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Vt. man says he was insane when he killed woman

Special to the Union Leader

June 19. 2014 10:51PM
Rodney Hill, left, of West Danville, Vt., and his attorney, Mark Sisti of Chichester in Grafton County Superior Court in North Haverhill Thursday, where Hill pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the second-degree murder of Catherine Houghton in 2013 in Littleton. (BOB HOOKWAY)

HAVERHILL — The Vermont man accused in the 2013 stabbing and slashing death of a 70-year-old San Francisco Bay-area woman at a Littleton hotel admitted in court Thursday that he murdered Catherine “Kitty” Houghton.

But Rodney Hill, 38, of West Danville, Vt., also told Judge Lawrence A. MacLeod Jr. that he was not guilty of second-degree murder because he was insane at the time he killed Houghton, who had decades-long ties to New Hampshire’s North Country.

Police said Houghton was an innocent woman who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with tragic results when Hill snapped while he and Houghton were both guests at the same hotel.

Hill told police he believed Houghton was his father, the Devil in disguise, when he tackled her and stabbed her multiple times with a knife-like tool.

In what she said was an unusual decision for the state, Senior New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell agreed in April with Hill’s attorney, Mark Sisti of Chichester, that Hill was indeed insane when he committed the crime.

That set the stage for MacLeod’s acceptance of a plea agreement in which he found Hill not guilty by reason of insanity but also found Hill a serious continued threat to public safety and sentenced him to five years in the New Hampshire State Prison’s secure psychiatric unit.

Hill’s mental state will be evaluated every five years. If at any point he is deemed no longer a threat and recommended for lower-security or some form of release, the case will be sent back to Grafton County Superior Court for a judge’s ruling, Morrell said following Thursday’s 75-minute hearing.

Morrell said future decisions could include the former welder and mechanic being sent to the state hospital, where there are “many levels within” that facility that could accommodate his improved condition, if that’s the case.

Morrell said if Hill responds to treatment he might eventually qualify for some form of release into the community such as a halfway house. But Morrell said it was likely Hill would be under some level of state supervision for the rest of his life.

Hill sat at the defense table and kept his head down as Houghton’s two sisters, a friend of hers, and the head of The Mountain School in Bethlehem, where Houghton was a trustee, all gave victim impact statements on the effects Houghton’s death had on her family and her large network of friends and colleagues.

Hill answered a number of MacLeod’s questions regarding his understanding of the court proceedings and the plea he was entering.

When the judge gave him an opportunity to address the court, Hill declined, and was led away by court officers.

Crime Haverhill

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