HAVERHILL — The stage appears to be set for a plea agreement in the case of a Vermont man charged in the violent, unprovoked and fatal stabbing attack on a California woman last winter at a Littleton hotel.
Rodney Hill of West Danville, Vt., is charged in Grafton County Superior Court with first- and second-degree murder in the death of Catherine “Kitty” Houghton, 70, a veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service who, prosecutors say, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time last January when she and Hill were both guests at the Hampton Inn off Route 302 in Littleton.
Last month, a New Hampshire public defender did not challenge a Superior Court judge’s ruling that Hill was competent to stand trial. In an interview the day of the brief hearing, Martha Hornick alluded to a plea bargain when she said her client, Hill, would proceed to trial unless there was a plea agreement.
Hill, now represented by attorney Mark Sisti, is scheduled for a status conference Thursday, and a plea and sentencing hearing is tentatively set for Feb. 6.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell and Hornick have refused over the past year to discuss the possibility of a plea agreement or say what a possible sentence might be. Morrell presented alternative first- and second-degree murder charges to the grand jury, which indicted the 38-year-old Hill in June.
The charges, respectively, accuse Hill of “purposely” or “recklessly” causing the death of the trustee of the Mountain School in Bethlehem by stabbing and slashing her. He has been held without bail at the Grafton County jail in North Haverhill since shortly after his arrest the night of the killing on Jan. 28. Hill, according to court records, told police that night he was the “son of Lucifer” and attacked Houghton of the San Francisco Bay area because he believed she was his father, the Devil, in disguise, and was out to harm him and his family.
During his rambling account of what happened that night, according to court records, Hill acknowledged Houghton — who had long-standing ties to New Hampshire’s North Country — was an “innocent” person whom he did not know. He tackled the much smaller woman who was nearly twice his age in the lobby and stabbed her with a “Leatherman-type” knife, a desk clerk told police.