Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marie Hilley

The Awful Truth

In August Carol was admitted to Regional Medical Center in Anniston for the fourth time since April. Dr. Warren Sarrell was baffled and concerned, and he suggested to Marie that she should take Carol to Birmingham to see Dr. John Elmore, a psychiatrist. Upon Carol's release from RMC, Marie did just that, telling the doctor that Carol was despondent and had said several times that she wanted to die. On Dr. Elmore's recommendation, Carol was admitted to the psychiatric ward at Carraway Methodist Hospital in Birmingham.

Carol, confined to the hospital, could not know that her mother was rapidly becoming entangled in her own web of lies and misdeeds. The checks Marie had written for the furniture for Carol's apartment had bounced, as had many others, including some written for premiums on the policy on Carol's life. The bank filed charges, and Marie was arrested, and then released on bail. In Florida, Mike Hilley was slowly coming to the conclusion that his father had not died of natural causes. He placed a call to the Calhoun County coroner asking about he possibility of an exhumation, and was told that he would need lots of solid evidence for one to take place.

But it was Eve Cole who sounded the final alarm. Eve was Carol's friend from church, and she had been present at Carol's apartment one night during the summer when Marie had given Carol an injection. When she called Carol at Carraway Methodist, Carol mentioned offhandedly that Marie had given her more injections during her hospitalization. Concerned, Eve told Carol's Aunt Freeda, who called Mike Hilley, who in turn called his sister to find out the truth. Yes, she told him, Marie had given her shots. Mike then called Dr. John Elmore, who, although he didn't believe Marie was poisoning Carol, though she was part of the overall problem. He asked Marie not to visit Carol for a while.

Marie became frantic. The day after Dr. Elmore told her of his wishes, she removed Carol from Carraway Methodist, saying she was taking her daughter to the Mayo Clinic or to Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans. Carol had been at Carraway Methodist for three weeks, she said, and hadn't improved. She was taking her where she could get better care. Mother and daughter spent that night at a motel, and the next day Carol was admitted to University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham. Dr. Brian Thompson was assigned to her case.

On September 20, 1979, Marie was arrested again on more check charges and the rest of Carol's family took the opportunity to reveal their suspicions to Carol's doctor. Though the story was fantastic, Dr. Thompson took it seriously. He checked Carol's fingernails and toenails for Aldridge-Mees lines, white deposits clearly visible in the nails of those who've been dosed with arsenic. The lines appeared on every nail. Dr. Thompson felt sure that further tests would reveal that Carol Hilley was loaded with arsenic, and had been so for a long time.

Upon hearing his sister's diagnosis, Mike Hilley wrote a long letter to Ralph Phillips, the Calhoun County Coroner. He recounted his father's rapid decline and death, Lucille Frazier's death, Marie's various checking and banking troubles, and Carol's illness. His mother was mentally ill, he asserted, and he wanted to help her. Marie, still in jail on check charges, was now officially under suspicion of murder and attempted murder.

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