Born: 4 June 1933
Died: 26 February 1987
Active: 1975 to 1979
Location: United States of America
Method of Disposal: Arsenic Poisoning
Consequence: Life Imprisonment (plus 20 years)
- Frank Hilley (first husband)
- Lucille Frazier (mother)
- Carrie Hilley (mother-in-law)
- Mike Hilley (son)
- Carol Hilley (daughter)
Marie loved shopping. She had been brought up by parents who both worked long hours and they saw new clothes, toys and other niceties as a suitable replacement for hugs and boundaries. She grew up believing that shopping solved everything.
Luckily her parents also thought their little girl was special enough to receive the best education. There would be no manual or factory labour for her. Marie spent her high school years amongst the financially and socially privileged girls in Anniston, Alabama, and after graduation looked towards a cushy secretarial job. And of course she had Frank Hilley, her high school sweetheart. The couple were so keen on each other that they married before Marie had even finished high school. Soon there were two children, Mike and Carol, to complete their perfect family.
All the while, Marie maintained her spending habits. It may have bothered Frank that Marie’s spending seemed to always leave them with little money at the end of the week, but he never said anything to her. Whatever made her happy couldn’t be that bad. Even when the banks and credit unions started taking legal action, Frank indulged her. He had no reason to complain, because Marie always made sure she was by his side when he needed her. Especially when he got sick, which was happening on a regular basis lately.
However, he couldn’t look the other way when he came home from work sick one day, and caught Marie in bed with her boss. Marie knew this time she couldn’t buy her way out of her problems. She knew Frank wouldn’t stay with her after this. Oh, everything was suddenly such a mess!
It certainly seemed like the marriage was unlikely to last. Until Frank’s illness began to get a hold of him, and within a short while he was bedridden. As she had done countless times before, Marie dropped whatever she was doing and stayed by his side. She knew he had to keep his strength up, and argued with him when he told her he was too sick to eat.
Mike, now living away from home, travelled back to the family home to help his mother and sister care for Frank. He knew about his mother’s infidelity, but seeing how she fussed over him made him hopeful for a reconciliation. However, all their efforts were in vain; his liver finally gave out in late May 1974. His death was attributed to hepatitis.
Frank was gone, and so was the income he brought into the home. The $31,000 life insurance policy that Marie had fortuitously arranged not long before his death would not last long, not once Marie paid the insurance and other costs associated with her new car. There was also the car for Carol, the diamond ring for her mother Lucille and the new niceties for Mike and his wife Teri.
Soon after Frank died, Lucille was diagnosed with cancer. Marie moved her mother into her home, and also invited Mike and Teri to stay, since Mike had a new job closer to home and needed somewhere to stay while they found a new home. Suddenly Marie’s home was full of family again. She couldn’t have been happier. This is how it should always be.
That’s when a mysterious fire bug attached him or herself to those close to the family. First Marie’s home was gutted, just one day before Mike and Teri were due to move into their new home. This forced Marie and her mother and daughter to move into Mike’s new apartment with him while Marie’s home was rebuilt. The fire bug then struck at Mike’s next door neighbour’s house which damaged Mike’s own home, rendering it unliveable and forcing Mike and Teri to move with Lucille back to Marie’s home. It was so lucky that Marie’s home had been fixed just in time.
Lucille, whose cancer had progressed significantly during this time, quickly worsened and she died. Soon after, Mike and Teri found a new home and moved to Florida. The fire bug persisted though. This all became too much for Marie, who was once again forced to moved in with Mike and Teri for a few months while things settled down.
However, her welcome was beginning to wear a little thin this time. She was constantly fighting with Carol, who insisted on having her own personality. Mike had a new baby, and the disharmony was not helping Teri cope as a new mum. Not only that, but Marie had run up a large bill under Mike’s name and the debt collector’s were now calling him for the money. He tried to talk to her about it, but she refused to pay him back. That day he came down with one of the most severe stomach spasms he’d ever experienced. He could only remember one other time he’d felt so sick; when he was 18 years old, he’d made plans to leave home for college, and had struggled through the same illness from which he now suffered. Both times the pain went away eventually, but there seemed no explanation for it.
Meanwhile Marie had been shopping again…for insurance. Just in case something awful happened to Mike or Carol.
She found she may need the insurance where Carol was concerned. The girl had become a hypochondriac, complaining every day about small tummy aches and such. It was no surprise though. Carol was now nineteen and she was going out a lot. Of course she would get ill, with the drinking and everything.
She was soon admitted to a psychiatric ward, the doctors clearly of the belief that if they couldn’t find a reason for the illness it was either psychosomatic or she was doing it for attention. Others, however, had begun to believe there was something worse going on. Carol’s friend Eve had seen Carol’s mother give Carol some injections. She reported this to Mike, who had been having his own issues with the details surrounding his father’s death. He had only his suspicions, but when Eve spoke to him, they went straight to the doctor. The doctor attempted to keep Marie away from her daughter. In response, Marie promptly moved her daughter to another hospital and into the care of another doctor, saying Carol wasn’t getting better where she was anyway.
Had Marie’s bad financial decisions not caught up with her, things may have turned out quite badly for the girl. As it turned out, the authorities needed to speak with her regarding some ‘irregular’ transactions, and the family took the opportunity to bail up Carol’s new doctor with their concerns. Since Marie was no longer able to whisk her daughter away, this doctor was able to see the obvious signs of arsenic poisoning. And with Frank’s death and the sudden passing of Lucille, the authorities were finally notified.
Exhumations followed, with arsenic found in the bodies of both Frank and Lucille. Marie was arrested and charged with both their murders, as well as the attempted murder of her daughter, after containers at her home contained large amounts of the poison. At around the same that her mother-in-law Carrie also died of cancer, and tests of her hair also showed traces of arsenic. A fourth poisoning victim.
Marie posted bail…and naturally made herself scarce. She would not turn up again for another 4 years.
During her time in hiding, Marie did not rest. She changed her name to Robbi Hannon. Her new identity was no less dramatic than her last had been; apparently Robbi was wealthy but both her children had been tragically killed in a car accident and she herself was dying of a rare illness. She spoke often of her twin sister Teri. She started a relationship with a local boat builder called John Homan, but soon after moving in with him her condition worsened and she travelled to Texas for treatment. John heard nothing more from Robbi, until her twin sister Teri arrived on his doorstep and advised him that Robbi had died. In truth, Robbi and Teri were both alter egos of Marie’s own imagination. There didn’t seem to be a reason for the elaborate set up, although it was clear that even figments of Marie’s imagination were not immune to her murderous ideals.
Her new life was uncovered when Robbi’s grieving work colleagues tried to pay their respects but found to their surprise that the hospital, the obituary, everything was fiction. When police interviewed Teri in relation to the discrepancy, they realised they had stumbled upon the elusive Marie Hilley. Again bail was set; somewhat unsurprisingly no one was generous in putting up the funds this time.
Marie was found guilty of the murder of Frank and attempted murder of Carol (the lawyers were obviously successful in arguing that Lucille and Carrie’s deaths could not be considered murder because the cancer got to them first). She was sentenced to life plus 20 years, and was transported to a Alabama women’s prison to begin her sentence.
After four years Marie was eligible for a weekend release as a minimum security prisoner (it’s assumed that this is a privilege afforded to all convicted murderers in Alabama). She spent the first of those three night in the arms of her lover John, before slipping away the next morning. The police assumed she had once again dreamed up a scheme and was half way across the country.
Nope. She wandered aimlessly for four days in the cold, before contracting hypothermia and collapsing at the front doorstep of a high school friend. Some wonder whether there was a second person who had originally agreed to help her but reneged at the last minute. Maybe it was her mysterious fire bug. He or she would have been darned useful to her at that point.