Appeals court rules Danny Lee Hill should not be executed - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Appeals court rules Danny Lee Hill should not be executed

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Danny Lee Hill Danny Lee Hill
COLUMBUS, Ohio -

The U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals has issued a ruling that could keep the man convicted in the case of a 12-year-old boy scout who was tortured, raped and murdered, off the execution table. 

Fifty-year-old Danny Lee Hill has filed several unsuccessful appeals, the most notable of which was a claim that he is mentally retarded and should not be subject to the death penalty.

However, the ruling of the Sixth District Court of Appeals says that in the eyes of the court, Hill demonstrates several of the prerequisites to be considered mentally deficient. 

The ruling upheld Hill's conviction on the murder charge but argued that because of the intellectual deficiencies, Hill cannot be sentenced to the death penalty.  

According to the ruling, Hill's IQ varies between a low of 48 and a high of 71. After review of videotapes of Danny Lee Hill's interrogation, the court found Hill to be "childlike, confused, often irrational, and primarily self -defeating". 

The case was remanded back to the lower court to be resentenced. 

However, Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins issued a release Monday saying he has requested that the Attorney General's Officer appeal the decision either to a full panel of judges at the Sixth District of the Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court of the United States. 

"In my view, under the law and facts, the federal court decision clearly did not give due respect and deference to Ohio's judges and courts' determinations required by federal law," said Watkins in the release.

The mother of Hill's 12-year-old victim is now 77-years-old and supports the efforts to fight for an appeal.

"When my husband passed away the one thing he said was I'll never get to see him die for what he did," said Miriam Fife. "It's not a vengeance I have against him, I just want to know years after I'm gone (that) some bleeding heart doesn't get in there and get him released, because I don't care if he's 80 or 90-years-old, if he's still alive he'll be doing the same thing, he'll be hurting children."

According to court records, on September 10, 1985, at approximately 5:15 p.m., Raymond Fife left home on his bicycle to visit a friend, Billy Simmons.

After learning that the 12-year-old had not arrived at his friend's home by 5:50 pm, Fife's family began searching for him.

Raymond Fife's father found his son more than four hours later in a wooded field behind the Valu-King supermarket on Palmyra road.

The child was naked and appeared to have been severely beaten and his face was burned. Raymond's underwear was found tied around his neck and appeared to have been lit on fire.

Raymond died in the hospital two days later.

The coroner, who ruled Raymond's death a homicide, testified during the trial that the victim had been choked and had a hemorrhage in his brain. The coroner also said that Fife sustained several burns, damage to his rectal-bladder area and bite marks on his penis.

Through testimony from three Warren Western Reserve High School Students, the jury learned that Danny Lee Hill and Timothy Combs were in the area of the Valu-King and the bike trails on the evening Raymond Fife was assaulted. One of the students had also seen Fife riding his bike in the store parking lot.

A student who said he saw Combs on the trail also said he heard a child's scream. Another student says he saw Combs pulling up the zipper of his blue jeans.

Two days after Fife was found, Danny Lee Hill, who was 18-years-old at the time, went to the Warren Police Station to inquire about a $5,000 reward that was being offered for information concerning the murder.

According to Police Sergeant Thomas Stewart, Hill told him that he had just seen some he knew riding Fife's bike. When Stewart asked Hill how he knew the bike belonged to Fife, Hill replied, "I know it is."

Sergeant Stewart testified that during their conversation, it became apparent that Hill knew a lot about the bike and the underwear that was found around Fife's neck.

On the following Monday, September 16, Hill went to the police station accompanied by his uncle, Warren Police Detective Morris Hill.

Police say after waiving his Miranda rights, Danny Lee Hill admitted on audio and videotape that he was present during the beating and sexual assault of Raymond Fife, but that Timothy Combs did everything to the victim.

Combs was eventually convicted of felonious sexual penetration, arson, rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder.

Since Combs was 17-years-old at the time of the crime, he was not eligible for the death penalty and is serving a life sentence. He will be eligible for his first parole hearing in 2049.

Hill was convicted on the same charges, but since he was 18-years-old at the time Fife was assaulted, he was sentenced to death.

The Sixth District Court of Appeals ruling can be read here: 

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