PRESTONSBURG — The trial of Berry Hall got underway Monday in Floyd County Circuit Court in Prestonsburg, as Hall’s ex-wife was called to testify as a witness for the prosecution.
“Oh my god, the kids,” were her first words when she entered her bedroom and saw Berry Hall hanging out the window with a gun in his hand.
Charlotte Collins, formerly Hall, divorced the defendant Berry Hall in 2010.
Judge Johnny Ray Harris looked on Monday morning as Collins testified that she had been making hot dogs while Berry sat on the couch in the couple’s living room. As the defendant sat on the couch, Collins became embroiled in what she describes as yet another neighbor dispute with Lisa and Alan Tackett. The arguments were frequently verbally abusive, but had never turned physical said Collins.
According to Collins, her family and the Tacketts had been friendly when the Tacketts first moved in next door, but the relationship soured after the 2005 flood, when ownership of a culvert came into question. The families argued over everything from basketball goals to pets, and the law was involved more than once.
Collins testified that she went inside and called Floyd County Sheriff John K Blackburn. She says the sheriff had told her to ignore the Tacketts, and if necessary to file a restraining order the next day. It was about that time that Collins says she watched Berry go upstairs quietly, without saying a word to anyone.
Moments later, she heard the first gunshot, and that was when she went upstairs and saw the defendant hanging out the window. Charlotte said as she rushed downstairs, she heard two more shots. She told her son Matthew, “Daddy’s got a gun.”
When it was over, Collins testified that the defendant came downstairs, put on his shoes and walked across the street to the victims’ home to retrieve their children. “I seen her four little kids standing over top of her, telling their mommy to wake up,” said a tearful Collins.
Collins says she supported the defendant while he was in jail for over a year. She says she visited him as often as allowable in that first year, and that Hall never gave her any reason for the shooting or showed any remorse for the death of the Tacketts.
Defense attorneys questioned Collins about Hall’s state of mind at the time of the shooting. Collins said Berry had been depressed about not having a job, and that his children were having to support him and Collins. While she says the defendant never turned to drugs or alcohol, she says he was prescribed nerve pills and antidepressants.
Collins called the defendant “an abusive man,” and said that over the course of their marriage, she took physical abuse from Hall every 3-to-6 months. “He was a loving man, don’t get me wrong. But there were times when he wasn’t a loving man.”
When asked by defense attorneys if she was afraid of Hall, she said, “yes.” She stated, “yes” again, when asked if she was afraid he might get out of jail. She said “no,” when asked if she was afraid that if she says Hall is mentally ill, he might get out of jail.
When asked by the prosecution why she stayed with Hall all those years despite the abuse, she said, “Commitment. We had three kids to raise.”
Collins said after the shooting, there was too much stress put on her, and that she had to see a psychiatrist. “It was awful,” she said of the aftermath of the shooting. Collins said the couple’s unpaid taxes were purchased, and that she eventually lost her home.
Collins three sons and her daughter-in-law were also called to testify in court Monday. The trial is scheduled to resume today at 9 a.m.