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withdrawn.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
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.