LITTLETON — Covered in blood, murder victim Catherine Houghton was on her feet and talking when police arrived to investigate a report of an attack at the Hampton Inn, according to case records just unsealed.
"Kitty" Houghton, a 70-year-old multilingual veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who had long-standing ties to New Hampshire's North Country, was able to tell police in a calm manner that she had been attacked from behind by someone she didn't know. She said she wasn't sure if she had been stabbed, but was starting to feel dizzy and nauseated.
The Vermont man charged with her killing told police that night that he was the "son of Lucifer" and stabbed Houghton to death because he believed she was the devil in disguise and was out to ruin his family.
Police arrived at the Hampton Inn to find an agitated man they later identified as Hill behaving erratically, "including raising his arms and yelling something unintelligible," and running barefoot across the snow-covered parking lot, according to court records.
A short while after Houghton spoke to police in the third-floor hallway where she went following the attack, Houghton was taken to Littleton Region Hospital where doctors were unable to save her. She died that night, Jan. 28, from what an autopsy the following day would show was a large stab wound to her neck.
Police arrested the man — who was also a hotel guest — at the scene. They charged Rodney Hill, 37, of West Danville, Vt., with second-degree murder.
Hill is undergoing a psychological evaluation to determine whether he is competent to stand trial, Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell, the prosecutor, said Wednesday.
On the night of the killing, Hill also said, "the woman in the inn," whom he didn't know, was the only person he had ever hurt. But he acknowledged to investigators that "she was innocent."
Houghton was a resident of California's San Francisco Bay area who was staying in Littleton. She was in the North Country to fulfill her duties as a trustee of The Mountain School in nearby Bethlehem. As a teenager, the music-loving Houghton was a 1960 graduate of the private boarding school when it was known as St.-Mary's-in-the-Mountains. Later, her life took her around the globe, including a stint with the Peace Corps in Nepal.
Records tell a grim story
Four months after her killing, Littleton District Court Judge John P. Cyr has unsealed the court records. They offer a grim account of Houghton's final evening, including testimony from a hotel clerk who said she witnessed the bloody attack, then saw Hill throw the knife across the lobby before running out of the hotel.
Hill was in custody in a Littleton cruiser the night of the killing and, according to the records, was talking freely to police.
He said that his father, the devil, was out to get him and was in disguise. Hill told police he had been in the lobby earlier where he attacked and stabbed "a person with gray hair near the coffee stand."
He said he attacked her because he "thought she was the devil," according to a sworn affidavit by New Hampshire State Police Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Ladieu of the Major Crime Unit in Concord.
Police say Houghton, after being run at and tackled, was stabbed several times by a man in a blue shirt and pants using what a desk clerk described a "Leatherman-type knife."
'Escaping a divorce'
Hill, a married father of four, has been held without bail since his arrest at the Grafton County House of Corrections in North Haverhill. He told police, according to court records, he had been prescribed Seroquel, an antipsychotic medication approved for use in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, and told a hotel employee he was there for three days "escaping a divorce."
Morrell filed alternative-theory murder charges against Hill that allege he either "knowingly" or "recklessly" caused Houghton's death. She successfully petitioned Judge John P. Cyr in February to seal most of the records in the case, writing that "premature disclosure of the information they contained" ... "could compromise the integrity of the ongoing death investigation by revealing the identities of witnesses and investigative information known only to the authorities."
Morrill on Wednesday would not say specifically if she had presented the murder case to a Grafton County Superior Court grand jury yet. But she said generally, she has no objection to the unsealing of similar court records once that presentation has taken place.
Hill has, so far, made just one 10-minute lower-court appearance before Cyr last Jan. 29 during which he entered no plea. A hearing scheduled for February was continued, and a Littleton District Court spokeswoman said Wednesday that nothing further was scheduled in that court.
According to court records, Hill is represented by attorney Martha Ann Hornick of the New Hampshire Public Defender's Office in Littleton, and attorney Jesse Friedman of that agency's Laconia office.
Hornick did not return a message left for her on Wednesday.