RIVERSIDE (CBS) — A former cop convicted in the drowning death of his wife, continued to proclaim his innocence Friday as he was sentenced to 25 years to life.
Blair Christopher Hall, 52, insists the June 7, 2007, death of his wife, Cristi Lynne, was a “tragic accident.”
“Cristi was my lover, my wife and my best friend, and I miss her terribly,” Hall told Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gary Tranbarger, reading from a prepared statement. “I never hurt Cristi. As much as I wish and know I shouldn’t be sentenced here today, the worst day of my life has already happened. That was June 7, 2007.”
The defendant’s three adult daughters never wavered in their support for their father. The oldest, Courtney Hall, read a letter to the court on behalf of her sisters.
“We know this man, our dad, better than anyone,” she said. “His wife and children were his whole world … We have been astute jurors ourselves, and we wholeheartedly disagree with the verdict. We lost our mother. Now we’re losing our father.”
Hall’s first-degree murder conviction on May 31 came a year after his first trial ended in a mistrial when jurors deadlocked 8-4 in favor of guilt.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, the defendant attacked his 47-year-old wife in their Jacuzzi, submerging her until she was dead. She had an $800,000 life insurance policy.
“This jury was able to see the truth,” Deputy District Attorney Burke Strunsky said during the sentencing hearing. “They saw through his lies and looked at the evidence, which was tested and argued.”
The prosecutor read a brief statement from Cristi Lynne’s brother, Billy Carlton, who described the pain he and his brother feel over the loss of their sister as “unforgivable.”
“But it could never equal the suffering my sister must have gone through at the hands of Chris Hall,” Carlton said. “She died a horrible death. Chris Hall deserves no leniency.”
Tranbarger imposed the sentence required by state law.
According to trial testimony, the victim and her husband were using the hot tub behind their Calimesa home to wash because the master bathroom was being renovated.
Strunsky told jurors that Hall grabbed his wife, slammed her head twice into the cement edge of the hot tub, “causing two deep lacerations,” then pinned her elbows and hands behind her back and plunged her underwater.
He said she managed to let out a scream, which was heard by her neighbor, Lindsay Kay Patterson.
Patterson testified that she peered through a hole in the 6-foot block wall separating the two properties.
She said that Hall had one hand on his wife’s back and another on her head, with the victim appearing to be face-down in the water in her bathing suit. Patterson turned away, initially believing the couple were engaged in a sex act, but a moment later looked again to make certain no one was in distress.
The witness said that the second time she looked through the hole, she saw the defendant leaning back in the water, seemingly relaxed. His wife was not in sight.
Hall dragged his wife’s dead body out of the Jacuzzi a few minutes later.
The defendant testified that he had gone into the house to use the bathroom and returned to the spa to find his wife unconscious in the water. He said he tried to perform CPR, but she was unresponsive.
Cristi Lynne was rushed to a Banning hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.
Dr. Mark Scott McCormick, a county forensic pathologist, testified that the “constellation of injuries” gave every indication of foul play, pointing to the hemorrhaging in the victim’s eyes and mouth as well as the lacerations, abrasions and contusions on her head, face and arms.
The defendant was a San Bernardino police officer for 12 years before taking medical retirement. He was later hired to work as a police chief in two Idaho towns but was terminated and later convicted of embezzling $19,000 from a drug task force fund, a felony for which he served no time.
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