Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marie Hilley

Unexpected Ending

John Homan had relocated to Anniston, and he and Marie spent the weekend in a hotel room there. On Sunday morning she told John that she wanted to visit her parents' graves and would meet him at 10:00 a.m. at a local restaurant. She wasn't there. Returning to the hotel room, John found a note. "I hope you will be able to forgive me," it read. "I'm getting ready to leave. It will be best for everybody. We'll be together again. Please give me an hour to get out of town." Marie wrote that a man named Walter was taking her out of town and that she would fly to Canada and contact John later. John called the sheriff. Given Marie's history, authorities assumed she had a well-crafted plan of escape and had left the state quickly. No one expected what happened next.

It was rainy and cold on February 26 when police were called to a house near Blue Mountain. A strange, delirious woman was on Sue Craft's porch and she needed help. She said her name was Sellers and that her car had broken down. She was suffering from hypothermia. Sue Craft did not recognize the woman as Marie Hilley, though she had known Marie years before. Within a few minutes Marie lost consciousness and began convulsing, and her heart stopped in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. No one knew how long she'd been wandering, but her body temperature had fallen to 81 degrees. Marie Hilley, who had always aspired to wealth and position, died an ugly, lonely death very near her childhood home. On February 28, 1987 Marie Hilley's children buried her beside Frank Hilley, the husband she'd murdered.

In Anniston, the speculation continues to this day—was there indeed someone who had agreed to help Marie escape, only to back out at the last minute? If so, who was it, and why did he suddenly back out of the plan? Where was Marie for the four days she was missing? Mostly, though, they wonder what drove Marie Hilley to do the things she did. Who was Marie Hilley? No one knows for sure.

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