is so mindboggling, it really didn't need any comments from me--or so I thought.

It has been in the news for several days now, and I'm sure everyone who has read it---certainly including me--- is sickened and saddened by the story. I would think that would go w/o saying. Guess not. There--are you reassured now that I'm not an insensitive stone?

THAT SAID......

The LJW has a longstanding and very odd habit of placing such NONLOCAL stories under the LOCAL header.

Imagine the terror many local readers would feel if they encountered a header under "Local Crime" that read, "3 students shot; hostage situation at local school." Imagine the dread until people opened up the article and realized that, no, it wasn't in Lawrence at all, but halfway across the nation. Can you not see how this is a disservice to readers?

I regret offending your sensibilities by mentioning this problem without commenting on the tragedy of the story itself. (Since it was not LOCAL, I failed to see any reason to include words of comfort to friends and family...). I promise to be more careful in the future, for your sake. What's your address? I'll send flowers.

I am not the only one who has complained about misplaced news items. Maybe if enough people comment, the LJW will pay attention and put regional and national news items somewhere other than under "Lawrence Crime."

Okay? Any other problems with what/how I post? Email me: doicare@noidon't.com

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as_I_live_and_breathe 7 years, 6 months ago

Maybe she was trying to 'wash away' the sin... Out out damned spot.

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my_black_lab_told_me_so 7 years, 6 months ago

What was the point of stuffing those dead kids in the washer and dryer?!

What a sick, twisted, and completely demented mind!!

Geez!

Unreal!

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my_black_lab_told_me_so 7 years, 6 months ago

Only a monster would kill innocent kids.....and then stuff them in a washer and dryer.

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couranna1 7 years, 6 months ago

How can you kill a child? If nothing else it shows we are truly animals and how can you read a story like that and the only thing you have to say is about geography?

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Pywacket 7 years, 6 months ago

Since when is East St. Louis in Lawrence?

Why does the LJW continue to place regional or national incidents under their "Lawrence Crime" heading? This really makes no sense.

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