Alicia Comes Home (Part II)

How a determined father found his abducted daughter

On November 3, 1993, both the letter and the tape were introduced as further evidence for terminating forever Pat Hope-Hall's parental rights. Court-appointed social worker Paula Everett and Carol Bowdry, a retired CPS administrative reviewer, both urged this harsh remedy.

Bowdry described Pat's relationship with Alicia as "toxic." She testified Pat was turning her daughter into a "chronic victim." Moreover, Pete Connell had never fit the profile of a pedophile. He had two grown daughters who had never been sexually abused; there were no multiple victims; and there was not even an accusation of a progression of abuse with Alicia.

Judge White concluded that "Pat Hall had knowingly...endangered the emotional well-being of the child." He terminated her parental rights.

But with Alicia missing, it was an empty victory. Hulsey was still out there searching, speaking with Pete on a daily basis, trying to determine the most efficient allocation of their limited resources. Together they would evaluate whether something that appeared to be a genuine lead was really misinformation put out there by Faye or Pat, some cagey rabbit trail designed to throw them off track. Hulsey spent a lot of time in Atlanta, setting up a surveillance of Faye Yager, gathering intelligence on her organization and its supporters, while trying to infiltrate it anyway he could.

In December 1993, he got a call from a contact in Belize: There had been a sighting of two adults and two children who matched the description of the Halls. Hulsey caught the next flight for Belize, spent a week tracking down a van with Texas plates, but only found a frightened Mennonite couple camping in the jungle with their two children. He had reached another long-distance dead end.

Back in the States, Hulsey set up surveillances at safe houses in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia. Through binoculars, he observed children at play in backyards and trailer parks, but none of them was Alicia. Hulsey thought he had hit upon a strong lead when he was "querying his computer" for social security numbers and Mark Hall's number turned up in Northern Virginia. Further investigation revealed a Mark Hall who was an assistant pastor in a Baptist church in Ashburn, Virginia, with Hall's same date of birth and same middle name.

Hulsey told Pete Connell he believed he had found his man. Together, Pete and Hulsey flew to Virginia, hoping to make a positive identification. Hiding in some nearby bushes, they set up a surveillance on the man's house, but even from a distance, they could tell he was much slighter than Mark. Up close, he didn't resemble Hall in the least.

Pete returned to Dallas frustrated and low, but refused to give up his search. "I never stopped thinking about Alicia," he says. "Most days you carry on OK, but there is always this low-grade sadness. I always wondered, 'What does she look like now? Is she happy? Healthy? Does she remember the love and caring she had in our home?'"

Each day at the office Pete spent hours on the phone, networking with other dads who had lost their children to Faye Yager. He wrote countless letters to members of Congress, the director of the FBI, to prosecutors within the Justice Department. Most wrote back with an institutional "we're doing everything we can" response. "Frankly," Pete complained in a letter to House Majority Leader Dick Armey, "the authorities treat this as a domestic problem rather than a real kidnapping."

It galled Pete that Faye Yager knew exactly where Alicia was being hidden, yet somehow remained above the law. Why hadn't her house been searched, her files seized? Certainly there was probable cause for both.

In April 1994, Yager appeared on the Leeza Gibbons Show and featured Alicia's abduction as one of her success stories.

Law enforcement seemed too meek to take her on. A three-week trial of Yager in 1990 on a kidnapping charge had produced a not-guilty verdict, and prosecutors seemed wary of moving prematurely against Yager again.

Growing desperate, Pete decided to finance a sting operation of his own, hoping to lure Pat out of hiding. He hired Ron Williams (not his real name), a Washington lobbyist living in Dallas, to contact Yager in Atlanta. Attempting to gain her confidence, Ron pretended he was a great admirer of her crusade for children, that he pedaled enough influence in Washington to further her cause in Congress. During their several meetings in Atlanta, he said he had contacts in Hollywood and knew a producer who wanted to make a movie about her life. The problem was, the producer wanted a first-person account from someone actually on the run. Ron said he had seen the Leeza Gibbons Show and felt that Pat Hall's story would be perfect for their project.

Williams gave Faye his 800 number which, unknown to Faye, was answered by a machine that could trace incoming calls. He urged Faye to get Pat to call him so they could hook up with his producer.

A master at confounding desperate dads, Faye was too suspicious: She sensed she was being conned. "I just played right along with him and spent his money," says Yager. "That man got only three pieces of meat from me: a hot tongue, a cold shoulder, and a hard time." Pat never phoned.

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