Jarvis Hall pleaded guilty Tuesday to the 2015 slaying of Forest Acres police officer Greg Alia and will spend life in prison without parole.
By pleading guilty, Hall, 36, gave up his right to a jury trial and to appeal his conviction and sentencing. Hall’s life sentence was negotiated as part of his plea.
Hall was charged with murder in the 2015 slaying of the 32-year-old Forest Acres officer, whose shooting death shook Columbia-area residents. Alia was the first officer in the town that adjoins the capital city to have been killed in the line of duty in more than 40 years.
Through sobs, Alia’s widow, Kassy Alia, spoke at Hall’s sentencing.
“Greg would often say that I was his greatest joy. I always thought it was such a beautiful thing to say,” she said. “And he was mine.”
She mourned that their baby son, Sal, would never know his father, but said she hopes “ that he never feels retribution and revenge” for his father’s death. “I want him to find love in his heart,” she said.
Unexpectedly, Hall himself spoke briefly and remorsefully after members of Alia’s family gave short speeches at the hearing. “I don’t think if I was in their shoes that I would be as positive as they were,” Hall said. “ I want to apologize from my own mouth, to say I’m sorry for their loss. I apologize to everyone my actions have affected, my family as well.”
Alia was killed Sept. 30, 2015, after three officers answered a report of a suspicious person in the parking lot at Richland Mall, at Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard, just before 8 a.m.
Alia and two other officers, including an officer he was training, arrived after an employee of a nearby bank reported the man’s presence, Forest Acres police chief Gene Sealy said at the time.
The officers found Hall inside a van and tried to talk with him, authorities have said. He ran into the mall through the Barnes & Noble bookstore.
Alia pursued Hall and got into a struggle with him, Sealy said. That’s when Hall pulled a .40-caliber Glock handgun and shot Alia, according to a warrant in the case.
It took two Forest Acres police officers, Cody Simpson and Curtis Singleton, to bring Hall under control.
Hall faced the prospect of a death penalty trial because he killed a police officer, which is a capital offense.
But 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson did not file notice that he would pursue the death penalty. Death penalty cases can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and last for weeks. In the event of a death penalty, appeals can take years.
The State Law Enforcement Division investigated at the request of the Forest Acres police.
Alia, who earned his Eagle Scout badge as a teen, was a graduate of the University of South Carolina. He became an officer because he felt he had a “calling” to help others through police work. He left behind a widow, Kassy, and young son, Sal.
After Alia was killed, Forest Acres Police Chief Gene Sealy said, “Our hearts are broken. Forest Acres is a small community, a small police department. We’re one big family.”
Alia had been with the Forest Acres department for seven years.
In addition to Kassy Alia, Sealy and Alia’s parents and sisters spoke at Hall’s plea and sentencing hearing Tuesday.
“Mr. Hall, I should hate you,” Alia’s sister, Christine Corbly, said. But instead, “I feel a great sadness for you. Two lives were lost on that day in September – my brother’s and yours. … I pray you will come to know the peace that passes all understanding in Jesus Christ. I forgive you, Jarvis Hall.”
REMEMBERING GREG ALIA
After her husband’s death, Kassy Alia started a charitable organization called “Heroes in Blue,” which has internet sites dedicated to stories of police officers doing good works.
A year after his death, the intersection of Forest Drive and Beltline Boulevard, just yards from where Alia was shot to death, was named the Officer Gregory Thomas Alia Intersection.
At the sign’s dedication, Alia’s father, Richard Alia, spoke. “You’ve turned my son, who was just our little boy, into a hero,” he told assembled community members. “We never thought of him that way, but you’ve made him into a hero.”