Published: Sunday, October 19, 1997
Page: 1A

    BILL REINKE/DAYTON DAILY NEWS

`I will fight to the death to keep Eugene Gall behind bars . . . But I'm not interested in his execution. All life is holy, all life is sacred.'

The Miami Valley's brush with a serial killer still brings painful feelings 20 years after the death of Beth Ann Mote

Haunting Reminder

By: By Tom Beyerlein and Lou Grieco
DAYTON DAILY NEWS

Eugene W. Gall Jr. has been on death row longer than any of Kentucky's 30 doomed men. Chances are he'll be next to die.

He awaits his fate in the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville, where prison officials say he's quiet and well-behaved.


Gall in 1979
Before he went to prison in 1978, Gall liked to rape and sometimes murder little girls. He's on death row for raping and killing a 12-year-old Cincinnati girl.

Twenty years ago Monday, Gall abducted 14-year-old Beth Ann Mote at knifepoint as she walked to school along a quiet street in Oakwood. He drove her to a woods in Miami Twp. where he raped her, then stabbed her to death.

Months later, he said Beth Ann kept reciting the 23rd Psalm - "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" - as they drove. Moments before she died, he said, she asked him to tell her mother that she would be waiting for her in heaven.

"It is," her mother said, "as if it happened yesterday."

The Rev. Doris Mote lives and works as an Episcopal priest about 180 miles from Gall's cell, in New Albany, Ind. Now 58, she isn't looking forward to Gall's execution. "I will fight to the death to keep Eugene Gall behind bars," she said this month. "But I'm not interested in his execution. All life is holy, all life is sacred."

Gall, 51, has no execution date, though he is further along in the appeals process than any other death row inmate. On July 1, Kentucky executed its first inmate since 1962. If Gall is next, he will be the 152nd person to die in Kentucky's electric chair.

Beth Ann Mote. Eugene Gall. For longtime Dayton area residents, the names still resonate.

"It horrified the entire metropolitan area," said then-Oakwood police Sgt. Orville Limbert. "The memory is fuzzy but the anguish is still there."


            BILL REINKE/DAYTON DAILY NEWS

`There is no closure. You live with the residue of murder as long as you live,' said the Rev. Doris Mote, shown in the rectory of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in New Albany, Ind.

Before "serial killer" and "sexual predator" became part of the lexicon, Beth Ann's murder and the later unmasking of Gall shocked the community as have few crimes before or since.

"This was when serial killing was still a relatively new phenomenon for police departments to deal with," said then-Oakwood police Chief Mike Kelly, now the city manager. "This was the Miami Valley's first brush with a true serial killer."

At 405 Hadley Ave., where the Mote family lived in a modest two-story bungalow, the abduction was a shock. One of Dayton's oldest suburbs, Oakwood is, or tries to be, a serene enclave of prosperity and, above all else, orderliness.

"Oakwood will give you a citation for looking the wrong way on a street. They'll give you a ticket if paint is peeling from your garage," says Milton Chamblin, 60, a former neighbor of the Motes. "It was shocking, to say the least, that something like this could happen in Oakwood."

Lois Hoerner, 82, another former Mote neighbor, remembers Beth Ann as "such a frail little girl. We were all horrified when this happened."

Gall, a smallish person himself, eventually pleaded guilty to Beth Ann's murder. By that time he was on Kentucky's death row for the remarkably similar slaying of Lisa Jansen.

Six months before he killed Beth Ann, Gall was paroled after serving five years in prison for a series of rapes in Middletown. After Beth Ann's murder, Gall raped at least three other girls in Dayton and Beavercreek Twp.

Gall declined to be interviewed, but in an Oct. 2 letter to the Daily News , he said he is still getting court orders to supply blood, hair and saliva samples to police agencies seeking to connect him to unsolved, 20-year-old murders of young girls.

Call brings doom

Beth Ann Mote was a ninth-grader at Oakwood Junior High School on Oct. 20, 1977. Less than two weeks earlier, she had celebrated her 14th birthday. She was tiny - 4 feet 10 inches and 75 pounds - with waist-length brown hair and braces on her teeth. She played clarinet and piano, enjoyed doing artwork, loved cats. She had just won a role in her first school play.

Her parents, Leland and Doris, had divorced the year before. Her mother nine months earlier had become southern Ohio's first female Episcopal priest. Beth Ann lived with her mother and two younger brothers at 405 Hadley.

She left home at about 7:15 that morning, a Thursday. Her mother wasn't expecting her home after school because she was to play in the school band at a freshman football game that evening.

Rev. Mote had a meeting to attend that night. In the middle of the meeting, her son David phoned.

"Mom," he said. "Beth Ann's not home."

She rushed home and started phoning her daughter's school friends. "Two or three phone calls and it became clear she never got to school," she recalled.

Rev. Mote called the Oakwood police.

From the beginning, police knew this one was bad.

"She just didn't fit the profile of a runaway," said Lance West, then an Oakwood detective.

Within hours, they learned that Beth Ann's purse, school books and two sweaters had been found in two alleys in northwest Dayton. One sweater was bloodstained.

"I think we were all clear (she was dead) by the end of the night," Rev. Mote said. "One of the advantages or disadvantages of being (a) priest is you have no illusions. You deal with good and evil all the time."

Investigators followed up more than 300 calls during the first few days. Sightings of Beth Ann were reported from Greenville to Bellbrook.

That Sunday, Rev. Mote received her first extortion call.

The caller, a man, demanded $6,000 ransom in exchange for Beth Ann's safe return. Rev. Mote and the police didn't believe he was the kidnapper. It didn't make sense that he'd wait three days to call. And if Beth Ann was alive, why were her clothes discarded?

Still, it was the only solid lead police had, and "there was nothing to do but follow it," Rev. Mote said.

Police tapped her phone. The extortionist kept calling. In the days that followed, Rev. Mote and police arranged a drop of ransom money. The extortionist didn't pick it up.

More than a week after Beth Ann's disappearance, in the early morning of Oct. 28, the extortionist, a 33-year-old Frigidaire employee named Henry Trussell, was arrested as he picked up the money.

He didn't know that the previous afternoon a groundhog hunter found Beth Ann's body in a wooded area off Medlar Road in Miami Twp.

In an unusual move, Kelly, the Oakwood police chief, persuaded local media to withhold news of the body's discovery until midnight so police could trap the extortionist.

But the killer was still out there.

Officials committed

Rev. Mote said Kelly told her "the scariest thing I've ever heard. He said, `Doris, we'll get him. We'll get him because he'll do it again.' That was godawful. And, of course, he was right."

Police spent months investigating more than 30 suspects. One was a convicted pedophile who lived across the hall from Leland Mote in Kettering.

Speculation about the killer was rampant. Psychics called in tips from across the country. Two psychiatrists prepared a profile for the Montgomery County coroner that, to the Motes' horror, said Beth Ann knew her killer.

Doris Mote found loving support from unexpected corners, while some old friends vanished. Some ugly phone calls blamed her for Beth Ann's death - one caller said, "We told you God didn't want women priests."

She said one neighbor called City Hall and said, "I suppose they have to investigate, but could they please move the police cars because it's giving the neighborhood a bad name."

In an interview with the Daily News, Rev. Mote disclosed for the first time that she believes Gall telephoned her at least twice in the six months between the murder and his arrest. She said she heard Gall's voice at his trial and recognized it as the caller's. She would not say what the caller said to her.

By the spring of 1978, girls in the area again were being abducted and raped, although the crimes were not immediately linked to the Mote case.

On March 7, a 13-year-old Dayton girl was abducted on her way to Huffman School and raped.

On April 3, two 13-year-old Beavercreek Twp. girls were kidnapped at gunpoint at a school bus stop, taken to a nearby home and raped.

Then, on April 5, 12-year-old Lisa Jansen was abducted about 7:45 a.m. while on her way to school in suburban Cincinnati. An hour and a half later, a woman found her windbreaker and a school book on a northern Kentucky roadside.

An hour after that, Eugene Gall, then 31, robbed a grocery store and led state police on a high-speed chase. He surrendered only after a shootout in which two troopers and a bystander were wounded.

The next morning, state police found Lisa's body in a wooded area near a creek. She had been raped and shot in the back of the head, execution-style. The bullets matched Gall's gun.

Oakwood police quickly focused on Gall as a suspect in the Mote murder.

Detective West went to Kentucky to interview Gall. In Gall's wallet, West said, he found a piece of paper with the name of the Dayton rape victim, her birthday and her parents' names.

When West told Gall he was investigating the murder of Beth Ann Mote, "the guy was just staring at me, and I just knew (he killed her)," West said. "I knew."

The first hard evidence came April 10, 1978, when a Beavercreek police sergeant found Beth Ann's hair clasp in a 1976 MG that Gall had sold to an auto dealer on Nov. 7, 1977.

Police also learned that Gall, who had a job transporting a Hillsboro woman to Dayton for kidney dialysis, was in Dayton the day Beth Ann was killed.

Proving guilt

Oakwood police believed Gall did it, but they didn't have enough evidence to indict him. As the months passed, he was convicted of killing Lisa Jansen and sentenced to death.

The detectives spent months searching Gall's records, talking to people who knew him and, a few times, interviewing him.

Harry Brown, then an Oakwood detective, called Gall "a pretty timid-looking guy, (a) Mr. Whipple kind of guy."


              DAYTON DAILY NEWS

Eugene W. Gall Jr. acted as his own attorney, assisted by two court-appointed lawyers, during his trial in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in May 1979. Ten days into the trial, Gall pleaded guilty to the murder, rape and abduction of Beth Ann Mote.

Instead of a bully, investigators found a manipulator.

"He was an actor," West said. "This is a guy whose mind is constantly going. He said at one point I was like the brother he never had, which is garbage." On Jan. 9, 1979, while West was driving him from Kentucky to Ohio for more questioning, Gall finally admitted he killed Beth Ann Mote. Secretly taped, Gall told West his crimes were "all impulse. I see a girl walking down the street - bam. That's it."

In the following days, he gave a more detailed account of the murder, took a polygraph test and signed a confession.

Gall told police:

Beth Ann was walking west on Greenmount Boulevard at Shafor Boulevard when Gall pulled up and asked for directions. As she pointed out the way, Gall put a knife to her throat and forced her into his car. To calm her, Gall had Beth Ann write a ransom note on her pink, heart-shaped notebook paper. That note was never found.

Gall drove her around for awhile, then parked near Medlar Road and sexually assaulted her. He then tied her to a tree. She was crying and he untied her, then told her to remove her blouse.

As she pulled up her blouse, Gall stabbed her in the chest, polygraph operator Detective J.D. Caudill testified at Gall's trial. "She was crying and praying," Caudill said Gall told him. "He felt he had missed her heart and stabbed her several more times."

All told, Gall held Beth Ann captive for about five hours. "I cannot even comprehend the pain and terror of those hours," her mother said.

On Jan. 11, 1978, he accompanied detectives to the place where Beth Ann was killed. With a foot of snow on the ground, Gall still led them to the spot where her body had been found.

He fell to the ground, pounded his fists in the snow, and cried, "Why did I do it? Why did I do it?" the detectives later testified.

The crime hit close to home for Kelly, whose daughter had been a seventh-grader at the same junior high. The Kellys lived on Greenmount, two blocks from where Gall took Beth Ann. Kelly's daughter walked past the same spot 10 minutes after the abduction.

On Jan. 16, Gall summoned Rev. Mote's bishop, John Krumm, to his jail cell and asked Krumm to tell Rev. Mote that Beth Ann had repeated the 23rd Psalm and said she'd wait for her mother in heaven.

"He made every attempt to give me the details of the crime and make it confidential (in court) by talking to my bishop," Rev. Mote says now. The judge at Gall's trial, however, allowed Krumm to testify.

Gall acted as his own attorney, assisted by two court-appointed lawyers, during his trial in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court in May 1979. He contended police coerced the statements out of him.

But 10 days into the trial, Gall pleaded guilty to murder, rape and abduction after authorities proved the time card for his dialysis job was doctored to give him an alibi. Visiting Judge William Young sentenced him to life. He also was sentenced in the rape of the Dayton girl, to which he had pleaded guilty that January. He was later convicted in the Beavercreek Twp. rapes.

After Gall's surprise plea, Rev. Mote called a special worship service at Christ Episcopal Church, where she was assistant priest.

The aftermath

The crime has left its mark on everyone associated with it.

Rev. Mote moved to Baltimore with her two sons in 1980, days after Trussell was convicted of making the extortion calls. She has been in New Albany, near Louisville, for five years.

"There is no closure," she said. "You live with the residue of murder as long as you live."

After Beth Ann's death, she pledged not to be overprotective of her two sons. But "I think they'd tell you I failed miserably and I was awfully overprotective and never allowed them to grow up," she said with a laugh.

She declined to talk about them, other than to say, "Clearly, these events have shaped and affected their lives, but they're fine and well into their adult lives."


Beth Ann's father, Leland Mote, (shown in 1977) killed himself in 1990.
In May 1990, Beth Ann's father, Leland, killed himself in his Moraine home by ingesting anti-freeze, according to the Montgomery County coroner's office. It's unclear whether the murder contributed to his suicide.

The detectives, who have since left Oakwood's department, say the murder haunts them each October. They intend to be present for Gall's execution.

They said they liked and respected Rev. Mote, but disagreed with her anti-death penalty stance.

"He should be executed in the same fashion as he did that little girl," West said.

Two years after her daughter's murder, Rev. Mote helped draft the Episcopal Church's anti-death penalty position. She said she opposed capital punishment before the crime, and "my whole experience with Beth Ann's death only deepens that.

"It is, in my estimation, a fantasy that any person who loved Beth Ann is going to feel any better because another life has been taken, even that person's life," she said. "I think it is an illusion."



STAFF WRITER Benjamin Kline contributed to this story.



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