An attack that left a 91-year-old woman dead and her grandson wounded was no sudden quarrel but instead was the result of a months-long plan to kidnap a 2-year-old girl who was the subject of a bitter custody battle, a prosecutor said today.
In his closing argument in the trial of Rosa Hill, 36, and her mother, 57-year-old Mei Li, of Antioch, prosecutor Casey Bates said Rosa Hill’s claim that she went to the Dublin home of Selma Hill, her husband’s grandmother, on Jan. 7, 2009, to talk about her concerns about the custody arrangement for the couple’s daughter was “farcical and absurd.” Bates said, “There was no discussion and no effort to talk about the custody of the child.”
Instead, Bates alleged that Rosa Hill and Li had plotted for up to nine months to kill Selma Hill and Eric Hill, who was Rosa’s husband, and kidnap the couple’s daughter. He said notes later recovered by police showed that Rosa Hill and Li called their plan “Operation Custody” and purchased a cache of weapons worthy of a small army, including guns, stun guns, a sword, a hammer tool, a crossbow, a throat cutter, a knife and a baton. In addition, Bates said that when police investigated a computer that Rosa Hill and her mother used, they discovered that the two women had conducted Internet searches on how to get away with murder and how to strangle someone as well as on using deadly substances such as arsenic, cyanide, strychnine, mustard gas and ammonia.
Hill and her mother also bought camouflage and multiple gloves, masks and wigs, he said. “It speaks to the absurdity of this case,” Bates said. “Every contingency is considered.” Eric Hill had sole legal custody and 85 percent physical custody of the couple’s daughter and lived with her at his grandmother’s house in the 7700 block of Peppertree Road in Dublin.
Rosa Hill testified last week that she thought she should have had custody of her daughter because she thinks her husband was molesting the girl and she was frustrated because she did not think the family court system was taking her concerns seriously.
However, Eric Hill has denied that he ever molested his daughter, and Bates said today that family court officials would not have given have custody if they believed Rosa Hill’s allegations. Rosa Hill’s lawyer, Bonnie Narby, who will give her closing argument on Monday, said at the beginning of the lengthy trial on April 13 that she does not think the alleged attack was a murder because Rosa Hill never intended to kill Eric Hill or his grandmother.
Instead, Narby said she thinks Rosa Hill acted in the heat of passion because she was overwhelmed by the custody battle over the couple’s daughter and their divorce proceedings, which were finalized later. Rosa Hill admitted that she killed Selma Hill but said it was an accident and that she acted in self-defense after the 91-year-old woman picked up a knife.
Li’s attorney, Barbara Thomas, who also will give her closing argument on Monday, said in her opening statement that Li should not be convicted of murder because Selma Hill was already dead by the time Li arrived at her house. Thomas said Li came to Selma Hill’s house because her daughter said she needed help. But Bates said Li was an active participant in the attack, telling jurors, “These two women were in league together and had a plan together.” He said, “They went to that house to kill because they were obsessed, they felt they were wronged and they felt the need for revenge.”
Bates said Selma Hill died from strangulation. He alleged that Rosa Hill first inflicted 23 wounds on Selma Hill, some of which came from a Taser, and then strangled her for between three and five minutes. Bates alleged that Rosa Hill and her mother later wrapped Selma Hill in plastic bags, dragged her body out of the house and dumped it face down in a garbage can in a locked storage shed, which is where authorities eventually found her.
Rosa Hill and Li are both charged with murder and attempted murder, and Li is also charged with burglary for allegedly entering Selma Hill’s home. Rosa Hill faces a term of 44 years to life in state prison if she is convicted of all the charges against her, and Li faces 38 years to life.
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