Covenant Killer’s Parents Claimed She Left No Will, but Suicide Note Audrey Hale Wrote Demands ‘PLEASE READ MY WILL’

Tennessee Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea L. Myles last Thursday ruled that not one page of the materials written by Covenant School killer Audrey Elizabeth Hale will be released to the public, citing the copyright claims raised by parents of minor students who say they own the copyright to the killer’s works through an entity known as the Covenant Children’s Trust.

But that claim of ownership is tenuous at best, and has not been confirmed in the Tennessee probate court proceedings initiated by an attorney on behalf of Audrey Hale’s parents, who petitioned the court to open an intestate estate for their daughter on June 15, 2023. More than a year later, that case appears to remain open, meaning legal ownership of Audrey Hale’s writings has not formally been transferred to her parents.

The judge’s ruling also usurps the authority of the Tennessee General Assembly, the only legislative body authorized to pass legislation that, upon the governor’s signature, can create exceptions to The Tennessee Public Records Act, the statute which state judges in Tennessee must use in determining whether government records may be released to the public.  Attorneys for the Covenant Children’s Trust, allowed to intervene in the case by Judge Myles in one of several reversible errors in the case, persuaded the judge to rule that:

  1. Covenant Children’s Trust owns the intellectual property rights of the materials left behind by Audrey Hale prior to her murderous attack on March 27, 2023, due to the assignment of those rights by Ronald and Norma Hale to the Covenant Children’s Trust in a document dated June 13, 2023.
  2. That this purported ownership constitutes their copyright to all of Audrey Hale’s writings collected by  the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD).
  3. That their objection to the release of their purported copyrighted documents constitutes an exception to the Tennessee Public Records Act because the federal Copyright Act of 1976 supercedes the Tennessee Public Records Act due to the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

On June 15, 2023, Ronald and Norma Hale petitioned the Seventh Circuit Court for Davidson County, Probate Division to open an intestate estate for their deceased daughter Audrey Hale (Case No. 23P1186).

In that petition, filed on behalf of the Hales by Jeff Mobley, one of the leading probate attorneys in the state of Tennessee, the Hales attested as follows:

  1. The decedent died in Nashville, Tennessee on March 27, 2023, a resident of Davidson County, Tennessee, at the age of 28 years.
  2. The decedent left a probate estate to be administered.
  3. The decedent was not the owner of, nor did the decedent have controlling interest in, an ongoing business or economic enterprise that is part of the estate to be administered.
  4. The decedent died intestate. The Petitioners have diligently searched for a Will and have not discovered a Will. (emphasis added)
  5. The decedent died without a surviving spouse and never had any children. Accordingly, their heirs-at-law are the decedent’s parents, Ronald and Norma Hale.

The attestation by Ronald and Norma Hale that they “have diligently searched for a Will and have not discovered a Will” was made a little less than three months subsequent to the discovery of a suicide note left by their daughter, Audrey Hale, on March 27, 2023 by MNPD investigators at the Nashville residence they shared with her.

In that suicide note, Audrey Hale,  specifically demanded that her parents read and follow the instructions in her will.

In capital, underlined letters, Audrey Hale wrote in her suicide note, “PLEASE READ MY WILL,” which she explained would offer instructions “about what to do [with] my stuffed animals [and] possessions.”

The suicide note itself also holds some characteristics of a last will and testament, as it offered instructions to Ronald and Norma Hale.

“If I don’t survive my massacre, I want my room to be left exactly as it is left.” Audrey Hale further instructed, “I don’t want any of my possessions down in that dingy basement.”

The potential existence of a will–undiscovered by Ronald and Norma Hale–is bolstered by subsequent filings in the probate case of Audrey Hale, as well as a source familiar with the Covenant killer investigation, who told The Tennessee Star that Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) included an inventory list of items in the documents provided to Judge Myles that included one item identified as a “will,” but that claim has not yet been independently verified by The Star.

Notably, the June 13, 2023 document, titled “Assignment and Transfer of Legal and Equitable Title to Certain Personal and Intellectual Property Created by Audrey Elizabeth Hale,” which purported to transfer the copyright ownership of Audrey Hale’s writings from parents Ronald and Norma Hale to the Covenant Children’s Trust, was signed by the Hales and Brent Leatherwood, the trustee of Covenant Children’s Trust, two days before the Hales petitioned the Davidson County Probate Court on June 15, 2023 to open the intestate estate for their deceased daughter. The document was filed in the court case overseen by Judge Myles, who allowed the parents to intervene in the case, on June 14, 2023 and was later included in the probate court proceedings as an exhibit on July 19, 2023.

In that June 13 document, Ronald and Norma Hale asserted that Audrey Hale did not have a “valid testamentary instrument” at the time of her death.

This would mean that Audrey Hale died intestate after she died during her attack on the Covenant School on March 27, 2023, where she claimed the lives of three students and three adult staff members. Because she did not have a spouse or children, ownership of her belongings would pass to her parents after  her intestate estate clears probate.

The existence of a will is not mentioned in any filings by Ronald and Norma Hale with the Seventh Circuit Court’s Probate Division. Though the case is currently pending, the presiding judge rejected a motion by Clata Renee Brewer, one of the plaintiffs in the underlying case, “to stay administration of this estate because there is sufficient reason to believe that there is a document that is inconsistent with and would prohibit intestate administration of this estate without further judicial review and determination by this Court.”:

The decedent is the individual who shot her way into the Covenant School on May 27, 2023 and murdered six persons before being shot and killed by police of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. In connection with their duties concerning this matter, Metro police searched and obtained documents from the decedent’s home. Brewer is one of four petitioning parties who have filed suit in the Chancery Court of Davidson County seeking to obtain access to the writings of decedent pursuant to the Tennessee Public Records Act (“TPRA”). Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503, et seq. In connection with the Chancery Court proceeding, the Chancellor ordered Metro to produce the writings of decedent for in camera review and further ordered Metro to provide a “counsel only” Log of the materials that it produced for in camera review.

Metro’s Log has clearly and unequivocally identified one of the documents with a one word description which would be inconsistent with and would prohibit intestate administration of decedent’s estate without further judicial review and determination by this Court.  Counsel for Brewer requested the Chancery Court to remove the “counsel only” restriction on the Log of Materials produced for in camera review. However, the Chancery Court denied that request. Accordingly, Brewer’s counsel cannot state what this document is, other than to state that it is a document that would preclude intestate administration of decedent’s estate without further judicial review and determination by this Court.

While none of Audrey Hale’s writings were published or publicly released prior to her death, Ronald and Norma Hale claimed when purportedly transferring the copyright to the Covenant Children’s Trust that the killer’s journals and other materials “constitute copyrighted works and/or confidential information.”

Judge Myles cited this purported copyright ownership in her ruling, where the judge wrote, “materials created by [Audrey] Hale are exempted from disclosure based on the federal Copyright Act.”

The judge additionally claimed that other documents related to the Covenant case, which were not authored by Audrey Hale, should not be released until Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) finishes its investigation.

Michael Patrick Leahy, who is the editor-in-chief of The Star and the CEO of Star News Digital Media, Inc. (SNDM), was a plaintiff in the lawsuit. After Judge Myles’ decision, he immediately confirmed he and SNDM will “absolutely appeal” the ruling.

Leahy stated that Judge Myles “erroneously accepted a dubious copyright claim made by intervenors who should not have been allowed to intervene in this case in the first place.” Leahy added, “The judge’s ruling is clearly not in the public interest and is a subversion of the intent of the Tennessee Public Records Act.”

Both Leahy and SNDM remain plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against the FBI, which similarly seeks the release of Audrey Hale’s writings, including those sometimes called a manifesto.

Last month, The Star published a memo sent by the FBI to MNPD Chief John Drake in May 2023, which “strongly” advised against releasing “legacy tokens” from killers like Audrey Hale. An FBI definition seems to suggest both the writings obtained by The Star and those sought in the lawsuits are considered unfit for public release by the federal agency.

While the FBI declined to confirm it sent the memo in a statement to The Star, the agency confirmed it sends such “products” to local law enforcement.

Since obtaining the killer’s journal and a tranche of police documents, The Star has published more than 60 articles that reveal Audrey Hale’s own words or provide new details about the Covenant investigation, including the fact that Audrey Hale was a 22-year mental health patient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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Tom Pappert is the lead reporter for The Tennessee Star, and also reports for The Pennsylvania Daily Star and The Arizona Sun Times. Follow Tom on X/Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Audrey Elizabeth Hale” by Nossi School of Fine Art. Background Photo “Bedroom” by Lisa Fotios.



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