She had planned the crime for two months, according to investigators. With four bullets, Elizabeth “Betsy” Wall ended her daughter-in-law’s life, left two young boys without their mother, and ensured herself a life behind bars.
On Friday inside a Cobb County courtroom, Wall, 64, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to murder in the June 2016 death of Jenna Wall. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Jenna’s mother, Sheri Charlton, cried as she read a statement to the court about her daughter, who was 35 when she was killed.
“Her goal was for all children to feel special,” Charlton said. “Betsy used her trust to get close to Jenna and then violated that trust and took away her life. Even with our faith in God, we are torn apart every day.”
Jenna Wall married Jerrod Wall in 2004 and taught kindergarten at Cobb’s Kemp Elementary School. Friends described her as a passionate mother devoted to her sons. She volunteered in her church, where a pastor said she always looked for opportunities to serve others.
In the fall of 2015, Jenna Wall filed for divorce.
In her divorce filing, Jenna claimed that her marriage was “irretrievably broken.” But Jerrod Wall claimed his wife had had an affair and that he wanted joint legal and physical custody of the boys, whom he said he was denied the right to see. During the divorce, Jenna moved into her parents’ home in West Cobb.
On June 23, 2016, Betsy Wall was visiting from south Georgia and taking care of her grandsons, then ages 7 and 8. She was supposed to take the boys swimming, according to investigators, but instead drove to Jenna’s home. There, she called her son, an investigator in the Paulding County District Attorney’s Office, and told him to come get his sons, according to police. When Jerrod Wall arrived at the home, he found his estranged wife dead in the kitchen. His mother was pointing a gun to her own head, according to investigators.
While her grandsons sat in her car, Betsy Wall went inside the home and shot Jenna four times with a .357 revolver, striking her in the chest, torso, abdomen and head, according to the Cobb Medical Examiner. Later that day, Betsy Wall was arrested and charged with murder.
Wall’s attorney, Jimmy Berry, previously said she had spent several weeks in a mental health facility before the shooting. It was not known whether she bought the gun before or after her treatment.
Jenna Wall’s death shocked her neighborhood, friends and school community, and hundreds attended her funeral at West Cobb Church and a candlelight vigil in her honor.
Raised in west Cobb, Wall was an athlete and honor student at Harrison High School, where she was also the yearbook editor and involved with student government. She graduated from UGA with a degree in sociology and psychology and worked in sales and management for several years. But it was her second career that she found much more fulfilling.
After returning to Mercer University to earn a teaching certificate, Wall taught at two Cobb elementary schools before moving to Kemp. For Wall, teaching was another way to serve her community, her colleagues said.
“She came out of the womb helping people,” Pastor Ken Williams said during her funeral.
At Betsy Wall’s probable cause hearing in July 2016, a Cobb police detective testified that she had been researching killing a family member for two months before killing Jenna. In Sept. 2016, a grand jury indicted Wall and she had since remained in the Cobb jail.
On Friday, Chief ADA Jesse Evans told the court that forensic searches of Wall’s phone found disparaging text messages about the victim as well as web searches regarding mental disorders, murder suicides, and wrongful-death liability.
“Those clearly showed that some thought went into this crime,” Evans said.
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