Man not guilty of murder in rural Vallejo
A Solano County Superior Court jury Feb. 1 found a 51-yearold Richmond man not guilty of second-degree murder for killing a woman in rural Vallejo in June 2020.
Immediately after the mid-afternoon verdict, which came after a three-week trial in Department 2 in Vallejo, Judge Daniel Healy ordered Kenneth Travaille Hill released from Solano County Jail custody, “pending other holds,” according to trial records.
A search of Solano County Jail records Monday confirmed that Hill was no longer in the Stanton Correctional Facility in Fairfield, where he had been held since shortly after his arrest June 29, 2020, nine days after Symphony Monk, 33, was found dead.
In a text Monday to The Reporter, Hill's defense attorney, Dionne E. Choyce of Fairfield, said he believed the “biggest reason” jurors found his client not guilty of second-degree murder was the lack of a motive to kill Monk.
Choyce also said jurors heard testimony that showed “a sloppy murder investigation by the lead detective who relied solely on my client's interrogation statement,” adding that Hill, at the time of that interview, “had been up for 24 hours without eating or sleeping.”
Hill was alleged to have shot and killed Monk on June 20, 2020, in an unincorporated area of Vallejo. At an Oct. 30, 2020, held-to-answer arraignment, he entered a not-guilty plea.
The case against Hill was formerly led by Deputy District Attorney Melainee Collins, but it was later assumed by Deputy District Attorneys Barry Taira and Renee Haase.
Court documents indicate Taira intended to prove Hill went on a date with Monk, and was followed in a vehicle by Hill's girlfriend, Latoya Jones, who believed Hill was cheating on her and argued with him. She then turned her ire on Monk and got into a scuffle.
After the scuffle, Hill drove Monk home, where the date ended with rancor. They argued and got into “physical trouble,” according to Taira. Monk, he told jurors, pulled out some pepper spray, infuriating Hill, who pulled out a gun and fired one shot at Monk, the bullet entering her head.
Hill left the area, traveling to Fresno and then to Las Vegas. According to the evidence Taira introduced, Hill's Bluetooth adapter was found in Monk's driveway and Hill's earring was found just inches from her body.
Additionally, evidence showed that Hill's DNA was found under all 10 of Monk's fingernails, but there also was some DNA from Jones found under Monk's fingernails, which were clipped during the autopsy, according to court records.
In his text to The Reporter, Choyce said the jury “was on the fence” about who committed the murder, and jurors “surely struggled with the thought” that Hill intended to kill Monk “under a second-degree theory.”
Under California homicide laws, second-degree murder is
the unlawful killing of a human being that is done without deliberation and premeditations, but with malice aforethought.
Choyce said Jones, who admitted to following Monk and Hill in her car, also was arrested after the killing but was released from custody. Jones died four months after Hill's arrest, he noted.
The Solano County District Attorney's Office filed its criminal complaint against Hill on July 1, 2020. In a press release issued at the time, District Attorney Krishna Abrams indicated that Hill was charged with first-degree murder.
The prepared statement also noted that, on June 20, 2020, Solano County Sheriff's deputies responded to a residence in the area outside of Vallejo city limits, in the 1100 block of Benicia Road, after receiving calls about a dead woman there.
Upon arrival, the deputies found Monk, who had suffered a gunshot wound to her head and died.
Sheriff's detectives Charles Olmstead and Dylan Friend were able to compile data from license plate readers and cell phone providers, which led them to identify Hill as Monk's alleged shooter. Hill was arrested in Richmond and charged with Monk's murder.
Until the verdict, Hill had remained in the Stanton Correctional Facility on $750,000 bail. Had he been found guilty, he faced 15 years to life in state prison and likely more time for use of a firearm and any prior felony convictions.