U.S. Mar­shal: Hill cap­tured just min­utes af­ter tip

Ar­rest of Peters­burg man on mur­der charges fol­lowed TV ap­pear­ance

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Buet­tner Staff Writer

PETERS­BURG — A moment in the lime­light proved costly for Alexan­der Hill, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony Wed­nes­day in his trial on mul­ti­ple charges of mur­der.

Hill, who is ac­cused of mur­der­ing four mem­bers of his for­mer girl­friend’s fam­ily on Easter Sun­day, April 19, 2014, ap­peared in a story on TV sta­tion WGRZ in Buf­falo, N.Y., in March 2015 about a lo­cal church that gave home­less peo­ple shel­ter in ex­change for work­ing on a build­ing they were ren­o­vat­ing.

The video, which was shown in court Wed­nes­day, shows Hill wear­ing a hat and glasses and sport­ing a mus­tache and goa­tee. Hill ex­pressed his grat­i­tude for the church pro­gram, while a cap­tion iden­ti­fy­ing him as “Trent Dales, Car­pen­ter” was dis­played on the screen.

De­spite the dis­guise and the alias, some­one who saw the seg­ment rec­og­nized Hill and on April 23, 2015, con­tacted the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice’s Buf­falo of­fice, where the tip was re­layed to Mar­shal Scott Baryza, who heads up the Vi­o­lent Felony Fugi­tive Task Force there. The Mar­shals Ser­vice had re­cently re­cir­cu­lated a poster bear­ing Hill’s photo and de­scrip­tion.

Baryza tes­ti­fied in Peters­burg Cir­cuit Court on Wed­nes­day that he im­me­di­ately con­firmed that “there was an ac­tive case for Mr. Hill.” Within 20 to 30 min­utes, he said, a SWAT team sur­rounded St. Luke’s Mis­sion of Mercy, a home­less shel­ter where Hill had been stay­ing for about three months.

“Im­me­di­ately upon en­try, I en­coun­tered Mr. Hill stand­ing there,” Baryza said. He said he rec­og­nized Hill by his “bright hazel eyes and the bump on his fore­head,” and af­ter hand­cuff­ing him, con­firmed that there was a scar on the sus­pect’s chest.

Baryza said Hill was taken to the city’s cen­tral book­ing fa­cil­ity for pro­cess­ing. Hill “said if they re­moved his hand­cuffs to take fin­ger­prints, he would fight them,” Baryza tes­ti­fied. When they did try to fin­ger­print him, he did re­sist, and they were un­able to ob­tain the prints, Baryza said.

Hill was sub­se­quently trans­ferred to fed­eral cus­tody and was suc­cess­fully fin­ger­printed, but only af­ter Baryza “had to forcibly pry each fin­ger out of the fists he was mak­ing.” He was trans­ported back to Peters­burg on May 5, 2015 and ar­raigned on May 8, 2015, on an ini­tial charge of vi­o­lat­ing a pro­tec­tive or­der.

Ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony on Tues­day, Hill had left Peters­burg by taxi late in the evening of April 19, 2014, about 20 hours af­ter four peo­ple were found dead in a home at 721 Harding Street that had been set afire. The vic­tims were all re­lated to Hill’s for­mer girl­friend, Vi­vian Chavis: Her mother, Pauline Wilkins, 67, and sis­ter, Vicki Chavis-An­sar, 46, died of mul­ti­ple stab wounds, and her niece, Tanique Chavis, 22, and Tanique’s 2-yearold son, Del­vari, died from fire-re­lated in­juries.

On Tues­day, Or­rin Pick­er­ing, a taxi driver for Boule­vard Cab at the time of the slay­ings, de­scribed pick­ing up Hill around 10 p.m. on April 19 and driv­ing him to Wel­don, N.C., near Roanoke Rapids, where he dropped him off at a Waf­fle House res­tau­rant. Pick­er­ing had com­mented on an “aw­ful smell” em­a­nat­ing from Hill, so strong that Pick­er­ing said he had to stop at a rest area on In­ter­state 95 to let his ve­hi­cle air out be­fore re­turn­ing to Peters­burg.

On Wed­nes­day, Kathy Wal­lace, a wait­ress at the Wel­don Waf­fle House, de­scribed her en­counter with Hill that night. She said he asked her if there was a bus or train sta­tion nearby. Wal­lace said she told him there was a bus sta­tion in Em­po­ria, about 20 miles away, but Hill “said he wasn’t go­ing back to Vir­ginia.” She then told him there was a bus sta­tion in Rocky Mount, N.C., but it wouldn’t open for sev­eral more hours.

Wal­lace said Hill wanted to find a ride to Rocky Mount, so she called a friend, Thomas Wal­ton, who worked at a ho­tel near the Waf­fle

House, and Wal­ton agreed to drive Hill to the bus sta­tion for $50.

Wal­lace, who said she knew noth­ing about the mur­ders at the time, later iden­ti­fied Hill from photos shown to her by Peters­burg de­tec­tives. Asked Wed­nes­day by Com­mon­wealth’s At­tor­ney Ch­eryl Wilson what she had no­ticed about him, Wal­lace re­called “his eyes – he had the most un­usual hazel eyes I’ve ever seen. They were re­ally in­tense.”

Wal­ton tes­ti­fied that Hill told him he was try­ing to get to Mis­sis­sippi. He and Wal­lace both com­mented on Hill’s odor – Wal­lace said he “smelled like kerosene” and Wal­ton re­called that he “smelled like he had kerosene or gaso­line on him. He was real stinky.”

Much of Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing was taken up with highly tech­ni­cal tes­ti­mony re­gard­ing DNA test­ing of items of ev­i­dence in­ves­ti­ga­tors had gath­ered from the Harding Street home and an aban­doned house on Fern­dale Av­enue next door to a home where Hill had pre­vi­ously lived. The re­sults were mostly neg­a­tive or in­con­clu­sive, but ex­perts from the Vir­ginia Di­vi­sion of Foren­sic Science said Hill couldn’t be elim­i­nated as the source of blood­stains on a white T-shirt found at the Fern­dale Av­enue house.

The pros­e­cu­tion rested its case late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. Judge Joseph M. Teefey Jr., af­ter a dis­cus­sion with at­tor­neys for both sides, said he plans to hear clos­ing ar­gu­ments Thurs­day af­ter­noon, af­ter which the case will go to the jury.

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