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Crime News Cold Justice

Investigators Close In on Person Responsible for Sledgehammer Death of WWII Veteran

Prosecutor Kelly Siegler looks at different suspects who may have killed 89-year-old Frank Halcarz Sr. 

By Jax Miller

Prosecutor Kelly Siegler helps investigators in the 2007 case of a beloved war veteran viciously beaten to death with a sledgehammer in the Season 7 premiere of Cold Justice.

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Teaming up with longtime legal expert and defense attorney Murray Newman on the case, Siegler joined members of the Lake Station Police Department (L.S.P.D.) in Indiana to find who murdered 89-year-old Frank Halcarz Sr. It was all hands on deck for police, including Detective Steve Peek, Captain Daniel Perryman, Assistant Chief Bill Taylor, and Chief Jim Richardson, who provided information about the 2007 case, explaining that a backlog of murders around that time caused Halcarz’s case to become cold.

“When you look at what an honorable man that Frank was, it’s absolutely horrendous to realize how his life ended in such a cowardly and senseless way,” Newman told Cold Justice, airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.

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The Murder of Frank Halcarz Sr.

Frank Halcarz Sr. was remembered by those who knew him best as a sweet elderly man who’d served in the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1945 during World War II. Twice-married and twice-widowed, the east Chicago native lived alone in Lake Station, Indiana — about 30 miles southeast of Chicago — but stayed in close contact with his blended family.

His last communication happened on October 26, 2007, when speaking with his step-granddaughter, Devin Shain, on the phone. He was found dead at his home on Halloween.

“On Oct. 31, a friend found Frank face-down, and he had a large hole in the back of his head, probably about two or three inches,” said Det. Peek. “He also had a laceration on his forehead, so that could have been from him falling once he was struck.”

The victim had no defensive wounds, and a back pocket turned inside-out suggested to investigators that Halcarz had his wallet stolen.

It appeared whoever killed Halcarz on the afternoon of Oct. 26 did so as the victim went back and forth to his car to bring in groceries, striking him in the doorway between his home’s entrance and an enclosed porch. Whether the assailant was lying in wait or followed Halcarz to his residence remained unknown.

A sledgehammer, believed to be the murder weapon, was discovered near the train tracks behind Halcarz’s home during the initial investigation.

The Suspects

A Cowardly and Senseless Way: Cold Justice S7 E1 Sneak Peek

Siegler, Newman, and members of the Lake Station Police Department pored over records from the 2007 homicide. Witness statements included individuals from the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (V.F.W.) hall, where Halcarz spent time with fellow veterans. At least one claimed that Halcarz might have mentioned neighborhood kids stealing from his residence.

But others suspected the victim’s step-grandson, 23-year-old Brandon Scroggin, who lived in a small trailer behind Halcarz’s home. Scroggin denies killing his grandfather.

According to the L.S.P.D., Scroggin had a long rap sheet that included convictions for theft and substance abuse.

“I got the feeling that [Halcarz] was still trying to be kind to Brandon because his wife would have wanted it that way,” said Newman.

Reports showed that in August 2007, Halcarz suspected Scroggin of stealing his firearm and welder and later accused the step-grandson of stealing his bank card. 

It was beyond Halcarz’s step-granddaughter Shain — who last spoke to her step-grandfather about a family birthday party shortly before his death — why someone would want to harm Halcarz. She described Halcarz to Cold Justice as a “sweet, sweet, funny, man” who loved to play tricks on his loved ones.

“This was absolutely an ambush murder,” Newman told Cold Justice. “This was just such a cheap-shot, brutal, cruel, cruel, attack. It’s heartbreaking that you have that in you to do that to an 89-year-old war veteran lying on the ground. It’s unspeakable.”

Another step-granddaughter described “screaming matches” between Halcarz and Scroggin. Investigators wondered if Scroggin killed and robbed Halcarz, fueled by rage after the victim previously accused Scroggin of stealing from him.

RELATED: Body of a Missing Illinois Woman Is Found Decades Later — What Happened to Her?

A Timeline of Halcarz's Stolen Credit Card Purchases

Frank Halcarz Sr. featured on Cold Justice Episode 701

Grocery store receipts placed the time of death at around 2:00 p.m. on Oct. 26, 2007, and Halcarz’s missing credit card was first used that evening at 10:34 p.m., first at The Water Front Lounge in Lake Station. Records showed a $50 purchase, followed by eight additional bar purchases at another bar and a gas station until the early morning hours of Oct. 27, 2007, the last being at 2:49 a.m.

Card activity resumed on Oct. 27 at 9:57 p.m., this time at the Lil Saver mart, followed by more bar charges at The Water Front at 11:15 p.m.

On Oct. 29 — one day before Halcarz’s body was found dead at his home — two purchases totaling a little over $500 occurred with Western Union. Between Oct. 30 and the early morning hours of Oct. 31, the stolen card was used at three gas stations and for six more purchases at The Water Front, the last transaction taking place at 1:07 a.m., hours before Halcarz was found.

Unfortunately for investigators, the banks no longer held the records that could have proven their theory, and there were no reported eyewitnesses to Scroggin using the stolen card.

New witnesses come to light

Siegler, Newman, and the L.S.P.D. tracked down one of Scroggin’s girlfriends, who described Scroggin as a domineering man. The woman — whose identity was not revealed on Cold Justice — claimed Scroggin often talked about sneaking up behind unsuspecting victims, striking them in the head, and taking their money, regardless of whether the victim was “dead or alive.”

“It sounds a lot like what happened with Frank,” said Newman.

Investigators also looked into the woman Scroggin allegedly had “a fling” with in the days surrounding Halcarz’s murder, according to the woman whose identity also remained concealed.

Sledgehammer Man: Cold Justice S7 E1 Sneak Peek

“I do remember he had to use my computer at one point while he was here, and he had a charge card,” the alibi witness told Newman and L.S.P.D. Cpt. Perryman. “The name was the same as the person that was in the paper.”

L.S.P.D. Det. Peek visited the prison that housed Scroggin for charges related to incidents involving his ex-girlfriend — including arson and intimidation. The interview, recorded and published by Cold Justice, showed Scroggin confessing to using Halcarz’s stolen card. According to Peek, Scroggin believed the statute for limitations for the credit card-related crimes had expired.

Scroggin said Halcarz had about a dozen credit cards lying around, and that Scroggin had stolen the one in question from a utility closet. When reviewing the purchases investigators believed the possible suspect made in the days following Halcarz’s death, Scroggin confirmed they belonged to him.

“I was 20-something years old, and I didn’t care,” Scroggin told Det. Peek. “You know, so if I got in trouble, I got in trouble.”

Scroggin told Det. Peek he didn’t kill Halcarz, saying he would be “stupid” to kill someone and use their credit card.

Scroggin has not yet been charged with Halcarz’s murder

The Cold Justice team agreed that earlier theories of neighborhood kids killing Halcarz didn’t hold as much water as their suspicions of Brandon Scroggin. Investigators questioned Halcarz’s buddies at the V.F.W. hall, including the man who initially reported the claim to authorities. However, he could not remember what made him make the claim at the time.

Authorities with the L.S.P.D. presented their evidence to the prosecutor’s office, believing there exists enough against Scroggin to charge him with his step-grandfather’s murder.

“I’m extremely grateful for them, for this, for everything they’ve done,” said Devin Shain. “Knowing that we’ll have some closure and justice for my grandpa, that’s what matters.”

Watch all-new episodes of Cold Justice on Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.