Wild Night in Wildwood: Hall-Snyder Dust-Up on October Trial Docket

Danny Hall, in a mugshot from his March arrest stemming from shots fired at a trespasser last Christmas.

October means time for jury trials in Dade Superior Court. Dade, which shares with other northwestern Georgia counties the traveling judges of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, has a spring term in April and a fall term that begins in a couple of weeks. And at least at this juncture, this October session looks dead interesting.

Ex-Dade Sheriff Patrick Cannon is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 23 on multiple violation-of-oath and theft-by-conversion charges, though two years of continuances and a pending motion to move his trial out of the county make that an iffy date. Meanwhile, though, two men named Daniel, one from Indiana and another from a prominent Dade County family, both face trial in connection to the same bizarre incident last Christmas. Both say they acted as they did because they were in fear for their lives. Neither was hurt. Both were arrested.

The Planet reported on Dec. 19 the arrest of Daniel Paul-Grady Snyder (below), then 27, of Logansport, Ind., on a laundry list of charges, including DUI and theft by taking, stemming from a mad midnight jaunt he allegedly took in a Ford Explorer that didn’t belong to him after a bibulous Saturday night party Dec. 17 that allegedly left him unfit to drive.

​​Snyder’s was only one of several holiday vehicular sprees duly reported by The Planet last year. What distinguished it from the other eggnog casualties was that it was a “shots fired” incident—Snyder’s ill-fated night ride terminated on private property in Wildwood, where an awakened homeowner confronted him with a blazing pistol.

Snyder wrecked the Explorer, reportedly striking a tree and two parked vehicles, before taking off on foot. The Planet reported then that he had been charged with "laying drag or reckless conduct w/auto" and "pedestrian under the influence" in connection with his attempts to leave the scene, though these are no longer present among the pending charges. Snyder is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 16.

What The Planet missed in the Snyder incident was that a second arrest was made three months later: On March 10, a bench warrant was issued for the pistol-packing homeowner. Daniel Hixson “Danny” Hall, the son of the late longtime Dade sole commissioner Dan Hall, who himself ran for county coroner in 2012, was booked for aggravated assault in connection with his unfriendly reception of the unexpected Yuletide guest. Hall is also scheduled for trial on Oct. 16.

Hall has hired a lawyer, Lawrence Stagg, and would not comment on his arrest except to say that police had surrounded his house and hauled him in like a felon. But The Planet obtained public-record arrest reports, and here furnishes the official version of what is known about the night of Dec. 17-18.

Danny Hall on Dec. 20, shortly after the incident, told detectives Cyndi Thurman and B. Irwin that on the night of the 17th, about 20 minutes before midnight, he heard a vehicle pass by his Wildwood home—on a private road along which other family members also live—and called his nephew, whose house lay further down the road, to ask if he were expecting a visitor. The nephew said no, and Hall grabbed his gun and shoes, got in his own vehicle and drove out of his driveway to find a gold Ford Explorer pulled backward into a neighboring driveway.

Hall told the detectives he approached the driver’s side window and asked the driver, “What’s your business here?” The driver said he was from Indiana and was looking for someone named Amanda. Hall said he told the driver there was no one named Amanda here and to stay put because the law was on the way.

Then, Hall told the detectives, he walked to the front left of the Explorer, in front of his own vehicle, and was prepared to wait, but because the driver appeared “fidgety,” Hall was nervous and pulled his pistol out and held it on the driver. The driver at that point put the car in drive and bolted off, leaving drag marks in the driveway.

“At that point, Mr. Hall fired 4 9mm rounds into the back of the Explorer,” says the arrest summary, written by Detective Irwin. “The driver then struck a tree on the right side of the road and a tree on the left side of the road causing the vehicle to glance off the tree into Mrs. Cindy Shaw’s driveway striking 2 vehicles.” [Ms. Shaw is another family member, Danny Hall’s sister.] The driver could drive no further after this collision, said Hall, but Hall didn’t have a light so waited until his nephew arrived from down the road to check the wrecked vehicle. They found then that the driver had fled.

Officers responding to the “shots fired” incident shortly afterward found Daniel Snyder walking along Morgan Road nearby. He initially denied any knowledge of the wreck, says the report, and said he’d been walking to a store to buy cigarettes. But he also mentioned to the officers he’d been looking for “Amanda,” as well as a black man named John.

But back to Hall’s side of the story: Later, in a Jan. 6 interview with detectives Thurman and Irwin, Hall added to his account that he’d been awakened by the sensors in his driveway of the vehicle approaching. He also added that, confronting Snyder, he’d pointed out to him a big No Trespassing sign he’d driven past and had to have seen. He said that Snyder had said he was lost, and that he’d in turn told Snyder that when the police got there and checked him out everything would be fine and he could go.

And he added that when, nervous, he’d pointed his gun at Snyder, and Snyder had sped off: “Mr Hall stated that the subject drove directly toward him and he had to jump out of the way the best he could,” wrote Detective Thurman. In fact, Dade Sheriff’s Department in its December press release about the incident listed aggravated assault among the charges against Snyder, apparently in connection with this alleged attempt to run Hall down though that is no longer among the pending charges.

But the Thurman report also points out that Snyder would have had to turn left to hit Hall and had instead turned right, lost control and begun hitting trees. It was at this point Hall was shooting at the car, but Hall said he stopped when he no longer felt in danger.

What Snyder said

The owner of the Ford Explorer, Alicia Smith, is reported by Detective Thurman to have said Daniel Snyder went home with her to sleep on her couch after both had been to a party with local Vanguard employees, like herself, plus a few Indiana Vanguard employees, like Snyder, who were supposed to return home the next day. She said she hung her car keys on a rack inside her door, from which, presumably, Snyder took them.

Another report, this one by Officer C. Burrow, says Ms. Smith said she caught a ride home with friends, leaving the Explorer at the house of the friend who gave the party, implying Snyder took it from there. One way or the other, she denied Snyder had permission to take her car.

But take the car Snyder did, and the police report mentions that when he was asked how that came to pass his public defender attorney advised him not to answer.

In any case, Snyder told Detectives Thurman and Irwin on Dec. 23, in the presence of the attorney, that he was driving to a gas station to buy cigarettes that night of Dec. 17 when he got lost and ended up running afoul of Hall. Realizing he had made a wrong turn, wrote Detective Thurman, Snyder said he had turned around and was headed out “when a male subject (later identified as Daniel Hall) came running out chasing after him so he stopped.”

Snyder told detectives Thurman and Irwin that Hall asked him why he was trespassing on his property and Snyder apologized, explaining he was “not from around here” and was in any case leaving. “Mr. Hall told him that he was not going anywhere and he realized the pistol was in his hand,” reported Detective Thurman.

Snyder told the detectives Hall ordered him to put his vehicle in park and turn it off. He said he asked if Hall were a police officer and if so could he see his badge. He said Hall said no and ordered him out of the vehicle. Snyder declined. “He advised he did not know what Mr. Hall[‘s] intentions were but he had the gun pointed at him and told him to get out of the vehicle,” says the report. “He stated he started to drive away and Mr. Hall opened fire on the vehicle, on the back of the vehicle,” wrote Thurman.

Under fire, Snyder told the detectives, he sped off, lowered his head and wrecked the car. Afterwards he took off running because he didn’t know whether Hall was still coming after him.

“Mr. Snyder’s attorney asked if he was in fear because of the gun and Mr. Snyder stated that he was terrified and thought he was going to die,” wrote the detective. “He stated he was thinking of his wife and kids and the whole thing ran through his head.”

That’s the story, or rather stories, of that wild night in Wildwood. Will the judge and jury buy version 1, in which a violated homeowner defends his domicile against a drunken invader? Or version 2, in which a hapless out-of-towner makes a wrong turn and is assailed by a trigger-happy local who chases after him pumping lead into the back of his car?

For the ending to these and other stories that one way or the other attracted the attention of the local constabulary, continue following The Planet’s exclusive coverage of the Dade courts.

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