LA PORTE — Seventeen years after Rayna Rison’s body was found in a small lake, the prosecutor who handled her murder case, Scott Duerring, said the case still “constantly haunts” him.
“I feel that such a severe injustice has been done for her,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I am amazed that so much time has gone by since her case was dismissed and no one seems to care.”
A newly published book by Christopher Hawley Martin titled “Urges … A Chronicle of Serial Killer Larry Hall,” presents the case that janitor and Civil War re-enactor Larry Hall, of Wabash, may be responsible for the 1993 killing of Rison. The book was released April 9.
Hall was not charged with the murder, although for a time he was a suspect in the case.
Rison was kidnapped March 26, 1993, after leaving a La Porte animal hospital where she worked. She was found in a rural pond. She died from asphyxiation, probably by drowning, and she might have been involved in a struggle before her death, according to former La Porte County Coroner Barbara Huston. She was 16 when she was reported missing.
Rison’s brother-in-law, Raymond McCarty, was charged and indicted with her murder in May 1998 while Cynthia Hedge served as county prosecutor. McCarty spent 15 months in jail awaiting trial for the murder. McCarty pleaded not guilty.
La Porte County Prosecutor Robert Beckman, who was elected to the prosecutor’s office in November 1998, dropped charges against McCarty in August 1999, citing insufficient evidence to convict McCarty.
“I have handled a lot of murder cases, death penalty cases, double, triple and even a quadruple homicide,” wrote Duerring, Hedge’s former chief deputy. “No case I have ever worked on was as extensively investigated as Rayna’s case was. I worked on that case for over three years before presenting it to a grand jury that lasted four weeks. I presented everything we had to the grand jury, including the information about Larry Hall. We employed some of the top forensic experts from the FBI Laboratory in our investigation. The physical evidence we had linking Ray McCarty to the murder was substantial. And then the case was dropped by a prosecutor who never took the time to contact the investigators and experts who knew the case firsthand to get their side.”
Martin noted that police found a dispenser of birth control pills with “R. Rison” written on the package during searches of Hall’s possessions. Duerring said the dispenser did not convince him that Hall was responsible for the killing.
“I recall the birth control pills that were marked “Rayna Rison” were not only suspicious in that the name appeared to be crudely typed on the package but that despite checking with all of the drug stores in the area none had a prescription for Rayna,” Duerring wrote.
“In addition, I recall that his ‘schedule’ of re-enactments had him in a totally different place at the time Rayna disappeared,” Duerring wrote.
Duerring said there was no evidence Hall had ever worked in concert with McCarty, or that they even knew each other.
Indiana State Police District 13 Commander of Investigations 1st Sgt. Al Williamson, one of the original investigators of the Rison case, said his department considered Hall a person of interest in the cases but the department is no longer looking into the possibility of Hall being the killer.
“That was looked into by the original investigators, and there was no tie,” Williamson said. “We investigated him as a person of interest. At this time he is not a person of interest.”
“It (the book) will not change the scope of our investigation in any way,” he added.
“Urges” chronicles Hall’s life from his birth in 1962 to his present-day incarceration at a federal prison in North Carolina. Hall is serving life without parole for the 1993 kidnapping of Jessica Roach of Georgetown, Illinois.
“I wanted to write about Larry Hall in layman’s terms,” Martin said. “I blend law enforcement, psychosocial and biological viewpoints with Hall’s infancy and childhood experiences, but avoid most of the technical jargon associated with the law and sciences. What emerges is a chilling story of what drove Hall to kill, and how other serial offenders are being created right now.”
Christopher Hawley Martin and Larry Hall spent their childhoods in the same neighborhood and attended the same elementary school. Martin is a Wabash County native.
Beckman did not return calls seeking comment. In an interview with the newspaper in August of 1999, Beckman questioned Hedge’s and Duerring’s intentions to ever try the case. He said Hedge’s staff could have tried the case in the six months between when they got the indictment returned in May 1998 and the November election when he won the prosecutor’s office.