HOW A HIGH SCHOOL REPORTER GOT THE ONLY INTERVIEW WITH DICK HALL FOR FOUR DECADES
During the 1977-78 school year, Amy Shepherd (now Amy Jones) was a junior at Warren Central High School and a section editor for the Wigwam yearbook. The 15 students on staff were assigned articles to write for the yearbook, and Amy was responsible for a piece that would appear on the Current Events page.
One event came to mind. The Kiritsis kidnapping incident had taken place in downtown Indianapolis the previous year when Amy had been a sophomore, and though she remembered seeing the local news coverage, the story had faded from her mind. But as soon as she started researching the original event and the trial, she realized her current events assignment was one of the biggest stories of 1977.
Amy's first bold move was to call WIBC and ask to speak with Mr. Fred Heckman, the longtime and publically beloved anchorman who was personally involved in the Kiritsis incident. She had no idea if he would even speak with her.
Heckman not only took her call, but he recognized that she was doing something extremely difficult—and important: She was a high school student trying to write an article and shed light on one of the most puzzling and frightening crimes that had ever taken place in Indianapolis. Known for his conservative, no-nonsense approach to reporting the news, Heckman was happy to be interviewed by a budding journalist and welcomed her to take all the time she needed. For Amy, this was one of the most incredible moments in her life, getting to talk with a renowned news idol.
Near the end of the conversation, Heckman suggested Amy should contact a sergeant with the Indiana State Police named Frank Love.
She wasn't sure what to expect. Law enforcement officials from the Indianapolis Police Department, the Indiana State Police, and the Marion County Sheriff's Department had already been interviewed by local TV and newspapers many times. It was common knowledge that in general, law enforcement thought Kiritsis had known very well that what he'd done was illegal and that the way he had modified the shotgun suggested premeditation.
But the journalist in Amy knew that if she could get Love to talk to her, she might find a new angle for the story. If she could just ask the right questions.
After giving it some hard thought and still coming up with nothing, Amy got the courage up to call Sgt. Love and was caught off guard by how emphatically he defended Tony. Even though Love never excused any of the things Tony had done to Hall, he felt that Tony’s character had not been fairly portrayed in the media. The Tony Kiritsis the world saw during those three days in February was only one version of the man, not the whole man.
Sgt. Love knew many people who respected Tony, business owners and police throughout Speedway, elderly residents at Crestwood Village that Tony helped with groceries and other tasks. As explosive as he'd been out on Washington that morning in February '77, Tony Kiritsis was also helpful and made friends easily.
"I know the guy," Love said. "And I think I could have managed the standoff differently." He never thought Tony had really wired his apartment to explode, and he thought that the inadvertent bomb squad scare on the second day of the standoff was an unnecessary blunder. Love would have instead played against Tony's claustrophobia by shutting off the water and power to his apartment, hoping to drive him to surrender.
Love even implied that Tony may have been justified to some degree, that Meridian Mortgage had perhaps been overly aggressive with Tony and had backed him into a corner with the ultimate goal of foreclosing on his land. It was another incredibly rare thing for law enforcement to say.
His sympathy for Kiritsis only went so far though. If negotiations had failed and Tony had still refused to release Hall, Love would have shot Kiritsis without a moment's hesitation.
As quoted in Amy's yearbook article, Sgt. Love stated, "I respect both Tony and Mr. Hall. I wanted to avoid injury to either one if possible. If I had to hurt Tony to save Hall, I would have instantly though."
As stunned as she was to find a police officer who spoke so highly of Kiritsis, Amy's biggest surprise was yet to come.
Her third and final interview was a spur-of-the-moment call to Meridian Mortgage, the place where everything had started the previous year and where the hostage Dick Hall still worked.
Sitting on her bed with her bedroom door shut, Amy plotted, "I'm just going to call him and pretend I'm returning his call."
The receptionist answered, and Amy deftly said, "This is Amy Shepherd, returning Dick's phone call."
The receptionist put her through, and after a couple rings, Dick Hall picked up the phone.
Hall had held a single press conference a few days after his release and had testified during the trial, but he had not talked with anyone about the incident since. Nobody had gotten access like this. Not local newspaper reporters. Not local TV news giants like Mike Ahern and Howard Caldwell. Amy was shocked that the ploy had worked, and with barely a pause, she immediately came clean, telling Hall she was a high school student writing a yearbook article.
Dick Hall was taken aback for a moment, but perhaps because Amy wasn't from a newspaper or a TV news crew, he stayed on the line. Hall was polite when she asked if he could tell her something to prove that she had in fact reached him, and he replied that he wished he could just forget the whole thing. She tried again, asking if there was anything else he could share with her. He said, "No, not really. Thank you for your time," and hung up.
Back at school, her yearbook sponsor was ecstatic about Amy's piece and nearly as proud of her as Amy's father was. She went on to win an award for the article at a state competition.
"From an adult perspective," Amy says today, "It was pretty big stuff, but when you're 16 years old, other things take a higher priority." Yet while most of her classmates would only remember the blizzard and all the snow days they’d gotten that school year, Amy had gone after pretty big stuff on her own.
As the years went on, Dick Hall fell out of the public eye and managed to regain some anonymity. In fact, he faded so well, that no one has gotten him to talk about his experience in 1977 for 40 years. In those four decades, Amy Shepherd Jones was the only journalist to ever get the scoop on Hall.