Did Murdered Neo-Nazi Jeff Hall Abuse His Son?

New evidence has emerged in the case of a 10-year-old boy accused of shooting his neo-Nazi father to death, contradicting earlier accounts of a warm and child-centered home and instead suggesting that the boy had been seriously abused.

According to an account yesterday from The Associated Press, which was largely based on an L.A. Times story that cited court documents and police reports, the boy apparently had been pushed to the breaking point by his father’s abuse of him and his stepmother and was also frightened that he’d have to choose between them if his father’s behavior led to a divorce. Police took the child into custody on May 1, shortly after he allegedly shot Jeff Hall in their California home as he slept on a couch. Hall was the southwest regional leader of the National Socialist Movement (NSM), the country’s largest neo-Nazi group.

Earlier reports painted a picture of Hall as a loving parent who cared deeply about his five children despite his beliefs, a concerned father who so worried about violence from his enemies that he mounted surveillance cameras outside his home.

But the AP reported that Krista McCary, the boy’s 26-year-old stepmother and Hall’s widow, told police that Hall “hit, kicked and yelled at his son to punish him for being too loud or getting in his way.” Hall had also abused her and the 10-year-old’s younger sisters, she said. Separately, the boy reportedly told police that he suspected his father had been cheating on McCary, a situation he feared ultimately would force him to choose which parent to live with.

Police also reported that the Hall home was squalid, its floors strewn with unwashed laundry and empty beer bottles and its bathrooms stinking of urine, the AP said.

McCary has been charged with five counts of child endangerment and four counts of criminal storage of a firearm. Police discovered a .22-caliber rifle leaning against a wall a few feet from an unlocked ammunition storage cabinet in Hall’s garage. As for the handgun used to kill Hall, “it was right there on the shelf” in a closet – already loaded – the 10-year-old told investigators.

Little in AP’s report squared with The New York Times’ coverage of the Hall household, which painted a picture of a warm family, albeit one with disturbing racist values and a fondness for weaponry. The Times’ report relied in part on an account provided by photojournalist Julie Platner, 28, who spent months documenting the lives of members of the neo-Nazi NSM for the newspaper. Hall, who lived in Riverside, Calif., was her chief contact and guide, and she spent a great deal of time with the neo-Nazi leader and his family. “We talked a lot,” Platner told the Times. “I do believe in most ways [Hall and McCary] were good parents, despite the indoctrination of their children.”

The May 10 Times report juxtaposed images of a warm family life with Hall’s neo-Nazi beliefs, recounting, for instance, how the 10-year-old proudly showed off a gift his father had given him — a belt bearing the Nazi SS insignia. It described how family pictures decorated the walls of his home and recounted how Hall, quaffing German beer with his neo-Nazi pals, “gamely officiated at a sack race for his children.” In the midst of describing Hall’s virulent anti-Semitism and his armed patrols of the Mexican border, reporter Jesse McKinley noted, “Mr. Hall also bragged that he was teaching his son to use night vision equipment and shoot a gun.”

The NSM has long had an interest — a sometimes disturbing interest — in children. It is one of the few American hate groups to have a special youth division, the Viking Youth Corps. The youth auxiliary is open to 14- to 17-year-old boys and girls of pure European descent who promise that they don’t drink, smoke or do drugs, and who are children of NSM members or have a signed consent form from their parents. Children are taught military skills, National Socialist ideology, the history of the white race, and, in the words of leader Jeff Schoep, how to become a “more effective warrior.”

The NSM frequently boasts of its promotion of children. Its list of frequenly asked questions includes, “What is most important to National Socialists and the NSM?” The answer given is the 14 Words, a popular neo-Nazi slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” In answer to the question, “What are the views of the NSM regarding child abuse and child pornography?” the same document says, “There is no reason in the entire universe to tolerate child molesters. All proven child molesters should be shot.”

There’s some irony in that last statement, given that the NSM’s one-time Indiana state leader, John Edward Snyder, is a registered sex offender — he brutally raped his wife while his son was also in their home — who was banned during his parole from any contact with children. Snyder went on the lam in 2004 to avoid arrest for parole violations and failing to register as a sex offender. He was captured in 2010 after being featured on an edition of “America’s Most Wanted.”

In the case of Jeff Hall and his family, the 10-year-old and his biological sister allegedly had previously been abused in the home of their biological mother, from which they were removed in 2003. At the same time, their mother’s 3-month-old twins (by another father) were hospitalized for “failure to thrive,” the AP said.

Hall’s son is due to appear in court on July 22. His lawyers are considering a plea of not guilty for reasons of insanity.