Posts Tagged ‘circumstantial evidence’

A “Who Dun-It” Murder Mystery for You

November 10, 2013

I like a mystery, don’t you? The 2012 trial of Scott Peterson for the murder of his wife and unborn child, and most recently the trial of Martin MacNeill for the murder of his wife both hinged completely on circumstantial evidence. Inconclusive Coroner findings, no witnesses, hypothesis after hypothesis, emotional testimony of loved ones all led to guilty verdicts in both cases. Who really did the murders? I was swayed by the depth of circumstantial evidence in the Peterson case, but I am not so convinced in the McNeill trial. At the end of the day, only Peterson and MacNeill know what they each did.

Let me take you on a journey back in time to 1972 – actually, let’s go a bit further back to August 1968 when I joined the Boy Scouts Troop 800. I recall walking into my first troop meeting at the church, and just before I opened the door, an older boy jostled me with a smile and introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Macon Hill. I’m one of the Patrol Leaders. What’s your name?” I was shy as a kid, but Macon was naturally friendly, and I was glad that the first scout I met was Macon. I liked him – he was lanky and a bit athletic looking with  brown hair that had a slight wave in front, and he smiled easily when he spoke. “Go inside and find a seat. I have to get this meeting started in a few minutes!” Macon earned the rank of Eagle Scout – I remember his Court of Honor. He had ‘the right stuff” – a leader in the troop who I looked up to. He had “grit”, but he didn’t have guile or malice. I enjoyed Macon’s company in the troop.  He was a few years older, so we were never close friends, but I liked Macon.

Here is a grainy picture of Gordon Macon Hill. I didn’t know that his first name was Gordon until I googled him. He looks older than I remember – maybe this is from 1974:

Gordon Macon Hill

Or, maybe this photo is from a St. Marks School yearbook. There are several sources on-line for reprints of school yearbooks. You can purchase one at to see what everyone even remotely associated with the murder looked like back then:

(Reprint) 1971 Yearbook: St. Mark’s School of Texas, Dallas, Texas

In 1972, I learned from a family friend that Macon was in terrible legal trouble. He had been arrested for murder. Here is the story that Macon related to me:

In February (1972), he and several friends from St. Marks went to a party where alcohol was served (all were under age). After the party, he and Bobby went to another friend’s house to “crash” for the rest of the night. Around noon the next day, Bobby Sammons was found shot to death in the shower. The Police were called. He didn’t remember anything clearly from the night before. He didn’t kill Sammons, and he had no idea who did.

Here is a synopsis from the appeal trial records in 1974:

The last time the deceased, Bobby Fred Sammons, Jr., was seen alive by any of the witnesses other than appellant was when he left his home with the appellant at approximately 12:30 a.m., February 20, 1972, to spend the night at the home of Milburn “Mibbs” Matthews. The body was found in a shower in the Matthews’ residence around noon. Sammons had been killed by three shots from a .22 caliber pistol which was found in the appellant’s car.

Macon was arrested for the murder and convicted in Collin County Court (I believe) in May, 1972. Macon’s conviction was appealed, and the conviction was upheld on January 9, 1974. Here is judge Douglas’ formal Opinion for the appeal:


Macon consistently maintained his innocence. He told me that he was honest with his police interviews, and that he had not lied or mislead in his testimony. He did not know who the murderer was, and he had no reason to suspect who the murderer was with any certainty, so he did not even speculate.

On March 25th, 1974, Macon was found hanged in his jail cell at the Collin County jail in McKinney, Texas. You can read the Associated Press account of the apparent suicide here:

Brownwood Bulletin, Tuesday, March 26, 1974, Page 3

Macon was buried in Dallas:

Gordon Macon Hill (1954 – 1974) – Find A Grave Memorial

And not to forget the victim Bobby Sammons:

Bobby Fred Sammons, Jr (1955 – 1972) – Find A Grave Memorial

That’s Macon’s tragic story.  But there is more to the story – there always is… Before I get to that, I have to say that I am surprised about just how much information I was able to “google” in just a few minutes for somewhat insignificant events that happened more than 40 years ago. A small town murder is just a blip on the timeline of the world. Look what I could find with one query! What I can not find is the trial transcript from his 1972 conviction – I want to read that. And I can not find the record of Macon’s Eagle Scout award.

Why my interest? Well, Macon’s conviction was based solely on circumstantial evidence, and the recent high profile murder convictions of Peterson and MacNeill were also based solely upon circumstantial evidence. I am always surprised when a murder prosecution is successful  without a witness. But what really prompted me to spend a few minutes to surf the web and write this post was a dream I had one night a few months ago where I could hear Macon’s young voice say, “Brian, I didn’t kill Sammons. Will you find out who did?” I am certain that my subconscious is “connecting the dots” while I am sleeping, but until a few months ago, I had not thought of Macon since his death when I was in my early teens.

There is always more to the story – like I was saying… Here are the few tidbits I can recall:

The murder happened after a drunken night with “the boys”. Were these just drunk kids playing with a loaded gun? I don’t think so. Macon knew about gun safety. His family owned a ranch in the Palestine area of Texas, if I recall. I learned to shoot a gun  with some instruction from Macon and his father during a scout campout at Hill ranch one weekend.

There were rumors that a member of the jury had been approached by someone and encouraged to render a guilty decision. Just unfounded rumors at the end of the day.

While waiting for his appeal, Macon was free on a bond. He spent some time living with a teacher of his from St. Marks and his family who were also friends of our family. Macon received death threats over the phone while he was waiting for his appeal – one reason he was living with this teacher and his family. He had a car accident where it was suspected that his breaks had been tampered with. His teacher was convinced that someone was trying to kill Macon before he could testify at his trial.

Macon was gay. He never told me so, but I knew. He hung out with a few boys at St. Marks who a few I suspected were gay, too. Even at the age of 13 or 14, I could figure that out. His teacher confirmed my suspicion. We wondered if that somehow figured into the motive of Sammon’s killer. Was there an adolescent gay encounter with an unwilling or regretful partner? Or a jealous lover spurned who committed suicide? …or who committed murder? Who knows what event lead up to the murder. I believe the “jealous lover spurned” did it – whoever he was.

Macon’s suicide in the Collin County Jail was a mystery. Where did the belt come from? A number of people my parents knew suspected that the Collin County Jail guards did a few of their own executions of inmates that got off “too easy”. I frankly find that really hard to believe, and I think I dismiss that outright. Who really knows what happened.

It costs a small fortune to send a child to St. Marks School for Boys in Dallas – even forty years ago. St. Marks was an exclusive school with children from wealthy and powerful families in the Dallas area. Would a prominent family try to shield their child from the scandal of this kind of tragedy by influencing events during a trial? Try to kill the suspect who knew too much about the personal life of their reckless son? Bribe the jailers to take matters into their own hands? Again, who really knows…

I am sure that Macon was innocent.  So, if Macon didn’t kill Bobby Sammons, then “who dun-it”? I’ll dig a little further when I have some time!