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Littleton murder victim died from stab wound to neck

February 01. 2013 12:43PM

CONCORD - The Nevato, Cal., woman killed Monday night at a Littleton hotel died as a result of a stab wound to the neck, Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Susan Morrell said Friday.

The victim, Dr. Catherine "Kitty" Houghton, 70, a retired veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service, had ties to New Hampshire's North Country from childhood when she was a boarding student at White Mountain School in Bethlehem. She suffered multiple stab and slash wounds to her neck and torso Monday night in what Morrell said was a random attack in the lobby of the Hampton Inn off Route 302 in Littleton.

Rodney A. Hill, 37, of West Danville, Vt., was arrested that night outside the hotel and is charged with second-degree murder in the killing. He's being held without bail at the Grafton County jail in North Haverhill and is scheduled for probable cause hearing Tuesday at 9 a.m. in Littleton District Court.

A multi-lingual Nevada native and 1960 graduate of the White Mountain School, Houghton was staying at the hotel to attend a meeting in the area as a member of the school's board of directors.

Morrell said there is no known prior connection between Houghton and Hill, but would not discuss why Hill was at the hotel.

The Attorney General's Office released the results of Tuesday's autopsy by the New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner's Office in Concord on Friday morning .

"Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Jennie Duval determined that the cause of Dr. Houghton's death was a stab wound to the neck. The manner of her death was homicide," prosecutors said in a news release.

Following the attack, which Morrell said took place shortly before 8 p.m. Monday, Houghton was transported to nearby Littleton Regional Hospital where she died. Morrell this week answered few questions regarding the killing. She would not say if the attack on Houghton had been captured on the Hampton Inn's video surveillance system or others were in the lobby at the time.

"This is still very much an ongoing investigation. We don't want anything out there that's going to taint the investigation," she said Friday.

Morrell on Tuesday presented Littleton District Court Judge John P. Cyr with alternative theories of second-degree murder against Hill, saying he had either "knowingly" or "recklessly" caused Houghton's death. She said that if next Tuesday's probable cause hearing goes forward, her office will release more information on the alleged crime then, including putting a witness on the stand. However, defense attorneys frequently acknowledge probable cause in homicide cases and waive such hearings on behalf of their clients.

Morrell also has declined to provide any personal information on Hill. The Caledonian-Record, a St. Johnsbury, Vt., daily, reported this week that Hill was a 1993 Danville High School graduate with a wife and children and that he had worked in the past as a self-employed welder.

Hill is a large man who, according to the newspaper, is known around West Danville for being loud, opinionated and having a short temper, which made some wary of him. The paper reported that Hill had a public outburst at a store in his community a day before the attack on Houghton.

Houghton was a Stanford University Ph.D. and was the White Mountain School's 2011 commencement speaker. She led a full and active personal and professional life, school administrators said this week. Houghton spent most of her professional career as a commercial counselor in the global business arm of the U.S. Foreign Service.

She served all over the world, including Colombia, Austria, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Germany and Canada. She was a pilot an spoke 14 languages, with fluency in German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Nepali and Bengali, according to the school. Nevato, where Houghton had a home at the time of her death, is a city in northern California near San Francisco Bay and about 10 miles from San Rafael.

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