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Archive for Friday, November 19, 2010

21-year-old charges in Topeka holdup dismissed

November 19, 2010

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— More than 20 years after kidnapping and robbery charges were filed against Cecil Leon Hill following a grocery store holdup in Topeka, a Shawnee County District Court judge has dismissed them.

One count of aggravated robbery and three counts of kidnapping were dismissed because "the state violated Hill's constitutional right to a speedy trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution," District Judge Evelyn Wilson wrote in the opinion issued earlier this month.

Hill, 55, a Missouri prison inmate, was bound over for trial July 2 in the Aug. 20, 1989, armed robbery of Falley's grocery store, and the kidnappings of three employees. The three victims, who were held at gunpoint, testified they were forced to take off their clothes and were tied up.

The Shawnee County case was filed Oct. 6, 1989, and remained dormant while Hill was housed in a Missouri prison on an unrelated case, according to records in Kansas and Missouri.

Wilson noted several times in the 24-page order that prosecutors are responsible for bringing the defendant to trial and that the defendant doesn't bear that responsibility.

Over the years, Hill sought information about a reported arrest warrant and received four responses: the state of Kansas would contact him if the case was pursued, not to worry about it, there wasn't an arrest warrant, and finally how to deal with the case, Wilson wrote. Then prosecutors pursued the old warrant, the judge wrote.

"In the present case, official negligence lasted for over 20 years," Wilson wrote.

Wilson said this "inordinate delay has also resulted in identified prejudice to Hill's defense."

The prejudice is Hill's inability to prove where he was and who he was with on the date of the Falley's holdup because his witnesses no longer are available; he is divorced from his wife, who has moved to Germany; and his grandparents in Kansas City, Mo., have died.

Just before closing time, a man walked into the store and asked an employee where the diapers were, pulled a gun on the night manager, forced a checker to empty her cash register, then ordered employees to empty cash and checks into a bag.

The gunman ordered a total of three employees to strip off their clothes, then tied them with a telephone wire he yanked from the wall and told them to get under a desk. The gunman robbed the store of $12,670.

Wendell Betts, assistant public defender, and Debra Wilson, of the Capital Appeals and Conflicts Office, represented Hill. Chief deputy district attorney Jacqie Spradling prosecuted the case.

In the Missouri case, Hill was convicted on April 19, 1990, of robbery, forcible sodomy, attempted rape and three counts of armed criminal action, then was sentenced to a life plus a 30-year term, a corrections department official said.

Those occurred during the holdup on Aug. 18, 1989, of an Osco store in downtown Kansas City, Mo., a Kansas City police detective had testified. Hill is first eligible for parole on Aug. 20, 2014, according to Missouri records.

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