Hill's parents anguished over his alleged crime


November 11, 1993|By WILEY A. HALL

Willie Mae and Hollis Hill are sitting side by side at their dining room table. They are not holding hands.

But there is something in their body language -- something subtle and indefinable -- that suggests a united front; that suggests that they are joined together in defense of their youngest son, who is about to stand trial for murder.

"Our concern is that the public does not know Louis the way we know him," says Mrs. Hill. "This is someone we have known intimately for 26 years. The public reads all of these terrible things about him. They hear these terrible accusations, and they . . . and they . . ." and at this point, Mrs. Hill breaks off and flutters her hands in frustration.

"The media questions whether black people have family values," says Mr. Hill grimly. "Well, we do. This is about family values. This is about standing up for your own."

The couple hand me a three-page biographical sketch they have put together on their son, 26. He was born in Memphis, Tenn., according to the profile, and raised in suburban Baltimore. He has an older brother and sister. He was popular in school. He has a marketing degree from Morehouse College. He was a hard-working entrepreneur who recently helped his parents start small businesses. He is a spiritual man who has maintained his faith even in jail.

The name of their son is Louis Hill 3rd. And he is charged with one of the most shocking, cold-blooded crimes in recent memory.

On Oct. 26, 1992, police allege, two well-dressed men wearing ski masks entered the Farmers Bank & Trust Company in Randallstown. One of the men carried a semiautomatic weapon. After demanding money, the men herded the four woman employees on duty into a vault, ordered them to lie face down and then shot them all, without provocation. Two women died. Two received serious injuries.

In connection with the incident, Benjamin Franklin Boisseau Jr. was convicted last March and later sentenced to life in prison plus 100 years without possibility of parole. Boisseau, who worked with Louis Hill at Mrs. Hill's business, claims his alleged accomplice was the trigger man. Mr. Hill goes on trial in two weeks. The state plans to seek the death penalty.

In the living room of the Hills' residence is a framed portrait of their son in grade school -- a bright-faced, smiling child pictured in front of the American flag. Another picture shows him graduating from college -- still bright-faced, still smiling broadly -- a clean-cut, handsome and seemingly engaging young man.

"Louis was the type of young man all of the other parents wanted their sons to be like," says Mrs. Hill. "He was never a trouble-maker. He was never feared. He always treated his mother and his sister with the utmost respect. He was not someone who would ever take a life. He was someone who honored life."

I tell the couple that the description of the crime cannot be reconciled with the picture they have painted of their son.

Mr. Hill nods sadly. "I know what you mean. I was never, ever more devastated by anything the way I was devastated by Louis' arrest. I keep thinking there has to have been a mistake. I'll tell you this: I saw Louis every day and there were no signs. No signals. Nothing to indicate that he felt in desperation. He seemed a young man completely in tune with his life."

"We feel for the families [of the victims]," says Mrs. Hill. "We pray for them. But we're saying to the community that the Louis they read about in the papers is not our Louis. Our Louis did not do this terrible thing."

"I live in the Randallstown community," says Mr. Hill. "I banked -- I still bank -- at Farmers Bank. I knew the victims. But give Louis a fair hearing. That's all we're asking for. Don't crucify him just because you're mad at what happened."

I spent well over two hours talking with the Hills about their youngest son. And it seems impossible to me that the young man described by them committed the crime. But I also have studied police and press accounts and the evidence against him seems overwhelming.

Whether he is guilty or innocent, my heart bleeds for the families of the murdered and wounded bank employees and for the Hills. My heart bleeds for us all. We live, it sometimes seems, in a society of victims.

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