On a late April evening almost three years ago, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies responded to a disturbance call in the Windsor Hills neighborhood.
They found Alecia Benson on her back inside a well-kept home, battered, unconscious and gasping for air.
Her only child, former NFL player De’von Hall, smoked a cigarette in the middle of the street outside. He fought three deputies who tried to handcuff him before being restrained and, days later, was charged with murdering his mother with his bare hands.
L.A. County Superior Court Judge Lauren Weis Bernstein declared Hall not guilty by reason of insanity during a hearing last week. The defense and prosecution stipulated to the change of plea based on reports by doctors from both sides, according to a district attorney’s spokesman.
Hall, who played defensive back during brief appearances with the Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will be sent to a state hospital for an indeterminate amount of time.
“Alecia Benson was a wonderful mother who tragically died,” Hall’s public defender, Ashley Morgan Price, said in a statement. “Mr. Hall will now go to a state hospital to get the type of mental health treatment that Ms. Benson always wanted for her son.”
Hall struggled with mental health issues for several years, his family and friends told The Times for an article in 2017. The professional football career of the former standout at Reseda Cleveland High and Utah State ended, in part, because of concerns over unusual behavior.
The behavior grew more alarming after football. He wore headphones to combat voices in his head. He posted nonsensical messages on social media. He appeared for a Canadian Football League combine event in Santa Monica wearing a wrinkled suit. He slept in a park near the Coliseum — despite Benson’s attempts to get him to move into an apartment — and darted through traffic on Western Avenue. When a group of former Utah State teammates encountered him outside the Coliseum in 2013, he dragged a garbage bag and spoke gibberish.
Benson, 48, worked for a local doctor. Family members remembered her easy laugh, serving as a confidante for nieces and nephews and viewing caring for her son, even as his mental health declined, as her responsibility.
After deputies arrested Hall on April 24, 2017, they found $3,000 in $20 bills inside his backpack. He also carried a gym bag containing a hair dryer, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, three pair of tennis shoes and two Batman DVDs.
Legal proceedings were suspended in June 2017 amid doubts about Hall’s mental health. He was found incompetent to stand trial that December and sent to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino. The criminal proceedings eventually resumed, and Hall returned to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles.