In 1997, Samuel Hill shoved his way into an Old Crystal River Road home and shot a man he thought had snitched on him, authorities say.
By DUANE BOURNE
Published May 3, 2003
BROOKSVILLE - Samuel C. Hill, who Assistant State Attorney William Catto said was so incensed that he tried to kill the Brooksville man he thought snitched to the federal government that he was growing marijuana, was convicted of attempted murder Friday.
In less than two hours of deliberation, a six-member jury also found Hill, 56, guilty of armed burglary with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Hill shoved his way into James McHargue's Old Crystal River Road home on Nov. 1, 1997, while wearing Groucho Marx glasses, a false nose and moustache, authorities said. He shot McHargue with a .25-caliber pistol at point-blank range, they said.
McHargue spent five days recovering at Tampa General Hospital. Authorities said he had not provided any information about Hill.
Hill was long-suspected of being the masked gunman, but authorities lacked substantial evidence to charge him with the crime.
Hill was tried and convicted by the federal government in June 1997 of growing 300 marijuana plants in his backyard greenhouse, and the attempted murder case was forwarded to the sheriff's Cold Case Unit, which handles old and unsolved cases.
Three years later, acting on a tip from a jailhouse informant, authorities linked Hill to the shooting. Paul Detwiler, Hill's cellmate at the Coleman Correctional Facility, testified that Hill confessed to trying to kill McHargue.
Defense attorney Mark Rodriguez tried to discredit Detwiler, who was known at the federal prison as "Rat-wiler," because he was accused of devising confessions from inmates he befriended to get his prison time reduced.
When Hill heard the verdict Friday, he dropped to his seat and folded his hands across his face. He wore a tweed sports jacket during the five-day trial
Days earlier, Hill rejected the state's plea bargain offer for an eight-year sentence. Now he faces 10 to 17 years in state prison, plus the 22-year sentence he received on federal charges.
Circuit Judge Richard Tombrink considered sentencing Hill Friday, but McHargue was not present. Under state law, victims have the right to be present and offer statements during sentencing.
Tombrink postponed sentencing until Monday - two days before Hill's 57th birthday.
- Duane Bourne covers law enforcement and emergency services in Hernando County and can be reached at 754-6114. Send e-mail to email@example.com