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Amber C. HILL





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Suffered from a mental disorder
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: October 1, 2007
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1985
Victims profile: Janelle Cintron, 4, and Cecess Hill, 2 (her daughters)
Method of murder: Drowning (submerging their heads in a bathtub until they stopped thrashing)
Location: Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA
Status: Found not guilty by reason of insanity on January 24, 2009. Ordered to a mental health hospital for an undetermined period of time
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Cleveland woman Amber Hill sent to mental hospital for drowning kids

By Karl Turner - The Plain Dealer

February 2, 2009

CLEVELAND Amber Hill, who drowned her two young daughters in the bathtub of her Cleveland apartment, will be institutionalized indefinitely in a high-security psychiatric clinic.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John Sutula ordered Hill committed to Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare System after a court psychiatrist determined that Hill could pose a risk to herself and others as the gravity of her actions becomes clearer with the help of medication.

Hill will not be allowed to leave her room without authorization and will be chaperoned to and from treatment, said Assistant County Prosecutor Mark Mahoney. Eventually, Hill could be set free or downgraded to a lower-security facility with recommendations from her doctors. But a judge must approve any change in her institutionalization.

Last month, Sutula and Common Pleas Judges Nancy Fuerst and Jose Villanueva found Hill, 23, not guilty by reason of insanity of killing Janelle Cintron, 4, and Cecess Hill, 2.

Hill waived her right to a jury trial. A panel of three judges heard the case because Hill could have faced the death penalty if convicted.

Hill's attorneys argued that their client suffered from such profound mental illness when she drowned the girls on Oct. 1, 2007, that she did not understand that her actions were wrong. Both a forensic psychologist hired by the defense to evaluate Hill and a court psychiatrist testified that Hill's severe depression eventually escalated to a psychotic break from reality when she killed her children.

According to a report prepared by the court psychiatrist after the trial ended, Hill said during a more recent psychiatric evaluation that she does not believe she is still mentally ill and would like to eventually wean herself from the medicine that has stabilized her condition.

The court agreed with the doctor's opinion that Hill does not have a realistic view of her mental illness and would be at high risk for discontinuing her medication.

When given an opportunity to address the court Monday, Hill began by saying she felt "truly blessed to be found not guilty by reason of insanity."

Sutula interrupted her to clarify that the law required that finding, though it was a difficult verdict to render.

"God didn't intervene on that," he told Hill before allowing her to continue. "God didn't intervene on behalf of your children."

Hill sobbed through the rest of her prepared statement in which she apologized to her family and the father of her daughters, Jaime Cintron. She said she has recaptured her faith in God during her 16 month incarceration, and she vowed to take her medication vigilantly for the rest of her life.

Sutula discounted her promises, explaining that he has seen too many cases in which people believed themselves to be "cured" of mental illness and stopped taking their medication, only to relapse.

"If I were in your situation, I would swear to almighty God to take that medication every day of my life," Sutula told Hill. "So you are never in the situation where you feel so horrible that you don't know how to control yourself and take an action that is repugnant to society. My primary concern here is the safety of society. I'm not going to jeopardize that in any way."


Amber Hill not guilty by reason of insanity of murdering her 2 children--she drowned her 2 young daughters in bathtub

Cleveland Plain Dealer

January 25, 2009

Amber Hill will not go to prison for drowning her daughters -- submerging their heads in a bathtub until they stopped thrashing, until their brown eyes stared vacantly from beneath the surface. A 3-judge panel on Friday found Hill not guilty of aggravated murder by reason of insanity.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judges Nancy Fuerst, John Sutula and Jose Villanueva deliberated for four hours before rendering their verdict, which Sutula said was based on "uncontroverted evidence" that Hill suffered from such profound mental illness when she killed her daughters on Oct. 1, 2007, that she did not understand her actions were wrong.

"Justice is not always punishment," Sutula said. "These killings shocked the conscience of every person including this panel. But the law demands that in order to be convicted of a crime, the defendant know its wrongfulness."

Hill, 23, didn't deny killing the girls: Janelle Cintron, 4, and Cecess Hill, 2.

She waived her right to a jury trial. A panel of 3 judges heard the case because Hill could have faced the death penalty if convicted. A hearing will be held in the next 10 days to determine whether Hill will be set free or remanded to a mental health facility.

Prosecutors said the state will push for long-term institutionalization in a secure facility, arguing that Hill poses a threat to herself and others.

Hill's attorneys Fernando Mack and Myron Watson called the verdict courageous.

They said that as Hill's mental state stabilizes on powerful anti-psychotic drugs, they expect she will develop greater insight into the events that brought her to kill her daughters.

"She cared for those children deeply," Watson said. "The real Amber Hill wouldn't have done this but for her severe mental illness."

After the judges announced their decision, Hill's mother, Carolyn Hutchins, sobbed and trembled, as she thanked God for the verdict and clung to other weeping relatives.

She said she knew her daughter was not herself when she killed the girls. And she called for a greater awareness of mental illness in the community.

During their closing arguments, prosecutors asked the judges to set aside the expert testimonies of a psychologist hired by the defense and a court-appointed psychiatrist. Both testified that Hill suffered from severe depression that eventually escalated to a psychotic break from reality when she drowned her children.

Hill made no attempt to conceal evidence or flee after the killings. Instead, she called her boyfriend, Jaime Cintron, who came home and found her sitting on the couch staring blankly ahead in an unresponsive daze.

The lawyers highlighted that even the court-appointed psychiatrist, who reviewed Hill's case on the state's request, said that Hill heard voices that urged her to kill her children.

Assistant County Prosecutor Mark Mahoney said the state decided to prosecute Hill despite the court psychiatrist's diagnosis because it was an important case to the community and deserved the criminal justice system's full attention.

Prosecutors did not call upon a 3rd medical opinion because sanity is always assumed, he said, and the burden is upon the defense to prove the defendant insane.

"We knew it would be a challenging case," Mahoney said, "to have the court set aside the opinion of the court's doctor. But we thought it best to go through the process because of the profound loss to the community of two children of tender age. Could there be a more important case?"


Court psychiatrist says Amber Hill didn't understand killing kids was wrong

By Karl Turner - The Plain Dealer

January 22, 2009

CLEVELAND Amber Hill suffered with bouts of depression, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts for four years before she drowned her two daughters in a bathtub in her Cleveland apartment.

A psychologist hired by the defense and a court psychiatrist testified Thursday before a three-judge panel in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court that Hill was so deeply depressed the day she killed Janelle Cintron, 4, and Cecess Hill, 2, that she did not understand that what she was doing was wrong.

Hill, 23, is charged with aggravated murder for the girls' deaths and could face the death penalty if convicted. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Prosecutors rested their case against Hill Thursday morning -- the third day of the trial which is being decided by the judges, not a jury. The prosecution did not call any witnesses to testify to Hill's sanity. But they have indicated they plan to call two rebuttal witnesses this morning.

Reading from a transcript of his interview with Hill, psychologist John Fabian said Hill saw the children as an extension of herself and wanted to put them all out of their misery.

Hill described to the psychologist her version of what happened Oct. 1, 2007, the day she killed her daughters. She spent most of that morning crying in her bedroom before she drew a bath for the girls and helped them into the tub.

As she stood watching them with her arms crossed, Hill told the doctor, she momentarily considered getting them dressed and ready for the day. But then she heard the voices in her head. She had been hearing them for months -- her mother asking her what she was going to do with her life; her boyfriend, Jaime Cintron, calling her name; and another voice that she described as demonic encouraging her to kill herself.

On that day, however, the voices told her to "do it!" -- to drown her children. And she complied.

First she held Janelle's head underwater. The girl kicked and thrashed, Hill said, until her little body went limp.

As she held Cecess down in the tub, the toddler looked up through the water at her mom, Hill told the psychologist. But she was smaller than her sister and struggled less.

Hill said she killed her two girls as a way to get help for her deepening depression without killing herself.

"I thought this was how I could get help," Hill said during the psychological analysis. "And I needed to know that people loved me. I felt like part of my brain was gone."

Dr. Sherif Soliman, a court psychiatrist who evaluated Hill, told the judges that Hill's severe depression spurred psychotic symptoms, such as auditory hallucinations.

Hill struggled with the delusions and believed that because she was suffering, her daughters were suffering too, Soliman said. She wanted her children to feel the peace she could not. She did not expect to be punished for her actions and was surprised to learn that the police detective who interrogated her was not there to help her, Soliman said.

Hill told Soliman during her psychiatric evaluation that as she returned to her apartment after calling Cintron from a pay phone to tell him what she had done, she stopped at the mailbox to pick up her mail.

"She saw a check in there and thought about cashing it later that day," Soliman said. "She didn't know that what she was doing was wrong."

Prosecutors pointed out during their cross-examination of the doctors that Hill shut the shower curtain after drowning her children, indicating that she didn't want to see them and was disgusted by her actions.

Fabian said Hill explained to him that she didn't want to see her girls exposed and closed the curtain to keep them safe.

"There is a theme of misery and of benevolence -- of saving them from her own psychotic and depressed demons that she was struggling with," Fabian said. "She thought she had to save her children from her own death or suicide."


Family, friends describe homicidal mom's descent into depression

By Karl Turner - The Plain Dealer

January 21, 2009

CLEVELAND While Amber Hill drew a bath for her two young daughters and drowned them one at a time in the tub, her mother was already on her way to the Woodland Avenue apartment -- determined to take her troubled daughter to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

Hill's mother, Carolyn Hutchins, sobbed Wednesday as she told a panel of three Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judges about her daughter's rapid descent into depression. Hutchins also described the day she found her grandchildren dead by their mother's hands.

"I came in and Amber was standing in the middle of the room like a zombie," Hutchins said. "She was looking right through me. There was no soul. No nothing."

Hill, 23, is charged with aggravated murder for the deaths of her daughters, Janelle Cintron, 4, and Cecess Hill, 2, and could be sentenced to death if convicted. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The trial began Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Hill wanted to get rid of the girls. She was unhappy with the course of her life, they told the judges, and viewed her children as a major reason she could not get ahead.

But several witnesses, including Hutchins, testified Wednesday that Hill once was a wonderful and protective mother, who was proud of her children, kept them neat and clean and taught them to be well-mannered.

Hill's personality started to change, however, when depression got the best of her, witnesses said. She became withdrawn and stopped attending classes at Remington College, convinced that her classmates were talking about her behind her back. Hill told friends and family that she sometimes cut herself and had contemplated suicide.

She even began to neglect her daughters, witnesses said. A week before the girls died, Hill -- despondent over the death of a cousin -- failed to pick up her daughters from daycare, the girls' father, Jaime Cintron told the court. Hill straggled home later that night and went straight to bed without explanation.

Detective Joselito Sandoval, one of the first officers to speak to Hill after the slayings, testified that Hill told him she had been hearing voices in her head for months. She told police that as she filled the tub with water, she heard the voices of her mother, her sister and boyfriend urging her to "Do it!"

Then she got dressed, found a payphone outside and called Cintron to tell him what she had done.

The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday.


Cleveland woman says voices in her head told her to kill kids

By Karl Turner - The Plain Dealer

January 20, 2009

CLEVELAND The voices in her head said, "Do it! Do it!"

And Amber Hill did.

She submerged her two young daughters in a bathtub of water until they stopped struggling for air. Until she believed that her girls were "finally at peace."

Hill's attorney Fernando Mack tried to explain Tuesday to a three-judge panel in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court what went through Hill's mind that October morning in 2007, when she drowned her children, Janelle Cintron, 4, and Cecess Hill, 2, in an upstairs bathroom of her Cleveland apartment.

"She started hearing voices when she put her kids in the tub," Mack said. "By doing what she did, she thought she was doing this to herself."

Hill, 23, is charged with aggravated murder for the girls' deaths and could be sentenced to death if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. The trial began Tuesday.

In his opening statements, Mack told Common Pleas Judges Nancy Fuerst, John Sutula and Jose Villanueva, that two psychiatrists will testify that Hill has a history of postpartum depression and that her mental state had been deteriorating for months. She had distanced herself from family and friends, stopped attending classes at Remington College and attempted suicide on more than one occasion, Mack said.

On Oct. 1 -- the day of the drowning -- Hill was scheduled to meet with a psychiatrist at MetroHealth Medical Center, he said.

Assistant County Prosecutor Ronni Ducoff said in her opening statements that Hill called the girls' father at work the day they died and told him their children were at peace. Jamie Cintron rushed home and found Hill sitting silently on the sofa, staring blankly ahead, Ducoff said. He searched the house and begged Hill to tell him where the girls were. Hill directed Cintron to the bathroom, where he yanked back the shower curtain and found his daughters, naked and submerged in the bathtub.

Cintron pulled the girls from the water, screaming, "Why? Why?"

Dozens of neighbors who heard the screams descended on the Woodland Avenue apartment; one of them called 9-1-1.

Paramedics, who testified Tuesday, described arriving at a chaotic scene, confronted by a crush of crying and frantic neighbors and family. The paramedics, unaware of the reason for the call, struggled to gather details from the crowd and finally discovered Janelle -- her skin pruned from the water and blue -- lying across a bed upstairs. They carried the little girl downstairs, where they found her sister, sprawled on the floor, her father sobbing over her lifeless body.

Rescuers said they did everything they could to save the two children -- suctioned fluid and performed CPR. But water kept gurgling from their mouths, their noses, their throats and ears. It was too late. And all the while, Hill remained in a daze, disassociated from the commotion around her, the paramedics testified.

Authorities haven't offered a motive for the killings. They said Hill had no history of neglecting the girls. After the drowning, Hill's family said years of domestic violence drove the young mother to her breaking point.

Cleveland Municipal Court records show that Cintron was convicted of domestic violence in 2006. Bedford Municipal Court records show he was placed on probation in 2004 after pleading no contest and being found guilty of domestic violence. Hill was the victim in both cases.

But so far, Hill's attorneys have not made this argument.

Ducoff told the judges that the day before the children died, Hill cooked dinner for the family and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

"She told detectives that she loved her daughters," Ducoff said. "But that she felt confined in her life and the kids were part of it."

The trial continues Wednesday.


Cleveland woman pleads insanity in drowning deaths of daughters

By Donna J. Miller - The Plain Dealer

January 18, 2009

CLEVELAND -- A 23-year-old Cleveland woman accused of drowning her two daughters in a bathtub Oct. 1, 2007, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and on Thursday, waived her right to a jury trial.

A jury trial was to begin Tuesday. Instead Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judges John D. Sutula, Nancy A. Fuerst and Jose A. Villanueva will decide Amber C. Hill's future.

Cuyahoga Country Prosecutor Bill Mason is seeking the death penalty, so, without a jury, a three-judge panel must weigh the evidence. Hill was not offered a plea deal, prosecutor's spokesman Ryan Miday said Sunday.

She is charged with two counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of Cecess Hill, 2, and Jannelle Cintron, 4.

The day of the killings, their father, Jaimie Cintron, 23, told police that Hill called him at work about 12:30 p.m. and said the children were "resting at peace." He raced to the family's apartment in the 7700 block of Woodland Avenue. He found the children motionless in the tub.

He called 9-1-1 and kept crying out, "Why!?! Why!?! Why!?!"

Hill and Cintron had a volatile relationship. He was convicted twice of domestic violence against her. He could not be reached for comment. Hill's attorney, Mack Fernando, filed her insanity plea Jan. 8.


Cleveland Mom Charged in Bathtub Drowning Deaths of 2 Daughters Considered Hospital Visit

October 6, 2007

A woman charged with drowning her two young daughters in a bathtub had been getting them ready to be dressed in case she had to be taken to a hospital, her aunt said.

The morning of their deaths, Amber Hill spoke with her mother on the phone about whether Hill needed to be hospitalized. Her mother agreed to come over and take her, if necessary, said Carolyn Hill, aunt of the 22-year-old.

"That's why the kids were in the tub, because Amber was bathing them, getting them ready to get dressed. I don't know exactly what was hurt on her," she said.

Amber Hill is charged with killing Janelle Cintron, 4, and Cecess Hill, 2, Monday in the bathtub of the apartment where they lived. Now authorities are trying to figure out what might explain a horrific contradiction how a pleasant young woman who relatives say adored her children could be accused of becoming their emotionless killer.

"She used to be a really lively, young lady, as a teen," Carolyn Hill said. "Very bubbly and always smiling.

"She loved those kids, too much. They were her world. The youngest one was such a dainty little thing ... They (were) just two beautiful little girls."

A memorial service for the two girls was held Saturday, with mourners family members, friends and strangers alike streaming into a funeral home to pay their respects. Five Cleveland police officers rode in a motorcycle escort that took the funeral procession to Riverside Cemetery, where the girls were buried.

Authorities have not offered a motive for the killings and say Amber Hill had no documented history of neglecting the girls.

A judge on Wednesday recommended that Amber Hill receive medical and psychological treatment. No further details about the court ordered treatment was given.

She had been held in city jail on suicide watch, and appeared at the hearing in black paper overalls issued to inmates considered a danger to themselves.

Police said she seemed vacant of emotion when investigators tried to talk to her when the girls were found in the tub. In court two days later, she said nothing and kept her head bowed.

On Monday, she made a phone call at about 12:30 p.m. to Jamie Cintron, 23, father of the girls, at his job at a Burger King. He told police she said the girls were at peace. He went to the apartment, where he had been living with Hill, pulled them out of the tub and made a chilling 911 emergency call.

"Both my daughters are laying here dead! Why? Why are my daughters dead?" the sobbing man screamed.

The cause of death has been listed as drowning.

But Cuyahoga County's coroner, Dr. Frank Miller, said Friday his staff was considering whether to add strangulation as a factor in the 4-year-old's death.

"There were marks around the neck and bleeding in the small blood vessels in the eyelids," Miller said. "So there is some suggestion the 4-year-old was strangled, at least partially if not completely."

Part of the investigation involves Hill's turbulent relationship with the girls' father.

"We know there was some turmoil in the family," Miller said. "There were domestic violence issues."

In 2004 and 2006, Cintron pleaded no contest and was found guilty of domestic violence against Hill, according to court records. In the latest case, he had picked up a hammer during an argument with Hill and broke the TV with it, grabbed her by the neck and shoved her, according to a Cleveland Municipal Court record.

Until about two months ago Amber Hill had attended the Cleveland branch of Remington College, studying to be a medical assistant.

"She had the kind of struggles that every single mother, every young mother, has, trying to go to school, trying to take care of kids," said Ashley Merritt, 22, a friend. "I do know she was a good mother, and she loved those girls."

Experts say women who turn against their children do it for a variety of reasons, including mental illness, abuse that turned deadly or revenge against the youngsters' father. Others intend to commit suicide and decide to kill their children so they won't be left alone, said Geoffrey McKee, author of "Why Mothers Kill: A Forensic Psychologist's Casebook."

Andrea Yates drowned her five children in the family's Houston bathtub in 2001. She was found innocent by reason of insanity and sent to a state mental hospital. Yates initially was convicted of capital murder, but that verdict was overturned.



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