Investigation Discovery’s ‘Murder in the Heartland: Field of Bad Dreams’ chronicles the brutal and devastating killing of 67-year-old Betsy Ball in Gallia County, Ohio, in February 2012. The investigators took less than two weeks to solve the crime, with the perpetrator turning out to be someone close to the victim. We’ve you covered if you’re interested in the case, including the perpetrator’s details and whereabouts. Let’s begin then, shall we?
How Did Betsy Ball Die?
Betsy Lynn George Ball was born in Gallipolis in Gallia County, Ohio, on October 28, 1944. She had five children from her previous relationship — David, Brionna, Matt, Mark, and Todd. According to the show, Betsy knew David Ball from high school, and both were previously married to other people. However, when the matrimonies failed, David started courting Betsy until she finally agreed to marry him. They lived in their home adjacent to their beef cattle farm in Morgan Township, Gallia County, Ohio.
David worked as a welder at the Kyger Creek Power Plant and was quiet and introverted. Betsy’s family and friends described her as a woman with a strong and outgoing personality. She had a quiet determination, which made her sure about everything she did. On February 28, 2012, the 67-year-old dropped her son, John Todd Taylor, home around 2:30 pm and told him she was exhausted and wanted to retire for the day. Little did he know it was the last time he had seen his mother alive.
Hence, it was shocking when David filed a missing person report after failing to find his wife when he returned home from work past midnight on February 29. The authorities were informed at around 2:00 am, and officers rushed to the scene to look for her. It was a quaint little town, and the community members came forward to help in the search. They could never imagine the quest would end with the gruesome discovery of her body in a field a little far from the residence the following day. Her autopsy report stated she had been strangled to death.
Who Killed Betsy Ball?
The police learned David returned from his double shift at the Kyger Creek Power Plant to their home at around 12:05 am on March 1, 2012. He immediately noticed several unusual things inside his residence, the most notable being the disturbance in his garage, including his tools and other objects being moved. He also found a piece of cloth on his wife’s Subaru vehicle, a shoe underneath the car, and multiple scratches on the hood. David was concerned when he noticed Betsy’s glasses and cell phone on the Subaru’s passenger seat floorboard.
David frantically conducted a brief search of his home and adjacent property before filing a missing person report with the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office. Based on the complaint, the Sheriff’s Department and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation immediately launched a probe into Betsy’s disappearance. The investigators located her body in a secluded field off an unpaved road in rural Gallia County — an approximate six-minute drive — from the Ball residence around noon on March 1. The corpse was partially clothed, with the legs spread apart.
The state of her clothes and body position indicated she had been raped. There were bruise marks and scratches on her arms and face, with ligature furrows visible around her neck and wrists. The medical examiner also noted a deep extended cut on her abdomen, and her right wrist was almost severed completely. The autopsy report also stated visible tire tracks across the jaw and upper body, suggesting she had been run over by a vehicle. The perpetrator had doused the body in gasoline. The primary cause of death was determined to be strangulation.
The detectives searched the field to find critical pieces of evidence. They discovered visible tire tracks extending from the gravel roadway to where the body was found and advancing back toward the road. The marks provided the officers with a vital clue — helping them determine the concerned vehicle had two all-terrain tires on the front and two mudder tires on the rear. They also located a partial hand towel, stained by bodily fluids, near Betsy’s corpse.
The investigators kept looking for the vehicle until they learned Lee A. Hawkins, of Bidwell, owned a Ford F-150 pickup truck with all-terrain tires on the front and mudder tires on the rear. According to reports, Lee had known the Balls for about two decades and had occasionally been employed as a farmhand by them during that time. The police quickly learned he also knew about David’s shift timings and was aware Betsy would be alone at the residence on February 29.
Lee agreed to come down to the station and make a voluntary statement, initially denying any knowledge about Betsy’s disappearance and murder. However, he caved under intense interrogation and made several contradictory and incriminating statements. According to police reports, he claimed he witnessed the crime being committed but denied being a part of it. A few minutes later, he changed his statement and alleged a third individual forced him to put Betsy’s body in his truck and help them with the corpse’s disposal.
Where is Lee Hawkins Now?
The forensic experts analyzed the Ball residence and the outdoor crime scene, linking Lee to both. His fingerprints were found all over Betsy’s Subaru inside the garage. They also tested the partial hand towel to discover a mixture of his semen and Betsy’s blood. The medical team also examined a vaginal swab to find Lee’s semen, proving he had been involved, contrary to his claims. He was charged with one count each of aggravated murder, tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse, and murder on March 15, 2012.
Lee pleaded not guilty to all counts. But a jury convicted him of aggravated murder, tampering with evidence, and gross abuse of a corpse in late 2012. He was sentenced to life without parole in October 2012 and a consecutive 36 months in jail for tampering with evidence. The court also ordered him to pay the costs of prosecution. He appealed against his sentencing in 2015 but was dismissed by the Ohio Supreme Court. According to official court records, the 58-year-old is incarcerated at the Pickaway Correctional Institution.
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