Quiet Fredonia Homicide Haunts Family, Friends

One of the fliers in regard to Billy Hall Jr.’s death is in front of the house where he was found at 36 Water St. in Fredonia.

His final text arrived to her phone at 2:30 a.m. July 21. It was a meme with a saying, “Don’t let a man’s social media fool you. I’m here, I exist. …”

Ellyn Mancuso of Dunkirk will not delete that note or the string of communication that preceded it. They are the last of many messages from her 20-year partner who died after a brutal beating early that Saturday sometime between when the text was delivered and when his bloodied body was found on a porch at 36 Water St. in Fredonia four hours later.

Once emergency officials arrived, Billy Hall Jr. was quickly sent by helicopter to UPMC Hamot in Erie, Pa. “He was in such bad shape,” Mancuso said.

Even though he was found alive, Hall had little chance for survival. “They told us at Hamot that he was hit so hard in the head that his entire brain shifted,” she said.

On Aug. 5, Hall succumbed to the injuries. Heartbroken, 75 friends and family members showed up in force six days later at Barker Common in Fredonia on what would have been Hall’s 48th birthday. They came to pay tribute and to remember a man who was quick to strike a bond with others.

“He treated my co-workers like they were his best friend,” Mancuso says of her longtime companion. “He really had a big heart.”

Mancuso chuckled while noting she would often scold Hall for hugging and sometimes kissing those he knew while being out and about. “That is the one thing that people have come to me and said that they remember the most was how passionate he was when he would just even see someone on the street,” she said. “He just meant so well.”

Now, more than a month after the beating, she and other family members are still seeking answers and some closure. Across Dunkirk and Fredonia — posted in businesses and on telephone poles — are 250 sheets of paper with his images asking for anyone with information regarding the incident to reach out to the Fredonia Police Department. That request, however, does not come without some bitterness. Family members have called the OBSERVER offices on more than one occasion saying the department has not done enough to find the assailants and was slow to alert the public to the incident. Our newspaper, which reached out to Fredonia police during the week of July 30, received a news release from the department on Aug. 3 — 14 days after the incident occurred.

‘AN EVER-LASTING LOVE’

Hall grew up in Brocton and attended the village school system before earning his general equivalency diploma. His mother, Claudia McEntee, described him — even in his younger years — as always smiling and quick to make friends. She called him a religious man, noting the family was in church often during his days in school.

“He loved to please people,” Hall’s mother said.

Adulthood came with challenges. Upon moving to Dunkirk, Mancuso said Hall had “a rough life.” As a dad to three children with different mothers, he had trouble connecting with them.

His occupations, up until the time he died, were in construction and doing odd jobs for others. When he later began dating Mancuso, who has two children of her own, he became their stepfather. “He helped me support them for many years,” she said.

Like many couples, Mancuso and Hall cherished the time they had together, visiting with family or just heading out to the movies. While she worked the first shift, he worked the second. “He was my best friend,” she said. “We were synonymous. Billy would always say, ‘When people think of Ellyn, they think of Billy. When people think of Billy, they think of Ellyn.’ “

Relationships, however, come with disagreements and challenges. Before his death, both Mancuso and Hall were going separate ways. He moved into a residence on Second Street in Dunkirk, but remained in touch with her. “We definitely had an ever-lasting love for each other,” she said.

In fact, Mancuso was with him the night before his death as the couple was moving toward reuniting. Even McEntee noted her son had a great love for Ellyn. Hall’s mom said Mancuso was a topic of the last discussion with her son on July 17.

An evening out for the couple on July 20 was cut short because Mancuso’s son had a next-day commitment.

FINAL DAYS

Mancuso learned of the incident around noon the next day. Once Hall was flown to UPMC, there seemed to be little hope for any recovery.

Family and friends gathered at the Erie hospital on a regular basis over the next 15 days “From the time that it happened until he passed, he did not open his eyes once,” Mancuso said. “We’d like to believe that he knew we were there, but we’re not sure.”

About 10 days after the incident, the family made the sad choice of taking him off a ventilator. Hall died later that week.

Adding to their agony is a suspect who was being looked at in the case is nowhere to be found. “(Fredonia police) had him in custody and they let him go,” Mancuso said.

Across the street from where Hall was found are cameras on area establishments. Mancuso said she was told there was blood at one of those locations as well. “(Fredonia police) haven’t released anything about any footage or anything,” she said. “They’re being very hush.”

That suspect, Mancuso believes, was a friend of Hall’s for many years.

“This didn’t have to happen,” she said. “Billy’s not a fighter. He would so much rather make up with someone rather than fight.

“That’s one thing that really bothers us too is because nobody knows. It could be more than just this one guy. … But (the suspect) knows and he’s not anywhere to be found and he wouldn’t even talk when he was (in custody).”

LITTLE OUTCRY

McEntee and Hall’s sister, Kim, are just as emotional. Most of their anger is directed at the police and the investigation.

They think if this had been someone else, even a college student, there would have been a greater community outcry over Hall’s death. It is what has spurred the posters across our community.

“We want people who drop off their children at the college to know there was a murder in this town,” McEntee said.

They also think there are others who are just keeping quiet. “There are people out there who know more than they’re saying,” McEntee said.

Fredonia Police Chief Brad Meyers sympathizes with the family but defends his department’s actions. He says details regarding the incident were not made public earlier in an attempt to prevent hearsay with those being interviewed. He also says the department is hoping to reach out to the family this week to provide an update on their investigation.

As for the suspect, Meyers said the man has reached out to the department but is not making it easy for them as all returned calls have gone unanswered. Anyone with information on the case can e-mail Meyers at bmeyers@fredoniapolice.org or call 679-1531.

Haunting McEntee, a Blasdell resident, is another homicide that occurred earlier this spring in northern Chautauqua County. The body of Brian Heyden was found April 21 off Route 20 near the town park in Portland.

Hall’s mother said she knew who Heyden was since “Billy was in first grade with him.” Heyden also died at 47 and state police seem to have fewer leads than what is known in the Fredonia case.

That is of little comfort to Hall’s family. “We cannot get any closure until we find out what happened,” Mancuso said.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.

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