By Kevin Deutsch
A reputed high-ranking member of the notorious Bloods set known as “Sex, Money, Murder” was convicted Tuesday of murdering a 23-year-old Morissania man.
Erin Hall, 42, faces a sentence of up to life in prison for the 2015 slaying of Felix De La Cruz, who challenged Hall with taunts of “do it, do it,” before Hall shot him in the head, according to eyewitness testimony.
The trial’s outcome hinged almost entirely on the testimony of that eyewitness – a man whose name is being withheld by Bronx Justice News at the request of prosecutors.
The first time Hall was prosecuted, the case ended in a mistrial.
This time around, it took jurors more than a week to reach a verdict.
Prosecutors likely wouldn’t have moved forward with the case without the cooperation of de La Cruz’s friend—the only eyewitness to the shooting to testify in open court. He took the stand in Bronx Supreme Court Justice James McCarty’s courtroom, fully aware that Hall’s alleged cohorts in Sex, Money, Murder might retaliate.
“If you see something, you don’t talk,” the witness told jurors, characterizing the no-snitching credo that pervades gang-plagued sections of the Bronx.
He said of the social stigma attached to police cooperation: “People look at you funny. They can’t trust you anymore.”
The night of De La Cruz’s murder, the witness testified, he was with the victim and several friends, hanging out on Washington Avenue near East 183rd Street in Belmont. As they sipped on cups of Hennessy and Red Bull, they were approached by Hall, who allegedly pulled out a gun around 11 p.m.
De La Cruz and Hall had a history of disputes. The victim taunted his accused killer, authorities said, daring him to open fire.
“Felix said “do it, do it,” the witness testified. “He shot Felix in the head.”
The witness called 911, telling a dispatcher he hadn’t seen who killed De La Cruz. This wasn’t true, he testified, but the no-snitching credo initially convinced him to remain silent.
While on the phone with the dispatcher, he said, one of his friends told him, “Don’t say nothing. You don’t know nothing.”
But his conscience apparently got the better of him. He and De La Cruz, he testified, were like “brothers.” Within days of the murder, he visited the NYPD’s 41st Precinct and picked Hall out of a six-man lineup, police said. He cried after making the identification.
Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who took office in 2016, has urged crime witnesses to cooperate and break the “no snitching” stigma.
During a January press conference announcing the indictments of 15 accused Crips members, Clark said she started a new witness safety program “geared towards witnesses who have the courage to come forward, to make sure that we concentrate on their safety so that they’ll feel comfortable about cooperating and also being able to feel comfortable to testify and see the case through so that we can bring a successful prosecution.”
The program is part of Clark’s restructuring of the DA’s office crime victims’ and witnesses’ services–an effort partially aimed at increasing their safety and security. In 2017, the DA’s office assisted 238 witnesses and victims with “safety related services,” the DA’s office said.
“I know people know who are doing these things,” Clark said. “I’m asking them to come forward. That’s the only way we’re going to take the streets back from the people that are causing the violence.”