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CRIME : La Verne Minister's Killer Still at Large

January 13, 1994|MIKE CARLSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A La Verne minister was killed when he tried to stop a robbery at the Glendora restaurant where he ate almost all his meals.

Bill Hallam, 77, was drinking his customary cup of after-dinner coffee around 7:45 p.m. at the counter next to the register last Thursday when a man burst into Palm's Family Restaurant and started snatching bills out of the open cash drawer, said Glendora police Officer Brian Summers.

The hostess at the counter, who had been getting change for a customer, screamed and Hallam rushed forward and grabbed the man from behind. The men struggled. Then Hallam staggered backward, bleeding from a single knife wound to the chest, Summers said.

As hostesses and customers tried to stanch the bleeding with a towel, the killer ran out the front door and fled on foot west on Laxford Street. He was last seen racing south on Dale Road. An ambulance rushed Hallam to Foothill Presbyterian Hospital, where he died about 8:30 p.m. from a wound to the heart.

No arrests have been made in the slaying, Glendora's first since December, 1992, Summers said. Witnesses at the restaurant described the killer as a 6-foot-tall white or Latino man in his mid- to late 20s with a thin build, slicked-back black hair, a bushy mustache and wearing a brown flannel shirt over a white T-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes.

Restaurant manager Jim Balaskas, 39, stared down at his feet as he talked about Hallam. "He was like a grandfather to me," said Balaskas, a Greek immigrant who started managing Palm's about a dozen years ago.

"He's been coming here since the restaurant opened. This place was like a home to him," Balaskas said. "He was so close to God. I remember when his wife had a heart attack four years ago, the doctors told him she was going to die. But he prayed and she lived. Now who will pray for him? Nobody could pray as strong as Bill."

Hallam, a Chicago native and a former trouble-shooter and efficiency expert for both the Chrysler Corp. and the Ford Motor Co., became an ordained minister about 15 years ago and sold all of his worldly possessions to travel around the United States speaking to churches, said Ann Hallam, 84, his wife of 44 years. The two met in Chicago and moved to California in the mid-1950s, she said.

She and Hallam had coffee at Palm's almost every night, but she did not accompany her husband Thursday because she was too tired. She said she harbors no hatred for her husband's killer and has faith that she will survive the ordeal of her husband's death.

"I am a Christian, and the Lord provides. I am under His wings now," she said, a small smile wrinkling the corners of her red-rimmed eyes. Hallam will be buried in his home state of Illinois after a still-to-be-planned funeral service in Pomona, she said.

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