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For week ended February 13, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS RM Faces Death Penalty in South Carolina
Columbia SC The State 12Feb00 D2
By Jennifer Holland: Associated Press

AIKEN, SOUTH CAROLINA -- Former LDS Missionary David Mark Hill has been convicted of Murder and now faces prosecutor's attempt to give him the death penalty. Hill killed three workers at a South Carolina Department of Social Services office in 1996 after a case worker moved to take away one of his children for abuse.

As reported in Mormon-News last October, [See] Hill's tragic case has gained notoriety throughout the state and prosecutors told the public early that they would seek the death penalty in Hill's case. His defense attorneys didn't fight very strongly against Hill's conviction for Murder because of the overwhelming evidence, but they are fighting the death penalty.

In testimony at the sentencing hearing, which began Thursday, February 10th, Hill's attorney's walked the jury through the few tragic months before Hill's September 16, 1996 shooting spree. They said that Hill was a caring father who had become depressed and subject to panic attacks after his toddler daughter was crippled in a 1995 car accident.

Hill's wife, Jacqueline, told the jury how he was, "He was just withdrawn. He didn't want to leave the house, he didn't want to be around people, he didn't want to be around his children, he didn't want to be around me." Following the accident that injured his daughter, the local LDS Church helped pay the family's bills, and a North Augusta Baptist Church helped with housekeeping and child care.

But Hill tried to keep the world out, barring his wife from seeing friends and locking her in the house. "It was a tug of war," Jacqueline Hill said. "There was always a disagreement on his side." The nurses taking care of their handicapped daughter became afraid of him, and asked that he not be home when they came to care for the child. And Jacqueline started hiding the bullets for the two guns in the house.

Hill got counseling, but overdosed twice on antidepressants and muscle relaxers. Then the Department of Social Services checked on a report of abuse, which Jacqueline denied. But later that month, after social workers and Jacqueline tried to get him to move out, Hill barricaded himself in the house with a shotgun in a third suicide attempt. He spent several days in a mental hospital, and was ordered to stay away from his family.

The stress was too much on Jacqueline also, who began using prescription drugs as a way to cope. On September 11, 1996, she was arrested for driving under the influence (of the prescription drugs) and the Department of Social Services then stepped in and took custody of their handicapped daughter. Jacqueline then took the couple's twin sons to her mother's home and checked into a rehabilitation hospital. On September 16th, she called her husband and asked for a divorce.

The divorce evidently pushed Hill over the edge. He called his social worker, James Riddle, and then went to the Department with a gun. He shot and killed Riddle, 52; Josie Curry, 33; and Michael Gregory, 30. He then went out onto nearby railroad tracks, where he shot himself in the head. Police found him the next day.

The gunshot wound took out a portion of Hill's brain, but he survived. "There's no brain here. It's supposed to look like that," Dr. Jonathan Pincus, a behavioral neurologist told the court, comparing pictures of a healthy brain with the area where a bullet ripped through Hill's head. He testified that Hill's injuries were similar to a frontal lobotomy.

"He seems to be extremely placid. I would be in a state of high anxiety." Pincus told the court that the injuries robbed Hill of his ability to distinguish right from wrong. "He could still be a killer?" prosecutor Barbara Morgan asked. "He could be," Pincus said.


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