Murder suspect goes free
The first-degree trial of Timothy Hill of Minerva, held before Supreme Court Justice Henry T. Kellogg in Elizabethtown, was concluded May 9, 1912, when the jury, after deliberating on the evidence for three hours, brought in a verdict of Not Guilty.
Hill was accused of causing the death of Mrs. Maurice Loveland of Minerva, his live-in girlfriend, on Aug. 10, 1911 by giving her a dose of strychnine. It was alleged by the prosecution that he forced the poison down the woman’s throat by holding her powerless in his arms, where she died. The defense contends that she drank the poison of her own free will and than threw the empty bottle into the stove, where it was later found.
No less than 100 potential jurors had originally been called and nearly 50 witnesses were examined, 25 of which were called by the prosecution during the trial.
The fact that the woman’s death was caused by the strychnine was clearly established by the contents of the woman’s stomach which was analyzed in Albany and also by the testimony of several physicians and this fact was not disputed by the defense. It was also proved that Hill had a bottle of the poison in his possession before the death of Mrs. Loveland and that he was with her when she died. The defense maintained that the woman obtained the poison without Hill’s knowledge and took her own life.
The defense called Mrs. Emeline O’Donnell, 87, who had to be assisted to the witness stand. She stated that she had melted two cups of lard for Mrs. Loveland and that Hill had poured them into the sick woman’s mouth to try to counteract the effects of the deadly dose.
The general public opinion at the time was that Anna Loveland death exemplified the scriptural warning that “the wages of sin is death.” The woman had a husband and four children, whom she left to live with Hill, a man of notoriously bad character. By the testimony of her own son, a 16-year-old boy on the witness stand at Hill’s trial, it was clearly shown that she had a fondness for strong drink and had caused much unhappiness in her family by over-indulging her appetite for it.
For two or three months before her death, Loveland lived with Hill openly at the Minerva home of William O’Donnell, who was a material witness at the trial. It is believed that she had an inclination to return to her family and the couple quarreled frequently. It was said that Hill had intimated several times that he would kill her if she left him. He was insanely jealous and this, the prosecution claimed, was the motive for the alleged crime.
O. Byron Brewster, Council, a young barrister, in summing up, made a stirring, forceful plea for his client. Judge Henry T. Kellogg gave a strictly impartial charge to the jury, submitting for their decision the one question of whether the death of Anna Loveland was brought about by her own hand or by the hand of Hill. Although there was a strong chain of circumstantial evidence against the accused man, no direct evidence had been produced by the prosecution. The accused man did not go on the stand in his own behalf. The jury evidently gave him the benefit of the doubt as they were bound to do. Hill betrayed little or no emotion when the jury gave its not guilty verdict, having been confident of acquittal throughout the trial.
Tim Hill’s early life
Timothy Hill was formerly a resident of Horicon and a heavy drinker who had for many years borne a bad reputation. People had a tendency to be afraid and to shy away from him. There was a persistent rumor that he had killed his wife during an argument when he hit her with a flat iron.
His many previous crimes were brought up at trial by former District Attorney Charles R. Patterson of Glens Falls. On Oct. 1, 1878 Hill first ran afoul of the law when he and George “Put” Hays stole two horses, worth $150, with “force and arms” from Jared Hays. Tim spent three months at the penitentiary in Albany for the crime.
On Sept. 10, 1886 he “feloniously and wickedly by force” stole a silver watch worth $25 from Washington Durkee.
Hill was arrested as a suspect in the June 14, 1897 murder of Amasa Mead, 70, of Chestertown, who was shot and killed in Mead’s home on a lonely road outside the village. The man was described as “a peaceable old man” who was on his knees in prayer in his kitchen when the murderer fired a shot gun through a window and Mead was found dead kneeling in front of a chair. Nearly the whole charge of small buckshot, which had been fired using wallpaper for wadding, had entered his body and three of the slugs had entered his heart. The wall paper was of the same pattern, bearing the same stock number, as the paper in one of the rooms where Hill boarded.
Tim Hill was brought to trial but the Grand Jury failed to find an indictment against him. One newspaper at the time said that the cruel murder of Amasa Mead was one of the greatest unsolved mysteries ever in northern New York.
Eleven years later, on March 8, 1908, in a drunken monologue at a Horicon hotel barroom, Hill told several men that his cousin, Jay Hill had borrowed his gun and later confessed to him that he was the one who had shot Mead. Jay Hill was immediately arrested in Warrensburgh and taken to the Warren County Jail to be held there without bail for the Grand Jury.
At the time of the hearing, Tim Hill was having a hard time getting over yet another prolonged drinking spree and was in poor condition to testify against his cousin at the hearing and no definite information could be attained. Jay Hill was not indicted.
After this investigation in 1908, the newspaper said, “The Hills are men about 45 years of age. They are wild fellows and are not held in very high esteem by their fellow townsmen.”
Family lived in turmoil
The family had always experienced much upheaval and drama. There are many stories, some acquired from the National Archives, concerning Hill’s father, Timothy Hill Sr., a huge man, who cut his leg badly with an axe when he was a child. He tried to get a Civil War pension, saying that the old injury resulted from the war. His wife, Catherine McGar Ramsey, died in childbirth around 1872 giving birth to a daughter, Mercy A. Hill (later Raymond) who survived.
For many years Cynthia Brace, the wife of Holden Brace, was Hill’s housekeeper and she sometimes tried to pass herself off as Hill’s wife. He was alleged to have had gonorrhea, some say syphilis, from which he supposedly died April 5, 1885 at the age of 71 years but this columnist never found any written proof of this. He was buried in the Leggett Cemetery, Chestertown.
Around 1907 a son of Timothy Hill was killed at Hague when he engaged in an altercation with two young brothers of that village who conducted a blacksmith shop. The younger Hill’s death resulted from a fall from a wagonload of lumber upon which the victim and the two brothers were fighting. The boys were released after an examination by Judge Kiley, who was then District Attorney.
Readers are welcome to contact Adirondack Journal correspondent Jean Hadden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-2210.