Eva Roy: August 1918
Peter Roy was a Danish immigrant who had come to Fairfax from Minnesota in 1912. In November of that year he purchased two parcels of land near the current intersection of Old Keene Mill Road and Sydenstricker Road, totaling 180 acres.14 Roy, a widower, became a prosperous farmer and an active member of the Lee Chapel Methodist Church. With him resided his eldest daughter Caroline, her husband William K. Jerman, and his younger daughter Eva.
On the morning of Aug. 4, 1918, Eva Roy, age 14, left her home near Burke, at around 9:00 a.m. to tend her father's small herd of cows. When Eva failed to return home that evening her father began a search. Neighbors were soon enlisted to help, but it was some 24 hours later that her body was found tied to a tree in the woods near the old Hanse House, her apron strings tight about her throat. The county coroner, Dr. W. I. Robey, concluded that the girl had been "Brutally assaulted" before being strangled to death.15 A Coroner's Jury was appointed, and quickly concluded: "We, the jury, find that Eva Roy came to her death at the hands of some unknown person, and the indications point to Lu Hall, as the probable perpetrator of the crime."16 Hall, a 33-year-old woodcutter, lived about 1/2 mile from the scene of the crime and was seen in the woods near the time of the girl's disappearance.
The case was not to be easily solved, however, as other suspects were soon identified and eventually eliminated.
The first, William Wooster, age 16, was soon arrested for assaulting a "colored girl." He had recently been released from an insane asylum, but was found that he was nowhere near the scene of Eva's murder.17
The next suspect to emerge was a soldier who deserted from Camp A. A. Humphries (now Fort Belvoir). The soldier, a sergeant whom the papers fail to name, was located some days later near Charlottesville, Virginia. He had scratches on his face and hands, was wearing freshly laundered clothes, and claimed to have no memory of the events between his leaving Camp Humphries and his capture. Sheriff Allison traveled to Charlottesville to interview the man, but after some weeks of investigation determined that he was not connected with the crime.18
The lagging investigation seemed to finally receive a break with the apprehension of Ben Ruben, an escaped inmate from Lorton Prison. Ruben, who had been serving a three-year sentence for housebreaking,19 was arrested by Washington, D. C. police on September 19 for assaulting a little girl. While on the way to the police station he confessed to Eva's murder. Ruben claimed "he met Eva Roy, looking after her father's cows. He asked her for food and in a conversation with her he told her he was an ex-convict. She declared she would 'turn him up' as he declared, and he became excited and choked her."20 The Washington authorities were unconvinced by Ruben's story and wanted to try him for assault and theft before turning him over to the Virginia courts. An investigator sent by the Commonwealth of Virginia to interview Ruben concluded that he was not responsible for the crime, but extradition papers were filed anyway.21 On September 26 Ruben was escorted to the scene of the crime by Sheriff Allison, Commonwealth Attorney C. Vernon Ford, Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Wilson M. Farr, Dr. Swetnam, and acting counsel for the defense F. D. Richardson.22 After being unable to locate the scene of the attack or the tree where the body was left, Ruben denied killing Eva. He claimed the presence of the girl's father spurred him to recant his confession. Ruben's motive for confessing was revealed some weeks later when on October 6 he escaped from the jail in Fairfax. He was arrested two days later while attempting to buy a pistol and admitted that he concocted his story in order to be transferred to Fairfax, where he thought escape would be easier.23 He was eventually convicted of burglary and escape from jail and was sentenced to four more years in prison.24
Lou Hall was finally tried for the murder in Fairfax County Court. The prosecution was handled by State's Attorney C. Vernon Ford, assisted by Wilson M. Farr. The defense was provided by Walter T. Oliver. His first trial resulted in a hung jury with nine votes for guilty, three for innocent.25 His second trial resulted in a clear verdict of "Not Guilty."26
Peter Roy died on January 22, 1938, and was interred in Lee Chapel Cemetery next to his youngest daughter.27 Her murderer was never found.