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Suspect in 51-year-old cold case murder of Maryland deputy sheriff arrested in New York

More than half a century after Captain James Tappen Hall was fatally shot in Rockville, Maryland, in 1971, police have located and arrested a suspect who confessed to the murder earlier this month, they announced on Wednesday.

During a news conference, where some of Hall's loved ones also appeared, officers from the Montgomery County Police Department identified Larry David Smith, formerly Larry David Becker, as the suspect in the 51-year-old cold case — the bureau's oldest and only unsolved homicide case involving law enforcement — which, they said, is now closed.

A photo of Captain James Tappen Hall, provided by the Montgomery County Police Department. Hall was killed in 1971. Montgomery County Police Department

Hall, a special deputy sheriff for Montgomery County, was shot on Oct. 23, 1971, according to the police department. They say officers were called to the parking lot of Rockville's Manor Country Club around 10:40 a.m. that morning, and found Hall with a gunshot wound to his head. He died from his injuries at a nearby hospital three days later.

Investigators believe that the late captain "interrupted a residential burglary in progress," per Montgomery police. The homicide remained unsolved for five decades, but, on its 50th anniversary last October, the county's major crimes division and cold case unit reopened their investigation for review. 

After searching through case files and interviewing witnesses, Detective K. Leggett and Corporal L. Killen, of the cold case unit, identified Becker as a suspect. 

Now 71 years old, Becker was initially interviewed by investigators in 1973 but was not named a suspect at the time. During their case review, detectives learned that Becker had changed his name to Larry David Smith and moved to Little Falls, New York, where he then lived for more than 45 years.

The suspect admitted to shooting Hall when Leggett and Killen interviewed him in New York last Thursday, police said. He waived his extradition and will return to Maryland before the end of the week. 

The case will be passed along to the state attorney's office, who will "take it across the finish line," Lt. Kenneth Sanger of the department's major crimes division noted Wednesday afternoon. 

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