Hard­ing Street mur­der case goes to jury

De­lib­er­a­tions in Hill trial set to re­sume Fri­day morn­ing

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

PETERS­BURG – The fate of Alexan­der Hill Jr. was placed in the hands of 10 women and two men on Thurs­day af­ter nearly a week of some­times gut-wrench­ing tes­ti­mony on mul­ti­ple charges of mur­der in con­nec­tion with the deaths of three women and a child in 2014.

The Peters­burg Cir­cuit Court jury hear­ing the case went home af­ter about three hours of de­lib­er­a­tions and was sched­uled to re­sume on Fri­day morn­ing.

Be­fore Judge Joseph M. Teefey Jr. gave the jury their in­struc­tions and sent them out to de­lib­er­ate, he heard Hill’s for­mal waiver of his right to tes­tify in his own de­fense. Hill an­swered each of Teefey’s ques­tions with an al­most in­audi­ble “Yes.”

The pros­e­cu­tion had rested its case on Wed­nes­day, and the de­fense rested on Thurs­day af­ter call­ing just one wit­ness, Din­wid­die County Sher­iff’s Of­fice Deputy Dale Eich­ler, who was the Peters­burg Bureau of Po­lice’s foren­sic de­tec­tive at the time of the quadru­ple mur­ders at 721 Hard­ing Street that Hill is ac­cused of com­mit­ting.

Early in the morn­ing of Easter Sun­day, April 19, 2014, 67-year-old Pauline Wilkins and 46-year-old Vicki Ansar were fa­tally stabbed and 22-year-old Tanique Chavis and her son, 2-year-old Del­vari Chavis, died in a house fire Hill is ac­cused of set­ting.

John Rock­echar­lie of the Rich­mond law firm Air­ing­ton An­draos & Rock­echar­lie, who is rep­re­sent­ing Hill along with Dou­glas A. Ram­seur of the Cap­i­tal De­fender’s of­fice in Rich­mond, asked Eich­ler a brief se­ries of ques­tions about what time he ar­rived on the scene of the mur­ders and what in­ter­ac­tion he had with De­tec­tive Roo­sevelt Har­ris, who was in charge of col­lect­ing and pre­serv­ing ev­i­dence.

Fol­low­ing Eich­ler’s ap­pear­ance, Com­mon­wealth’s At­tor­ney Ch­eryl Wil­son pre­sented the pros­e­cu­tion’s clos­ing ar­gu­ment. She re­minded ju­rors about the tes­ti­mony of Hill’s for­mer girl­friend, Vi­vian Chavis, who told the court on Tues­day that Hill had called her re­peat­edly with threats to kill her and her fam­ily af­ter their breakup in 2013.

Chavis – who is Wilkins’ daugh­ter, Ansar’s sis­ter, Tanique Chavis’ aunt and Del­vari Chavis’ greataunt – ob­tained two pro­tec­tive or­ders against Hill, the sec­ond of them just over a week be­fore the slay­ings.

Wil­son noted that Vi­vian Chavis told the po­lice about Hill’s threats just a cou­ple of hours af­ter the mur­ders.

“They put the de­fen­dant [Hill] on their radar,” Wil­son said.

But be­fore the po­lice could is­sue a bul­letin, Hill was al­ready on the run, Wil­son said.

She re­minded the jury about tes­ti­mony from three wit­nesses who had iden­ti­fied Hill as the hazel-eyed man reek­ing of gaso­line or kerosene that they en­coun­tered as he trav­eled from Peters­burg to Rocky Mount, N.C., in the early morn­ing hours of April 20, 2014.

Ac­cord­ing to Wil­son, Hill had formed and ex­e­cuted a grim plan to kill ev­ery­one in the Hard­ing Street house, and made sure the killing was

com­plete by set­ting fires in­side both the front and back doors of the house to pre­vent any­one from es­cap­ing.

In Hill’s de­fense, Ram­seur ar­gued that he “is in­no­cent in this case” and a vic­tim of hos­tile po­lice of­fi­cers who fab­ri­cated or ma­nip­u­lated ev­i­dence to try to pin the crimes on Hill.

Ram­seur sought to cast doubt on key ev­i­dence in the case – a cell phone be­long­ing to Hill that was found in the back yard of the Hard­ing Street house, the sto­ries told by the North Carolina wit­nesses, and DNA anal­y­sis that showed Hill’s blood on a knife found at the scene and a T-shirt re­trieved from an aban­doned house next door to his motherin-law’s home.

The case, he said, was “noth­ing but a witch hunt led by Vi­vian Chavis.”

A record­ing of the 911 call made by Tanique Chavis at the time of the killings, Ram­seur ar­gued, proved that Hill couldn’t have been the killer, be­cause she knew Hill but said dur­ing the call that she didn’t know the at­tacker.

In the pros­e­cu­tion’s re­but­tal, Wil­son re­played the 911 call. On the record­ing, Tanique Chavis spoke in whis­pers, and some of what she said was in­audi­ble.

At one point, the 911 oper­a­tor asked if she knew what the as­sailant was wear­ing and she an­swered, “No.”

The tape ended with the sound of scream­ing. Some of the mem­bers of the vic­tims’ fam­ily who were present wept openly, and a cou­ple of them left the court­room.

Wil­son called Ram­seur’s ar­gu­ment “spec­u­la­tion” and said there was no ev­i­dence to sup­port it.

“It’s easy to point blame ev­ery­where when no facts are there,” she said. “We gave you facts.”

Hill faces a pos­si­ble max­i­mum sen­tence of life in prison if con­victed on the most se­ri­ous charges against him, mul­ti­ple counts of cap­i­tal mur­der. He also faces charges of ar­son, vi­o­lat­ing a pro­tec­tive or­der and fail­ure to ap­pear in court.

Hill Jr.

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