Audrey Marie Hilley is truly an enigma. She got away with the murder of her husband for many years, attempted to kill her daughter, played the role of her own (nonexistant) twin sister, and was finally arrested on a bad check charge. And if she hadn’t told on herself, chances are the police would have never known she was a fugitive.
But she did and police had a cold-blooded killer in their grasp. Until she escaped. And then, and only then, was the deadly Ms. Hilley truly stopped from murdering anyone again.
The Making of a Murderess
Audrey Marie Frazier was born on June 4, 1933, in Blue Mountain, Alabama. It was a town of barely-middle-class mill workers in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains. Huey Frazier and his wife, Lucille Meads Frazier, adored their baby girl from the moment she took her first breath.
Unlike other mothers of the time who stayed home to raise their offspring, Lucille couldn’t afford to do so and returned to work, leaving her infant daughter in the care of relatives.
Perhaps her parents felt guilt or maybe they were just so enamored with the little girl, but for whatever the reason, the Fraziers, despite their meager existence, dressed their daughter in fine clothing and never (that anyone can recall) administered any punishments. Marie, as she was called, frequently threw temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way. As such, she wasn’t well liked by her cousins or even her aunts and uncles.
As Marie grew into a beautiful young lady, her parents dreamed that she would live a life far better than their own. It was their intent to see Marie graduate high school and obtain a job as a secretary – a desirable position of the times for women. It wasn’t going to happen in Blue Mountain, so the Fraziers moved the few miles to Anniston, Alabama; a town offering superior schools and more opportunities.
While Marie had been viewed as one of the more privileged children in Blue Mountain, she was suddenly cast among students whose parents didn’t eek out a living. The parents of these schoolmates were professionals and provided their children with large homes and many other luxuries that the Fraziers could never afford.
Secretly envious of her new friends lifestyle, Marie never showed it. Instead she moved among them as if she belonged, and developed close friendships with many of her classmates; no doubt her neatness and beauty earning her a position in their ranks.
Her years at Anniston High School only served to gain Marie more respect from her peers as she became active in numerous school clubs and activities.
But the attention Marie was getting wasn’t all from her school involvement. The boys were noticing the beautiful young lady in the neatly-pressed dresses. Marie, however, had eyes for only one of them.
His name was Frank Hilley.
Frank and Audrey Marie Hilley
Frank Hilley came from a working class family. The family of five may not have had a lot in material things, but they had a lot of love and, as such, were a very close family.
Frank first met Marie, who was only 12, when he was sixteen. Marie was very mature for her age, and by the time he graduated high school, he knew Marie was the only girl for him.
Her parents, on the other hand, wasn’t too thrilled with their daughter’s boyfriend; though they went along with their daughters wishes, justifying it by recognizing that Frank treated Marie like royalty, just as they did.
It was easier for the Fraziers to deal with their daughter’s romance when Frank went into the United States Navy.
With Frank stationed in Guam, the couple felt as if they were on separate planets. They wrote to one other frequently, but it wasn’t enough. In May 1951, while Frank was home on leave, he and Marie were wed – just days before the bride’s 18th birthday.
Married with Children…And Debt
After Frank’s tenure in the Navy was over, he and Marie returned to Anniston and purchased a home. In 1952, they welcomed a son whom they named Michael Hilley, who went by Mike. In 1960, Marie gave birth to a daughter, Carol Hilley.
By the time Carol arrived, the marriage was in trouble. Despite Frank’s well paying job and Marie’s secretarial employment, they had little in savings. To Frank’s consternation, Marie spent money like it grew on trees. They frequently argued about her excessive spending habits. Despite Frank’s best efforts, Marie kept spending.
What Frank didn’t realize, at the time, was that Marie was spending more than they earned combined and had to find other means of obtaining money. Later he would learn that his wife frequently engaged in sex with her bosses in exchange for money.
Otherwise on the home front, Mike and Carol had been lavished with the finest of material things but would have preferred the attentions of their mother who was always so emotionally distant. Any parenting was typically left to their grandmother Carrie Hilley.
Mike was soon grown, and had pursued a career in preaching. Carol, almost eight years his junior, was in high school and quite the disappointment to her mother. Carol was tomboyish, enjoying football and roughhousing. Much to Marie’s dismay, Carol was extremely close to her father. And it was a slap in the face to Marie when she learned her daughter was experimenting with lesbianism.
The Hilleys’ debt was out of control. Although Frank was growing sicker every day, he couldn’t afford to miss work. But one day he was too sick and had to return home, walking in on his wife and her boss in the middle of one of their sexual trysts. It was at this time that Frank learned about Marie’s “second job.” With his failing health, Frank didn’t feel he could do much of anything about Marie’s unfaithfulness. Mike, now living in Atlanta, Georgia, tried to counsel his father through the marital difficulties but he never knew that his father was sick.
Frank spent the better part of 1974 suffering from stomach cramps and periodic bouts of nausea and vomiting. By the time May 1975 rolled around, Frank’s illness had finally pushed him to see a doctor.
The doctor prescribed several medicines for the very sick man, but none of them seemed to help. When Frank’s sister visited him in the latter part of May, he told her he was afraid he would die. Soon thereafter Frank was admitted to the local hospital and testing showed Frank was suffering from liver failure. The official diagnosis was infectious Hepatitis, and it also was the cause of death listed on the death certificate following Frank’s death on May 25, 1975.
Marie went about collecting on Frank’s life insurance policies, receiving about $31,000 in total. Despite being a sole income household now, Marie’s spending increased.
Mike had married by this time and Marie offered for him and his wife Teri Hilley to move in with her and Carol, as Mike had recently gotten a job at a nearby church. They gladly accepted.
It was the beginning of something very, very strange.
Revolving Doors, Fires, and Mysterious Illnesses
Things weren’t going well at the Hilley home. Marie and Carol bickered constantly over Marie’s demands, while Teri was frequently admitted to the hospital with mysterious symptoms that puzzled doctors; she even suffered a couple of miscarriages during this time.
Mike and Teri wanted to be out on their own and soon found an apartment. But the night before they were to move, Marie’s house caught fire and she, along with her ailing mother whom she was now caring for and Carol, had to move with Mike and Teri into the apartment.
Soon, but not soon enough, the repairs to Marie’s home were complete and the three women were ready to move back home. When a fire in the next door apartment forced Mike and Teri to find another place to live pending repairs, the couple found them back in the Hilley home for a while. When they were finally able to return to their own home, Teri’s symptoms mysteriously disappeared.
Lucille Frazier died in 1977 and her death seemed to spark a whole string of mind-boggling events. Marie continued on with her shoplifting and petty theft, but now she began reporting small fires that kept occurring in her home, gas leaks, and harassing phone calls.
Using the excuse she needed to get away from the person or persons doing these things to her, Marie Hilley, with Carol in tow, moved in with Mike and Teri at their home in Pompano Beach, Florida. Her spending continued at a dangerous pace, and she even ran up $600 worth of debt on Mike’s VISA, promising to reimburse him later. She never did.
Claiming homesickness, Marie and Carol returned home to Anniston; moving in with Frank’s sister then with his mother. Unbeknownst to anyone, Marie had been purchasing insurance policies for fire, cancer, and life; the latter covering not only herself but her children as well.
While Marie and Carol lived with Carrie, the grandmother began suffering stomach cramps with nausea and vomiting. The strange occurrences of fires, harassing calls, and vandalism had also began again.
A couple of years after her maternal grandmother’s death, Carol Hilley also began suffering the ailments experienced by her father, sister-on-law, and paternal grandmother. Like her father, however, Carol’s illness continued to progress rapidly.
Carol was still strong-willed though and soon moved to an apartment of her own. Her mother frequently visited, fussing over Carol by cooking her meals and administrating medications. Marie also took her daughter to several doctors, none of whom were able to give a diagnosis.
When Carol began experiencing numbness in her arms and legs, she was admitted to the hospital. Her doctor at the feared that the symptoms might be in Carol’s head and suggested she seek the services of a Psychiatrist. During her visit, Carol told the doctor that she wanted to die; he immediately committed her to a psychiatric ward.
Meanwhile, even as her daughter was locked away in a mental hospital, Marie was bouncing checks all over town – some of those bad checks were on the life insurance policies Marie had taken out on Mike and Carol. The bank, believing they had no other choice, filed criminal charges and Marie was arrested.
The Truth Will (Not) Set You Free
In Florida, Mike had seriously began reconsidering the cause of his father’s death. Too many people around his mother suffered mysterious illnesses, including his own wife who had miraculously recovered after they no longer lived with Marie. Mike even went as far as to call the Calhoun County, Alabama, corner to inquire about having his father exhumed for additional testing. He was disappointed when they told him he’d have to have something more than suspicion to get exhumation done.
And pretty soon the “more” Mike needed was about to fall into his lap.
Eve Cole, a friend of Carol’s from church, was visiting the Hilley home on a couple of occasions when Marie had given Carol injections; allegedly ordered by the doctor. While visiting her friend in the hospital, Eve learned that Marie had given Carol injections even as she was hospitalized and thought it odd. She offhandedly mentioned it to Carol’s Aunt Freeda, who in turn told Mike. When Mike asked his sister about the rumor, she confirmed it was indeed true.
Mike, his suspicions now more than just nagging, called Carol’s doctor and told him what had been occurring. The next time Marie came to visit Carol, the doctor insisted that she not visit Carol for a while.
A panicked Marie, feigning indignation, Marie removed her daughter from the hospital and informed them she was taking Carol to the Mayo Clinic or Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans where she was sure to get treatment by doctors who knew what they were doing. After spending the night in a hotel, Carol was admitted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital.
There she was under the care of Dr. Brian Thompson. When Marie was arrested on September 20, 1979, on more bad check charges, Carol’s family took the opportunity to educate Dr. Thompson of Carol’s medical history. And they told him of their suspicions. It may have been an incredible story, but Dr. Thompson listened. After checking Carol’s fingertips and toenails for Aldridge-Mees lines, he immediately ordered arsenic testing. It was discovered that Carol’s body was full of arsenic and the testing also revealed that she had been so for a very lengthy amount of time.
Mike was angry and determined to stop his mother, who he suspected had now killed his father, his maternal grandmother, and had poisoned his wife, sister, and paternal grandmother. He sent a detailed letter to the Calhoun County coroner and District Attorney. Marie, while awaiting trial in jail on bounced checks, now became a murder suspect.
An autopsy on the exhumed body of Frank Hilley confirmed his son’s allegations. The medical examiner stated that Frank had a died a slow and agonizing death from arsenic. An autopsy of Lucille Frazier indictated her arsenic levels were four to ten times that found in a normal, healty person but, according to the medical examiner, it was cancer that actually served as her demise.
While evidence continued to mount against Marie, she was charged with the attempted murder of her daughter. Unfortunately, her bail was only $10,000, total of $14,000 with the check charges, and Mike, unexplainable, convinced five individuals to contribute funds to the $10,000 he was paying and his mother was released on bail.
After her release on November 11, 1979, she went to a local hotel, claiming she feared retaliation by Frank’s family.
On November 18, 1979, when friends went to visit Marie at the hotel, they discovered she’d disappeared without a trace. Everything she owned was left behind expect for her wallet, credit cards, and checkbook. A subsequent search of her home revealed her car was missing as well as several articles of Marie’s clothing. The car was found a few days later in Marietta, Georgia.
The same day that Marie disappeared, Carrie Hilley died of cancer. An autopsy showed extraordinary high levels of arsenic in her body.
The FBI joined the hunt for Marie who was now suspected of poisoning four people and tracked her as far as Savannah, Georgia before the trail went stone cold.
Audrey Marie Hilley was officially a fugitive.
John, Robbi, and Teri
In February 1980, Marie met the recently divorced John Homan in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She introduced herself as Lindsay Robbi Hannon from Texas, a mother of two children whom she had lost in a tragic car accident.
In October of the same year, she and John moved to New Hampshire, where his brother Peter lived. She and John both quickly found jobs.
Marie, now answering to Robbi, told coworkers about her life in Texas of her twin sister, Teri. Several of them were weary of Robbi’s stories but chalked it up to a someone with low self-esteem issues.
When she announced to her husband and fellow employees in 1982 that she had a rare blood disease and was dying, John was devastated but the most of her coworkers believed she was lying. Why? They didn’t know. Instinct just told them she was.
In September 1982, Robbi said her good-byes and headed to Texas where she said Teri was going to take care of her until her death. She did go to Texas, but only for a few days then she arrived in Pompano Beach, Florida. There she bleached her hair and secured a job under the name of Teri Martin.
At her new job, the woman now going by Teri, told her boss about her gravely ill sister Robbi. When she called her boss in mid-November claiming that she was in New Hampshire and her sister had died, he wasn’t surprised. She also informed him she’d be remaining in New Hampshire to tend to her sister’s affairs.
Next she called John Homan and, acting as Teri, gave him the bad news: his wife Robbi had passed away. The next day she flew to New Hampshire and, with John by her side, went to the local newspaper with Robbi’s obituary. They also visited Robbi’s former place of employment; some there were immediately suspicious – Teri was too much like Robbi, even for twins.
Teri moved in with John Homan. Teri got a new job at a printing company and everything seemed to be going well. But she didn’t know that her former coworkers had believed the woman they knew as Robbi was Teri and they were doing some amateur investigating trying to find the truth.
Police had gotten word of the suspicious woman and her fantastic tales of twin sister’s death. On January 12, 1983, they approached Teri as she was living work. Although they didn’t tell her, police wanted her to question in connection with a bank robbery as the wanted woman, Carol Manning, fit the description of this Teri Martin.
For Marie/Robbi/Teri, the gig was almost up.
The Grand Finale
Once police had her at the police barracks, they asked her her name. Marie looked puzzled and told them her name was really Audrey Marie Hilley and she was wanted in Alabama on bad check charges.
Checking out her claims, police were shocked to discover she was indeed who she claimed to be but bad check charges were the least of her worries: she was wanted for attempted murder of her daughter Carol and for the murder of her husband Frank.
Marie was returned to Alabama on January 19, 1983, to stand trial for the charges against her. Carol, who still had trouble accepting what her mother had done to her, visited Marie frequently at the jail.
Although Marie’s defense team attempted to distort the action of their client by focusing on Carol’s homosexuality, alleged drug use, and suicide attempts, it was to no avail. After only three hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts. She was sentenced to life for Frank’s murder and an additional 20 years for the poisoning of Carol.
In June 1983, Marie entered the Tutwiler State Women’s Prison in Wetumpka, Alabama. Despite reports of Marie’s escape plans, Marie was classified as a medium security inmate which made her eligible for passes from the prison. On February 19, 1987, Marie left on one of those passes and never returned.
During the weekend of her leave, Marie had shacked up with John, who had relocated to Anniston, at a local hotel. Claiming to be going to visit her parents graves, Marie left and later John found a note saying she was leaving for good; that it was best for everyone. She said she was going to Canada with a man named Walter.
On February 26, Blue Mountain resident Sue Craft called police to report a strange, delirious woman on the porch of her home. Even though Marie told the police her last name was Sellers and that she had walked to the home after her car broke down, they quickly identified her as escaped prisoner Marie Hilley.
As she was being rushed to the hospital by ambulance for hypothermia, Marie began convulsing and lost consciousness. A few minutes, Marie Hilley took her final death. She was pronounced dead on arrival.
Does He or She Exist?
Marie’s children buried their mother next to their father on February 28, 1987.
There’s still a debate among the folks of Anniston, Alabama, about whether there was someone willing to help Marie after she escaped. Many believe there was. If so, who was he? And why did he back out of the plan?
Chances are pretty good no one will never know the answers to those questions. Marie Hilley will remain as much of a mystery in death as she was in life.
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