“Now she’s convicted of murder and sentenced to life. Anyone would have thoughts of leaving the country in that position” ~ District Attorney
District Attorney Hillar Moore says he’s surprised a 19th JDC judge set a post-conviction bond for a woman convicted and sentenced to life in prison after poisoning & killing her ex-husband and her boyfriend.
Meshell Hale was found guilty of second-degree murder of her boyfriend Damian Paul Skipper on Dec. 16, 2022 after a two-week trial in Baton Rouge.
Skipper was killed June 30, 2015 from Barium poisoning. Barium is a metal and poisoning from it is uncommon but it can be life-threatening. That’s what happened not only in Skipper’s case, but also in Hale’s ex-husband’s case, Arthur Noflin Jr.
Skipper’s death initially was ruled natural and he was buried.
Then, in March 2016, Noflin’s remains were found in a truck set on fire in New Orleans. The cause of his death was unclassified because he was burned so badly. However, because of both men’s connection to Hale, Skipper’s body was exhumed and re-examined.
Hale was then indicted for the first-degree murder of her boyfriend. She never was charged in her ex-husband’s death.
On Dec. 5, 2022, Hale went to trial before Judge Raymond Bigelow in Baton Rouge. Her attorneys chose a bench trial instead of a jury trial.
Although Judge Bigelow found Hale guilty of second-degree murder, he chose to wait to formally sentence her on Dec. 20th. Second-degree murder in Louisiana carries a mandatory life in prison sentence so the sentencing is more of a formality.
Ahead of sentencing, Hale’s attorneys filed two motions, one for a new trial and another for a post-verdict judgement of acquittal.
Judge Bigelow denied both motions saying her guilt was overwhelming. She then was sentenced to life. After sentencing, her attorneys asked for a post-conviction bond, which is allowed by law, except in limited cases like death penalty cases.
“They argued she’s been out on bond before and never violated her conditions. Our position was these are rare. I’ve maybe seen 2-3 post-conviction bonds in my 45 years,” said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore. “The law allows the judge to set it. We argued against it. Now she’s convicted of murder and sentenced to life. I don’t have any evidence saying she’s plotting to leave the country though, but anyone would have thoughts of leaving the country in that position.”
Judge Bigelow then set a $300,000 post-conviction bond for Hale’s release along with specific conditions like an ankle monitor and home detention. That means Hale can get out by posting around $35,000. Hale’s lawyers are appealing her second-degree murder conviction.
“We immediately went to the First Circuit and asked for a stay so we have time to file a writ. We asked the First Circuit to stay her from being able to make the bond. The court did issue the stay so that gives us time to write and file a writ, which we hope to do tomorrow,” said Moore.
In their appeal, Lead Prosecutor Dana Cummings wrote, “The state believes defendant is both a flight risk and a danger to her family and/or the community. For this reason, the state is forced to seek an emergency stay with this Honorable Court.”
The First Circuit has granted that stay meaning even if Hale were to come up with the needed money, she cannot make bond until the writ is ruled on.
“This judge is an outstanding judge. He listened to the evidence for two weeks diligently. He’s voluntarily come in to serve filling in for a judge. I have a lot of respect for him, but he just gave some very tough language three days ago finding her guilty, which is why we found it surprising that he granted the bond. The family was really hurt and disappointed by it. This is the same bond amount wise that she had prior to her conviction. If she was given bond, I would think it would be at least double,” said Moore.