Odell "Cookie" Hallmon Jr. is the prosecution's key witness in the murder case against Curtis Flowers. Hallmon has testified that Flowers confessed to him — while both men were in prison — that Flowers killed four people at Tardy Furniture in 1996.
Hallmon is also a career criminal. His run-ins with law enforcement began at age 12 and continued with little interruption for most of the next 30 years. Hardly a month went by in which Hallmon didn't have some interaction with law enforcement, including robbery, aggravated assault, selling drugs and attempting to run over a sheriff's deputy.
APM Reports journalists pieced together a detailed account of Hallmon's criminal history, compiling court, police and prison records from departments spread across seven counties in rural Mississippi. The resulting document runs more than 50 pages and 20,000 words. The timeline and information below has been excerpted from that research.
What's clear is that Hallmon became an increasingly violent person who, despite several stints in prison, either got away with his crimes or got off easy. He cut generous deals with prosecutors, was paroled early despite a horrendous prison record and — after giving a statement against Flowers — avoided any punishment in seven felony cases. He was a repeat offender who kept finding his way back to the streets, month after month and year after year. Until, eventually, it ended in tragedy.
Hallmon is arrested twice for aggravated assault in a two-week span and booked into the Carroll County Jail. Hallmon is just 15. A note in the file after the second assault charge says, "hold for reform school." Before he turns 18, he's arrested for fighting, disturbing the peace, assaults and burglary. The records for some of these detentions are in a drawer of booking cards still stored in the now defunct jail. There are still traces of Hallmon in his old corner cell there:
Hallmon is arrested for stabbing an acquaintance named Elbert Blackmon Jr. "with a knife in the upper left neck, forehead, back, the back of his head and shoulder, that being a means likely to produce death or serious bodily harm," according to court records. He is charged with aggravated assault. On May 26, 1993, he appears before Judge Joseph Loper, the same judge who years later will preside over two of Curtis Flowers' trials, and pleads guilty. Loper sentences Hallmon to seven years in prison, but immediately suspends three of those years. He's given a four-year sentence — though he won't spend even that long behind bars — and three years of probation after his release.
Just three weeks into his prison sentence, Hallmon is issued a rule violation for assaulting a guard and receives a detention notice for assaulting an inmate. In the two-and-a-half years that follow, he's disciplined at least 16 times, including write-ups for various rule violations, time in solitary confinement for pushing a guard and a demotion in security status for allegedly raping an inmate.
The parole board refuses to release Hallmon at his first parole hearing because, according to prison records, "the ability or willingness to fulfill the obligations of a law abiding citizen is lacking." He will be denied parole again, on Jan. 25, 1995.
Just a year after being denied parole a second time, Hallmon is discharged from prison and begins three years of probation. After pleading guilty to stabbing a man in the neck and head, he has served less than three years in prison.
Records show Hallmon works at the Hankins Lumber Co. in Elliot, Mississippi, for a year.
An arrest warrant is issued for Hallmon, who's been out of prison just nine months, for violating his probation by being involved in three "assaultive altercations," on Aug. 13, Aug. 16 and Sept. 6.
Still free, Hallmon violates his probation again, this time by testing positive for cocaine.
On this date, Hallmon is arrested in Carroll County and charged with strong arm robbery for using physical and verbal threats to force a man to give him $262. While he's being held, another arrest warrant is issued for Hallmon's various probation violations: using cocaine, committing robbery and failing to make restitution payments.
Hallmon is indicted in the robbery case from January but never convicted. On May 29, 1997, the case is "remanded to files" and never resurfaces.
Hallmon is sent to a restitution center in Jackson and ordered to work off a court-imposed $2,099 debt owed to the man he stabbed in 1992 — a reimbursement for his medical bills and court costs.
Hallmon is returned to prison for violating his probation. He must now serve the three additional years from his 1993 aggravated assault conviction that had previously been suspended. Again, he's not a model prisoner. In Parchman prison, he receives at least 49 citations for various rule violations. This is the same prison where Curtis Flowers will soon be incarcerated. It's some time during this period in late 1997 and 1998 that, Hallmon will later claim, Flowers admitted to him that Flowers committed the Tardy Furniture murders.
In the first of six trials, Curtis Flowers is convicted of murdering Bertha Tardy and sentenced to death. Odell Hallmon isn't involved, but his sister, Patricia Hallmon, testifies for the state against Curtis.
Hallmon's first documented involvement in the Flowers case is a letter to Curtis' mother, Lola. In this letter, and a subsequent one to Curtis' lawyer, Hallmon says that he talked his sister Patricia into lying on the stand in Curtis' first trial so she could claim the reward money offered in the case and bail her brother out of jail. Hallmon offers to now tell the truth and testify in Curtis' defense.
Flowers' second trial, this one for the murder of Derrick "Bobo" Stewart, takes place in Gulfport. Hallmon is transported there from Parchman to testify for the defense. He says that his sister Patricia, who has testified for the prosecution that she saw Flowers on the day of the murders, has been lying. Hallmon testifies that he talked Patricia into lying for the reward money. Flowers is found guilty anyway and receives a second death sentence.
After serving two-and-a-half years, Hallmon is discharged from Parchman prison.
Acting on a tip that Hallmon is selling drugs, Carroll County deputies track him down at a local gas station. He tries to make a break for it, but they apprehend him. They find two containers of crack cocaine worth an estimated $800. He's charged with possession of narcotics with intent to distribute. Sheriff Don Gray tells the local newspaper, The Conservative, that, "He got sort of belligerent and went outside, saw the other officers, and broke and ran toward the highway. All gave chase, and Deputy Carver tackled him. Odell is a pretty good-sized fella." Hallmon is released on a $75,000 bond.
The Mississippi Supreme Court overturns Curtis Flowers' conviction and death sentence, citing missteps in the first trial by prosecutor Doug Evans. He will attempt to retry Flowers for the murder of Bertha Tardy. But by this time, the two jailhouse informants whom Evans utilized in the first Flowers trial have recanted their testimony. Prosecutors no longer have evidence that Flowers confessed. In a few months, Hallmon will change all that.
While out on bond for the crack cocaine charge, Hallmon is caught in Montgomery County with 9 mm firearm, which, as a convicted felon, he's not legally allowed to have. He is again arrested and again released on bond — $20,000, posted by his mother.
A Montgomery County grand jury indicts Hallmon for the offense of felon in possession of a firearm. This case won't reach a final disposition for over a year.
Montgomery County sheriff's deputies arrest Hallmon on a warrant for an armed robbery committed five days earlier. During the arrest, they find "two small bags of a green substance" in his red Oldsmobile van. He's charged with armed robbery and possession of marijuana. He is released four days later on bond.
Just over a week after his last release from jail, Hallmon is arrested again, this time on a warrant for stalking. Police Sergeant Tommy Bibbs pulls him over on Highway 407 in Winona in a car with three passengers, according to The Winona Times. Bibbs searches the car and finds 132 rocks of crack cocaine (about 23 grams) with an estimated street value of $2,600. Hallmon is booked into jail on drug dealing and stalking charges. Bond is set at $500,000 and Hallmon appears at a preliminary hearing five days later.
After four arrests and with a mounting list of felony charges pending against him, Hallmon is finally stuck in jail. A timesheet from the Carroll-Montgomery County Regional Correctional Facility in Vaiden indicates that Hallmon is officially being held on pre-trial detention, connected to the February firearm charge for which he's been indicted.
This is a day that likely changes the lives of both Curtis Flowers and Odell Hallmon. Inside the Vaiden jail, Hallmon sits down with Doug Evans' investigator, John Johnson. They record two videos together. In the first, recorded at 11:30 a.m., Hallmon claims that he lied during the second Flowers trial and that he did so at Flowers' behest. He says Flowers promised him cigarettes and money if he'd say that his sister Patricia's testimony was false.
In the second video, recorded three hours later and with Hallmon's lawyer present, Hallmon spins a more elaborate tale. He claims that Flowers asked him to kill a witness and insinuated that Flowers had committed the Tardy Furniture murders. From this day on, Hallmon serves as a key witness in the prosecution of Curtis Flowers.
During this period, Hallmon also writes a letter to Evans. The letter is undated, but in it, Hallmon goes much further than in his video statements. He claims that Flowers confessed to him outright and even provided details about the crime.
A week after joining the prosecution as an informant in the case against Flowers, Hallmon's own robbery case is dismissed on a motion by the county attorney. According to court records, the reason is a "failure to prosecute."
More than a year after being indicted for possessing a firearm as a felon, Hallmon agrees to plead guilty to this one charge. He is sentenced to serve one year behind bars and two years of probation.
Two weeks after pleading guilty to the firearm charge, he is released from jail on time served. He must remain on probation for two more years. He faces no other punishment for his many arrests in 2000 and 2001.
While Hallmon is still on probation, he is caught in a sting operation run by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office. Deputies send an informant to make a buy at a suspected drug house and then arrest five men, including Hallmon, on drug, robbery and assault charges, according to The Winona Times. Two weeks later, the charges will be dropped for, according to records, lack of evidence. For the fourth time in less than three years, Hallmon has escaped a drug-related charge.
Flowers' appeal of his second conviction — for the murder of Derrick "Bobo" Stewart — is successful. The Mississippi Supreme Court overturns the Circuit Court's judgment and grants Flowers a new trial.
At about 11 a.m. several people are standing outside a house in Montgomery County when Hallmon allegedly pulls up in a car and begins shooting at them, according to The Winona Times. No one is hit, but one of the bullets goes through the wall of the house and strikes a television. Hallmon goes into hiding and his post-release supervision is revoked. He is arrested several months later and returned to Parchman for violating his probation.
Hallmon testifies for the prosecution that Flowers confessed to the Tardy murders. It's the first of four Flowers trials that will feature testimony from Hallmon.
A grand jury in Montgomery County indicts Hallmon for the drive-by shooting. Even though Hallmon has two prior felony convictions, he's not indicted under Mississippi's version of the three strikes law. The case goes nowhere.
Eight months after he testifies against Curtis Flowers, Hallmon sees his charge for the drive-by shooting into a dwelling dismissed. Court records say the case is dismissed on a motion by the prosecution because witnesses couldn't be found.
With his shooting charges dropped, Hallmon's probation is reinstated and he is released from prison. This is the fifth felony case against Hallmon that's been dismissed or dropped in the little over three years since he became a state's witness in the Flowers case.
Hallmon is arrested again for drug possession, this time about 10 grams of cocaine. He's released on a $10,000 bond, but not before receiving three citations in the county jail.
While he's out on bond from his last drug charge, Hallmon is caught with roughly 50 grams of cocaine and another gun — a stolen .380-caliber pistol. A warrant is issued for Hallmon's arrest for possession of a stolen firearm, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell.
Hallmon is indicted for possession of the 10 grams of cocaine. Since he already has two prior felony convictions, he's also charged as a habitual offender, a provision of Mississippi law stipulating that he should be sentenced to the maximum possible penalty. Hallmon is now facing years behind bars.
Hallmon is indicted again, for possession of the 50 grams of cocaine and being a felon in possession of a firearm. And once again, he's charged as a habitual offender. The indictment says that Hallmon, "upon conviction, shall be sentenced to the maximum term of imprisonment ... which is 30 years."
With five charges in two separate indictments hanging over him, prosecutors cut Hallmon a seemingly generous deal. The smaller drug case — the 10 grams of cocaine — is dismissed. Hallmon pleads guilty to the larger drug charge — the possession of 50 grams of cocaine — but gets the gun charge and the habitual offender enhancement dropped. Where he'd been facing a combined total of 46 years in prison, prosecutors recommend a sentence of 14 years with 5 additional years of probation. Judge Clarence E. Morgan III, who tried Curtis Flowers' first four trials, agrees. Hallmon evades a third-strike conviction for what appears to be the 10th felony case against him.
Hallmon begins his 14-year sentence. He'll serve just over eight years. During this time, he receives at least 82 citations for breaking prison rules, a rough average of one violation every month.
Note: This file contains lewd language.
The Mississippi Supreme Court throws out the conviction in Curtis Flowers' third trial, citing the prosecution's improper use of race in jury selection.
Hallmon — driven in from Parchman prison — again testifies that Flowers confessed to him. This time, though, the jury deadlocks and the case ends in a mistrial.
Hallmon receives a prison citation for "killing OR assaulting anyone." This is the eighth violation Hallmon has received in the nine months since he testified in the fourth Flowers trial. Other infractions include another assault, possession of contraband and fighting.
A prison assessment notes that Hallmon has spent time in administration segregation, commonly known as solitary confinement, and is a "disruptive core member" of the Vice Lords.
He once again tells a jury that Flowers confessed to him. He says he's received nothing in exchange for his testimony, that he wants to clear his conscience after being diagnosed HIV positive. Flowers is convicted and sentenced to death.
Having served eight-and-a-half years of his 14-year sentence, Hallmon is discharged from Parchman. On Facebook, he celebrates his release.
Meanwhile, Curtis Flowers remains on death row.
Out of prison less than six months and still on probation, Hallmon commits perhaps his most serious crime so far in a life of law-breaking. Brad Carver, the same deputy who tackled Hallmon in a bust years earlier, gets a tip that Hallmon is carrying drugs to a location in Carroll County and is driving a black Chevy Impala. Sheriff's deputies find Hallmon and corner him on a county road. Carver gets out of his car and approaches Hallmon's Chevy with his gun drawn. He shouts, "Cookie get out of the car!" Hallmon accelerates toward Carver, who dives out of the way and begins shooting out the Impala's tires. But Hallmon keeps driving on his rims. He barrels toward Carver's car, rams through it and speeds away. An arrest warrant is issued. Deputies later find Hallmon's burned-out Chevy on a county road.
Hallmon had fled the Winona area. The U.S. Marshal Fugitive Task Force is called in. Using Hallmon's cell phone to track him, U.S. Marshals locate Hallmon at a Red Roof Inn in Jackson and arrest him. Facing new charges, he's immediately returned to prison.
The Mississippi Supreme Court rejects Flowers' appeal. His lawyers will take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nearly a year to the day after he tried to run over Deputy Carver, Hallmon is finally indicted for aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. The indictment includes a habitual offender enhancement. He could have been charged with attempted murder of a police officer. "No doubt," Carver would later say, "he was trying to run me over." It's not clear why Hallmon receives a lesser charge. Hallmon pleads not guilty. If convicted, he'll receive a life sentence.
This seems like an unusual development. Few crimes elicit the ire of prosecutors quite like assaulting a law enforcement officer. But despite a long criminal record and three felony convictions — and trying to run over a sheriff's deputy — Hallmon is released from jail on a bond of $25,000. It's not clear why the bond was set at this level.
It's also not clear why, 16 months after the incident, the case hasn't been resolved. Prosecutors aren't lacking for evidence. They have statements from two sheriff's deputies that Hallmon tried to hit Carver with his car. And yet the case drags on.
As Michael Gross, a former Winona police officer and jailer, told our reporters, "They created a monster, the state of Mississippi did. That's what I said, with Odell Hallmon. They created a monster."
Hallmon's trial for aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer is postponed a second time. It is scheduled for May 2, 2016, more than two years after the original incident.
Hallmon is living with girlfriend Marquita Hill with whom he has a 12-year-old son. According to Hill's brother Craig, Odell and Marquita frequently fight during this period, and Odell becomes violent. On this date, their altercation spills over onto Facebook.
Still roaming the streets despite the charges against him, Hallmon is arrested for armed robbery and simple assault, according to The Winona Times. He manages to gain release on a $100,000 bond.
Hallmon's girlfriend, Marquita Hill, kicks Hallmon out of the house, according to later news accounts. In the weeks ahead, she will move in with her mother for added safety, Craig Hill says.
In the early morning hours, Hallmon goes on a shooting spree. It's the worst crime to hit Montgomery County since the Tardy Furniture murders nearly 20 years earlier.
Hallmon drives to a house in Winona, aims his gun through a window and murders his acquaintance Kenneth C. Loggins (pictured, below).
At a home in Kilmichael, about 15 minutes away, Hallmon shoots Marcus Brown five times. Brown's girlfriend calls police, and he's taken to the hospital. Brown will survive his injuries.
Hallmon bursts into a house on Pecan Street in Kilmichael. He shoots and kills his ex-girlfriend Marquita Hill (pictured, below right). It happens in front of their 12-year-old son. According to Craig Hill, the boy runs into his grandmother's room and hides in the closet. Hallmon enters and kills the grandmother, Carolyn Ann Sanders (pictured, below left). He then fires into the closet. The bullet grazes his son's arm. When Hallmon opens the closet door, the boy plays dead, and Hallmon leaves.
At about 4 a.m., having decided to turn himself in, Hallmon drives to the Montgomery County Courthouse, where sheriff's deputies arrest him. He asks one of the deputies if "they were all dead" Told that Brown wasn't dead, Hallmon said, "He should be."
In a meeting with victims' families, Doug Evans explains that the case will be resolved that day, that Hallmon will plead guilty and that he regrets what he's done. (The meeting is recorded on a cell phone by a member of the Hill family.) Some of the victims' families will later say they're disappointed that Evans didn't seek the death penalty. They also say they weren't allowed to make victims' impact statements in court before Hallmon was sent away.
Hallmon appears in court and pleads guilty in connection with his killing spree. He's sentenced to three life terms for the murders, plus 20 years for shooting Brown and 10 years for a gun charge.
Wasting no time, Odell Hallmon gets arraigned; no bond on 3 counts of murder, 1 count ag assault, felon w/firearm pic.twitter.com/xgxSPDjIYT— Mike Evans (@crabblers) April 27, 2016
Hallmon is sent to Parchman, where he remains incarcerated. He has no possibility of parole. Renee Hill, whose sister and mother were murdered by Hallmon said, "He shouldn't have even been out. Maybe if actions would have been took then, it all would've been a different outcome. I mean, it has you thinking — why?"
Meanwhile, Curtis Flowers remains on death row. He's been incarcerated without interruption for nearly 22 years.
With Hallmon serving three life sentences, the case resulting from his attempt to run over Brad Carver in 2014 is dismissed. It's the seventh — and final — felony case against Hallmon to fall away since 2000.
Johnny Vince Evans