tampabay.com

Suspect in fatal shooting is ex-cop

Rage over infidelity fueled the deadly confrontation, investigators say.

By MICHAEL A. MOHAMMED
Published July 27, 2007


TAMPA - When the man accused in Wednesday's deadly shooting in Northdale ran off and hid in a nearby subdivision, he knew full well what he faced as deputies, search dogs and a helicopter closed in.

That's because Thomas J. Hall, 51, of Brooksville spent almost 15 years as a patrol officer on the Tampa police force. He resigned in 2000 after being accused of lying to his superiors.

Here's what happened about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway:

Jason Mullis, 35, left his house at 3201 Hoedt Road in his pickup truck to meet Debra Hall, 44. Callaway said the two had been having an affair, and planned to meet at a nearby McDonald's restaurant.

But Hall's husband of nearly 24 years showed up, and rammed his old Mercedes-Benz into the side of Mullis' truck on a street behind a Checkers restaurant.

Mullis got out. The men argued loudly.

Then, Callaway said, the man killed Mullis with a .45-caliber revolver.

Sometime around then, Hall called his wife. He told her he was with Mullis, then hung up, she later told deputies.

Hall surrendered when deputies found him at a nearby bus shelter. Callaway said he told them he'd left the gun in a tote bag in the back yard of a nearby house.

Deputies don't know how Thomas Hall of 26042 Willow St. in Brooksville found out about the rendezvous.

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Hall joined the Tampa Police Department in October 1985. He resigned in 2000 under the cloud of an internal affairs investigation involving where he lived and whether he qualified to drive his squad car home.

An internal affairs report says that in December 1999, Hall submitted false paperwork claiming he had moved from Hernando to Pasco County so that he could take his cruiser home.

A supervisor became suspicious in January 2000 when the address Hall wrote on a form matched that of another officer in his squad. This prompted an internal affairs investigation that found that he had lied on official documents and to his superiors.

In May 2000 the department reassigned him to desk work and stripped him of his uniform. He resigned about six weeks later.

It's not clear how Hall supported his family after leaving the force.

His neighbor Lee Johnson, 41, said he drove what looked like a phone company repair van to work, usually leaving early in the morning and returning late in the evening. Neighbors said they rarely interacted with the Halls, aside from the occasional wave.

Nick Refaie, 27, of Tampa met Hall about a year ago, and said his friend struggled in a marriage that was coming apart. Hall told him his wife had been cheating on him, he said.

He said Hall looked drained when Refaie saw him Monday. Hall told him he hadn't been able to sleep more than a couple of hours a night, and was contemplating divorce, but worried about custody of their 13-year-old son.

"He was not an angry person," Refaie said. "I could probably name a dozen other people that I would expect of this, but not Tom."

Hall remains in Hillsborough County's Orient Road Jail without bail, charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, referring to his Mercedes.

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Jason Mullis had children, too: two daughters from an ex-wife and a 19-year-old son, said his neighbor David Cobb, 17.

"He seemed like a great guy as a father" who spent a lot of time with his daughters, Cobb said. "He was always out in the yard, playing with them."

Mullis knew how to hold firecrackers so they wouldn't hurt him when they exploded, and he had a special touch with finicky gas mowers, Cobb said.

"Everybody knows him," Gail Deriso, another neighbor, said Wednesday. "He's just a nice country boy."

 

Times staff writer Austin Bogues and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Michael A. Mohammed can be reached at mmohammed@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3404.