“Murder by omission”
In 1957 Houston plastic surgeon John Robert Hill married Joan Robinson, the daughter of wealthy Texas oilman Ash Robinson. They led separate lives — he was busy with his practice and she was a keen equestrian. However, leading separate lives did not mean that Mrs Hill wanted her husband to share the beds of other ladies. On 3 December 1968 Hill filed for divorce but backed down when his wife contested the petition. However, according to a neighbour, in March 1969 Mrs Hill decided to instigate divorce proceedings.
Two days later, she fell ill and Hill broke a cardinal rule of medical practice by treating his wife himself. After some time at home he had her admitted to a hospital, in which he had a financial interest, where she died on 19 March of heart failure, aged 38. Her funeral was arranged without cause of death being properly established. Ash Robinson was unhappy and publicly accused Hill of allowing his daughter to die. In June 1969 Hill married divorcée and long-time lover Ann Kurth. Mr Robinson hired private detectives to follow him and badgered the district attorney to launch a murder case. Hill’s response was to issue suit for libel and slander. Two grand juries were assembled and failed to indict Hill but in April 1970 a third did, charging him with “murder by omission”.
Nine months after they married, Hill dumped the second Mrs Hill and she took revenge by claiming that he had admitted killing Joan Hill. The trial opened on 15 February 1971 at Houston before Judge Frederick Hooey. It collapsed on 26 February when Ann Kurth claimed that Hill had tried to inject her with a syringe and a mistrial was declared.
Sharpstown General Hospital, 6700 Bellaire Boulevard, Houston, Texas, USA
Wednesday 19 March 1969
As the state decided whether to pursue Hill, fate took a hand. A retrial was set for November 1972. Hill was not to see the court. He had married for a third time but on 24 September 1972 a masked gunman shot Hill dead in his home in the exclusive Houston suburb of River Oaks. The gunman was later identified as Bobby Vandiver who was paid $5,000 for the killing. Vandiver alleged that Ash Robinson had hired him but before the truth could be ascertained, Vandiver was shot dead by a policeman while trying to escape. Mr Robinson denied any knowledge of Vandiver’s accusations and when Hill’s surviving wife, Connie, and son, Robert, launched a civil suit against him in 1977 for Hill’s death it was thrown out of court. Mr Robinson died in 1985.