DANVILLE — A prison inmate testified Thursday that he saw a pontoon boat piloted by Dr. Steven Hall strike a woman as she screamed and swam in Herrington Lake last year.
Hall, 48, a Harrodsburg physician, is accused of murder in the death of his wife Isabel Hall, 49. Steven Hall has maintained it was an accident.
Wayne McMullen, now an inmate at Marion Adjustment Center near Lebanon, was fishing from the shore of the Northpoint Training Center property in Boyle County when he saw a 24-foot pontoon hit Isabel Hall on May 29, 2009.
McMullen said the question he asks himself over and over is "Why didn't he (Dr. Hall) jump in to help her? Why didn't he throw in something to her?"
"Actually, it looked to me like he took the boat and rammed her," McMullen said.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Steve Romines posed this question: If Hall could not see what was directly in front of the boat from where he was piloting the craft, might that affect what McMullen thought?
Yes, McMullen said. Romines has argued that a blind spot prevents the driver from seeing what is directly in front of the boat.
As a trusty, McMullen was allowed special privileges such as fishing from the Herrington Lake shoreline of the Northpoint property. He and another inmate were fishing near "the point," a part of the property that juts into a bend of the manmade lake, which twists and turns through Boyle, Mercer and Garrard counties.
When he heard screaming, McMullen said, he thought at first that the woman was drowning. He said that the pontoon's motor was running, but that the boat wasn't moving.
McMullen said the woman screamed "Help! Help! Someone please help me!" as she swam.
"She wasn't very far away from the boat," McMullen said. He said it would have been possible for Steven Hall to stick his arm out to help her.
McMullen said he considered jumping into the lake to help the woman, even though he had been warned by prison officials not to go into the water.
"When Mrs. Hall got directly in front of the pontoon, that's when this pontoon went forward and hit her," McMullen said. "It went just fast enough to hit her but not run over her."
Soon a group of people on another pontoon boat came up to the Halls' boat and spoke to Steven Hall, McMullen said. Later, the second pontoon backed off, and people on that craft told Steven Hall that they would call police.
On cross-examination by Romines, McMullen said the Halls' pontoon boat moved forward perhaps 10 feet. When it began moving, "he didn't open it up full throttle," McMullen said of Steven Hall.
McMullen said he can't understand "why Mrs. Hall was screaming for somebody else to help her."
Commonwealth's Attorney Richie Bottoms said later that McMullen had nothing to gain by testifying and that no promises were made to reduce McMullen's sentence.
Earlier Thursday, the jury listened to three recorded Kentucky State Police interviews with Steven Hall.
In the interviews, detectives questioned the doctor about the events leading to the death of his wife.
He repeatedly said in the interviews that it was an accident, but the detectives told him witnesses from the shore and another boat said he intentionally ran over her.
"That's ridiculous!" Hall exclaimed. "It was an accident."
"It's not an accident," Detective Bill Collins said. "There is no indication whatsoever that this is an accident."
Collins and Detective Chris Short told Hall that witnesses heard Isabel Hall scream: 'Help! Help! He's trying to kill me!"
"Did you intentionally kill her, or did things get out of hand?" Collins asked Steven Hall.
In the third interview, Hall admitted that he and his wife struggled on the boat and that he pushed her into the water.
Hall said he accelerated the boat to go over and calm her but accidentally struck her.
The trial will resume at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Boyle Circuit Court. The prosecution has six more witnesses to call, and whether they will finish that testimony Friday is unclear.
Testimony is scheduled to continue next week.