It’s been more than four decades since the death of Houston socialite Joan Robinson Hill rocked Texas residents. Since then, the conflict in Vietnam, which claimed the lives of more than 50,000 American soldiers, came to an end, the space shuttle Challenger exploded in the sky as millions watched, terrorists claimed thousands of American lives in simultaneous attacks on September 11, 2001, and American voted in their first African-American President but for Texans, at least, the Robinson-Hill affair is still the biggest scandal to ever grace The Lone Star State.
Champion equestrian Joan Robinson and plastic surgeon Dr. John Hill had been married for eleven years when he began an affair with single mom and hellcat Ann Kurth in 1968. Before long, the doc had deserted his wife and son and was playing house with the new woman in his life.
A scenario rather scandalous, in and of itself, in 1968.
Joan’s father, Ash Robinson was known to have an almost obsessive-like relationship with his daughter and when he learned of son-in-law’s absconsion, he immediately set out to make things right for his daughter. And after some underhanded maneuvering, Dr. Hill came home with his tale tucked between his legs.
But he never gave up the other woman in his life.
Dr. Hill wanted to be with Ann. He proclaimed his love for her. He promised to marry her. But how was such possible without the wrath of his father-in-law?
When Joan suddenly fell ill and died on March 19, 1969, it seemed the road to freedom had been paved for the talented doctor.
“Ash would not be subdued, no more than a pot of water would cease boiling when flames licked beneath it.”
Ash Robinson would not accept his daughter’s death was of natural causes. He waged a full-fledged war against his son-in-law in the name of justice.
Although Ash may have had many pieces of circumstantial evidence in his corner, their simply wasn’t enough proof to bring the doctor to trial – even after he married his paramour within weeks of his wife’s passing.
But Ash refused to let what he perceived as his daughter’s murder unpunished. Unrelenting, the old man made life miserable for Dr. Hill and did all he could to make the man’s life miserable.
Just when it seemed Dr. Hill might answer for, at the minimal, his failures as a physician if not as a husband, things take a strange turn of events. In 1972, Dr. Hill is murdered on the doorstep of his home. And all eyes turn to Ash Robinson. Did the man who so desperately fought for justice now find himself in the defendant’s seat?
“An amazing story…[that] reads like a novel.” – The New York Times Book Review
For years I’ve heard of Thomas Thompson’s book Blood and Money about the Robinson-Hill affair and how it is a true crime classic but, oddly enough, I’d never read it (or, at least, not that I can recall). At the request of several readers, I have finally done so.
With passion, wealth, power, scandalous affairs, lies and half-truths, I admit the book has all the makings of a spellbinding read. But am I the only one who found it to be a bit too pompous? The on and on and on about the “Who’s who,” relative/friend ties, and material possessions of anyone mentioned was overkill.
Having heard so often that Blood and Money is a true crime classic, I have to admit I a little more than disappointed in my feelings. I’m hoping Thomas Thompson was trying set a clear picture of the thoughts, behaviors, and mannerisms of Houston’s black tie crowd and it simply fell flat on this unsophisticated country girl.
Initially I felt so guilty for feeling this way about the book, especially since so many, many others felt quite the contrary, and considered skipping a review altogether. But then I realized, mine is only one opinion and giving my opinion on true crime is what I do best – right? :)
With this exception, I’ll say the book is extensively researched well-written, and will leave you shaking your head and clicking your tongue more than once. There just may be some portions you’ll want to skim…or maybe not.
So go grab a copy of Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson then come on back and tell me what you think – about John Hill’s guilt or innocence and/or my review!
What do you think?
Where Are They Now?
If any one person in this entire story garnered the most of my sympathy, it would be Robert Ashton “Boot” Hill. I couldn’t help but ache for the little boy who had to bury both of his parents and live amongst Houston gossip. By the time I read this book, that little boy was a grown man (older than me, actually) and was reported to be working as a prosecutor in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is married to a D.C. lobbyist and they have a daughter, Linden Joan Hill. Robert refuses to grant media interviews to discuss his family or the tragedies in his life. Personally, I don’t blame him and, knowing that sun has shone on the “after years” of his life, I say let him be.
After the civil suit, Ash Robinson sold his home and moved to Pensacola, Florida, and died on February 14, 1985, at the age of 87. His remains were cremated. His wife, Rhea Robinson died two years later in June 1987 at the age of 86.
Ann Kurth wrote a book which published in 1976 titled Prescription Murder. Initially ignored, likely because of its relatively close release to Thompson’s book (or maybe because no one really cared about the one-sided musings of a husband-stealing tramp), Kurth’s book garnered much attention when it was used as the basis for the 1981 made-for-television movie Murder In Texas, starring Farah Fawcett as Joan Hill.
Lilla Paulus died in prison in 1985. Marcia Mckittrick was paroled in 1986 but life hasn’t been much good for her since. In 2005, she was arrested and charged with forgery and false impersonation.
Connie Rae Loesby Hill remarried in 1980 (or thereabout) to oil and gas businessman James “Jim” Calaway. At the time of this writing, the couple lives in Aspen, Colorado, where they spend much of their time volunteering in civic organizations and rubbing elbows with the Colorado elite.
The residents of 1561 Kirby Drive used to open the home to the public once a year as fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity but, as of June 2012, the house is on the market with an asking price of $2.1 million.
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