Mary Ann Bryan was kidnapped from a Longmont pharmacy at gunpoint in January 1981. Three days passed, and her body was found in a “blood-splattered” outhouse near Niwot, according to an article in the Boulder Daily Camera.
Emma Hall was 4 years old at the time and had a lot of questions about the woman’s death, which occurred near her home: Who was this woman? Did she have any children? Was she married? Who could have possibly done this, and why?
The woman’s murder impacted the young Hall, and at the age of 4, she concluded two things about her life’s work: She wanted to help people and she wanted to make sure justice was served.
“There have been other cases that have touched my life, but obviously that is the one that got me interested in this field,” said Hall, who has served as Boulder County’s coroner since 2011. She is in her second term. Coroners can serve up to three full terms, Hall plans to run for re-election in 2018.
As Hall’s young life progressed, she realized she also had interests in medicine, human anatomy and investigations.
Hall, 39, said she wears many hats as the coroner and deals with law enforcement agencies, family members of the deceased and the public, and supervises her 10 staff members.
The coroner’s office’s role in the community is to determine the manner and cause of death.
Hall said the cause of death is the “disease or mechanism that caused the death,” such as heart disease or cancer. Hall said the manner of death has five classifications: homicide and suicide, and deaths from natural, accidental and undetermined causes. Every incident of death has to fit into one of these five categories for the purposes of vital statistics, she explained.
Deputy Coroner Dustin Bueno, who has known and worked with Hall for more than a decade, called Hall “detail-oriented and passionate.”
“When she says she’s going to do something, she’ll do it,” Bueno said. “If that means long hours or late nights, if you need help, with something, she’s there.”
Hall defined herself as, “responsible” concerning her work, and admits to being a “stress carrier” because it can be hard for her to relax knowing there is work to be done at the coroner’s office.
Hall also said she is unexpectedly creative, even in her line of work. During her time in office she acquired funding and took part in crafting a state-of-the-art coroner facility, built next to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office on Foothills Parkway.
“I really enjoy creating,” she said with a laugh, “which is not really the main focus of the job as coroner. But I definitely enjoy those kinds of things, the kind of projects where I can step back and look at what I’ve done and be able to be proud of my accomplishments. I can still step back and look at the facility that I have, been a part of creating here in Boulder County, seeing the improvements, and seeing the morale of my staff … it’s kind of bigger picture items” that are gratifying, Hall said.
Hall incorporated her creativity further by redesigning the coroner, deputy coroner, and investigator badges. The project involved researching and learning more about the community she serves. Hall said each of the symbols on the badges are meaningful to the coroner’s office and how the office serves Boulder County.
“So there’s a lot of information that goes into these badges, a lot of thought,” Hall said. “It’s really important that we have something that we value, and that’s really what the badges do for us.”
Bill Eliasen, a family friend, has personally known Hall and her family for 20 years.
“She’s an interesting person in all of the things she tries to do,” Eliasen said. “I mean, if you spend time talking to her, you realize that she is just much deeper than what she does for the county or what she likes to do personally.”
Hall spent her childhood on Hall Ranch, a cattle ranch, near Lyons, Colorado. Her grandfather purchased the property incrementally, and eventually the ranch sprawled close to 4,000 acres. Hall’s Father took over the work on the ranch from her grandfather, and Hall’s seven siblings helped him. Five out of the eight children were girls. Hall noted her father did not treat any of the children differently based on their gender. He taught them all the same skills and relied on all of them to help him on the ranch.
“His sons and his daughters are both very capable,” said Hall, who attributes her work ethic and philosophy to the work she did on the ranch growing up.
“Many people may not relate growing up on a ranch to becoming a coroner, but on a ranch, you learn about life and death,” she said. “Death is a part of life, and life is a part of death. Responsibility never ends on a ranch. There is no such thing as a holiday. It takes a strong desire to run a ranch and take care of all the animals and seasonal chores that go along with it.”
“This is really not that much different from being a coroner. There are so many experiences and lessons I learned on the ranch that have shaped me into the responsible and driven woman that I am today, I have my mother and father to thank for that.”
Hall’s mother, Marcia Hall, echoes this sentiment and added Hall developed common sense and problem solving by working on the ranch as a young lady.
Marcia describes her daughter as an ambitious and detail-oriented woman when it comes to projects she has taken up in the past. Hall even renovated her mother’s bathroom along with two of her siblings.
“She figures it out and plans it all out,” Marcia said.
“Having a home that I needed to renovate and then a rental house that I needed to renovate, I’m very hands on, I love tools,” Hall said with a laugh. “That’s not something that a lot of women have the skills to do, or the interest in doing, and so I really enjoy that.”
Eliasen described another renovation project Hall did years ago.
“At one point she was doing some remodeling of her home, and we happened to be over there visiting. And when I say remodeling, she was the contractor, she was the carpenter, she was the plumber, and she wanted to move the sink and the toilet from one side of the room to the opposite side of the room. And within two weeks the toilet, the sink, and everything was on the opposite side of the room.”
Among Hall’s not-so-apparent attributes are her introversion — her dislike television noise and incessant talking on the radio, and even on some occasions, an apparent aloofness that comes from her affinity for listening and her cautious nature.
When he first met Hall she seemed reserved, and it took a while to get to know her. Over the years of their professional friendship Bueno has concluded that “passionate” is the best adjective for Hall.
“She obviously had a very strong interest at a very young age for this field and look where she is. I mean, she’s definitely very driven and passionate,” Bueno said.
“My passion is what keeps me going,” Hall said. “I believe strongly in the career field that I have chosen and the opportunity to serve my community to the best of my ability.
“There have been other cases that have touched my life, but obviously that is the one that got me interested in this field,” Hall said.