In an exclusive interview with this newspaper earlier this week, the sister of Gina Hall spoke out about the night Gina went missing and her own personal journey since then.
Dlana Hall Bodmer is an insurance agent in a small town of southwest Virginia. Her life is typically mundane except for one thing that changed her life on June 28, 1980.
Growing up in Coeburn, a small river and forest town in southwestern Virginia, she had a typical childhood. She and her younger sister, Gina, were active in their school and church, and everything seemed normal. But everything changed on that pretty summer day, ending up not normal at all.
The two sisters were rooming together at a Radford apartment and taking summer classes at Radford University. On a June night, after a hectic week of studying, Gina borrowed Diana’s car setting off to the Blacksburg Marriott for a night of dancing. Later that night, she would go to a house at Claytor Lake with a man she had never met. She was never seen again.
Bodmer does not believe Gina went willingly to the lake. “She would have never have done that. She was not that type of person.” A key, according to Bodmer, is the fact that the handle of the car’s driver’s side door was missing. Something she believes points to Gina going possibly by force.
The man was Stephen Epperly. A Pulaski County jury would find him guilty in Gina’s murder despite investigations failing to recover a body. Since his conviction, Epperly has maintained his innocence. He was given life in prison, and Hall’s remains still have not found. Epperly has remained silent on any possible location.
At trial, the prosecution pointed out that Epperly was the last person seen with Hall, blood matching hers was found in the trunk of her sister’s car, and more was found at the lake house. The little Toyota found abandoned on Hazel Hollow Road.
For months, law enforcement searched for Hall’s body. A tracking dog led police along railroad tracks from a site in Pulaski County and across the New River to Epperly’s mother’s home in Radford. But nothing was ever found.
Bodmer did not finish her graduate studies at RU. Instead, she moved back to Coeburn, settling down and getting married.
After nearly forty years, a recently released book, “Under the Trestle,” has brought the story to the fore.
Bodmer is preparing to release two books of her own: “The Miraculous Journey: A day made in Heaven. Following the whispers in search of my sister’s murdered body,” and “Web of Lies Unveiled: A day made in Hell. Unraveling the mystery the night my sister was murdered.”
“I believe I must tell Gina’s story,” Bodmer said in an interview earlier this week from her Lebanon insurance office.
This week, Ron Peterson, the author of the “Under the Trestle” spoke to a packed house at the Radford Public Library. Before the book’s release, Peterson met with Dlana who gave her blessing for his book project. “She requested that I tell the story accurately and with the proper respect for Gina and the family,” he said.
But still Bodmer feels compelled to write her sister’s story maybe even in Gina’s own words from the grave.
Bodmer’s first book deals with the spiritual journey she personally took after Gina’s death.
“It has meant a lot to share Gina’s story—her own journey,” Bodmer said.
She admits it was tough in those early days following Gina’s disappearance. She and many friends from Coeburn searched areas near where the car was found near a railroad trestle on Hazel Hollow Road.
Shortly after the disappearance, the family brought in a nationally known psychic who gave clues to where Gina might be buried. Some of that information has pointed Bodmer to sites in and around Radford, but still nothing has been found.
Bodmer said she would never have been able to handle what happened if it hadn’t been for her faith and God’s strength.
She said in 2016, things started coming to her in memories, dreams and visions. This set in motion a new look at what had led up to her sister’s disappearance, what might have happened and where Gina’s remains might be.
“The truth needed to be told after some of the things I discovered. I found new facts that will cast a whole new light on the matter,” she said.
During her spiritual journey over the past 30 years, Bodmer’s father passed away. He is buried beside an empty grave with a marker for Gina. Bodmer has also reconnected with her biological mother, one that neither sister had ever really known.
“Along the way, Gina has been with me,” she said.
On one of the searches that brought her back to Radford, Bodmer looked down to a stream near Hazel Hollow Road to see what she says looked like an illuminated cross in the water. She says a similar cross was found on a piece of paper drawn by her sister.
The vision found an even closer connection with the two.
“I was standing outside a store, and a person told me there was something in the store that would remind me of Gina. I walked in, and there was a necklace that looked like what I saw in the water and on paper,” she said.
Bodmer now proudly wears that cross necklace around her neck.
Her second book, according to Bodmer, raises the question of whether Epperly had co-conspirators in her sister’s death. “A lot of the information that I have found has not been public until now,” she said.
Much of the new information was in files from interviews conducted in the 80s. In addition, Bodmer said several individuals have come forward. While she is convinced the right person was convicted of her sister’s murder, she feels that several other people were heavily involved in the deed. She also spoke to an unknown female witness who had a different side of the story from that tragic night.
Bodmer cited details discovered three years ago that will be in her books. “In my research, new things have come to the surface.” She would not release any of that new information, instead saying people will have to wait till the books come out.
Bodmer admits some of those findings could raise eyebrows over what really happened that night.
“I believe he (Epperly) and his buddy composed the last moments of Gina’s life.”
She would love to find her sister’s remains, but has come to peace with that. “She has been found. She’s in heaven.”
But there is an underlying reason to find her sister. She believes there might be others. She is determined to prove that theory.
Bodmer said while she is still angry, she has forgiven Epperly for what he did. “That is what Gina would want me to do. God has shown me how to handle things.”
Bodmer’s books are expected to be released by early April.