When Agatha Hall was in her first day of classes during her senior year at Northeast High School, Shelly Robinson noticed something was off.
“I was taking roll, and we have strict uniform rules that she didn’t know about,” Robinson told The Temple News at Northeast High School’s back-to-school night. “Everyone’s supposed to wear bright white pressed shirts, and she was wearing a red one. I said to her, ‘Of all things, red?’ And she said, ‘I didn’t know! I didn’t know!’”
Robinson, who has spent 21 years teaching at Northeast High School, taught Hall in her graphic design class during her senior year. Hall—one of the most self-driven students Robinson said she had ever taught—went on to graduate from the school in 2011.
“She was extremely bright and self-motivated,” she said. “Everything Agatha did in her life, she did by herself. She climbed every mountain and every hill.”
And though Hall came from a refugee camp in Ghana and overcame several life obstacles, she never complained.
“When she talked about her life, she didn’t talk about it like, ‘Woe is me,’” Robinson said. “She talked about it matter-of-factly, like, ‘This is the life I have.’”
Hall, a 21-year-old Temple student majoring in finance, was found dead Aug. 31 in her apartment on Park Avenue near York Street.
Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone previously told The Temple News the incident appeared to be a suicide. But following a 12-day investigation involving Philadelphia Police’s Homicide Unit and the city’s medical examiner’s office, Hall’s death was ruled a homicide.
According to a press release from Philadelphia Police’s public affairs officers, the investigation concluded it would have been “impossible” for the victim’s gunshot wound to be self-inflicted.
Last week, Philadelphia Police arrested 29-year-old Brandon Meade, of the 7100 block of Stockley Road in Upper Darby, and charged him with Hall’s murder. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 30, according to court documents.
Lt. John Stanford, a Philadelphia Police spokesman, said although many media outlets have reported Meade was Hall’s boyfriend and allegedly told police he found Hall in her bedroom with a black handgun under her body, the case still needs to be heard in court.
“We don’t release anything along those lines because that could be used against the defendant,” Stanford said.
Hall’s hard work was also apparent to Robert Belz, who has been a counselor at Northeast since 2001. Belz said Hall frequented the school’s career services and college preparation office during her lunch periods, where he worked at the time.
“She spent the entire time that I knew her doing work in the office, or doing college selection,” he said. “She was looking for colleges, she was asking me information about college. … You always get your regulars in the college office, and she was one of them and we appreciated everything about her.”
Monday night, Dean of Students Stephanie Ives released a statement about Hall’s death.
“The Temple University community continues to mourn the loss of Agatha E. Hall,” Ives said. “My office and the Fox School of Business have provided support to Ms. Hall’s family and friends during this incredibly difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and everyone who knew her. Temple Police continue to work with the Philadelphia Police Department and the Medical Examiner’s Office in the investigation.”
But Robinson, who said she deeply cared about Hall’s future, is still mourning.
“The night I found out, I told my husband,” she said. “I don’t talk about kids a lot at home … and my husband says, ‘I remember you talking about her … you don’t talk about kids, you loved her.’ And I said, ‘I really did, she was one of my favorite kids.’ And I remember when she graduated, I said to her, ‘You’re one student I’m never going to worry about.’”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.