HAVERHILL –- The N.H. Attorney General's Office has agreed with a defense attorney that a Vermont man charged with murder in the stabbing and slashing death of a 70-year-old woman last winter at a Littleton hotel was insane at the time.
Rodney Hill, 38, of West Danville, Vt., will plead not guilty to second-degree murder by reason of insanity in the death of Catherine "Kitty" Houghton, 70, a veteran of the U.S. Foreign Service with ties to Bethlehem who, prosecutors say, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on Jan. 28, 2013, and was a random murder victim who was overpowered by the much larger and younger Hill while they were both guests at the Hampton Inn off Route 302 in Littleton.
Hill told police that night he was the "son of Lucifer," and believed that Houghton, a resident of the San Francisco Bay area who attended a private school in Bethlehem more than 50 years ago, was the devil in disguise who intended to harm him and his family. He attacked her with a Leatherman-type tool, a desk clerk told police, according to court records. Houghton was still conscious and able to talk to police when they arrived but was bleeding profusely and died later that night at Littleton Regional Healthcare.
If a judge approves the agreement and sentencing, scheduled for June 19 in Grafton County Superior Court in North Haverhill, Hill would be confined in the secure psychiatric unit at the New Hampshire State Prison. Hill, as part of the agreement, would acknowledge that he's a threat to the public. He would be subject to review every five years during his psychiatric treatment to determine whether he remains such a threat, his lawyer, Mark Sisti of Chichester, and senior assistant attorney general Susan Morrell said Tuesday.
Morrell said the state believes Hill's actions on the night of the crime were "the product of a mental illness" and that he belongs under psychiatric care rather than serving time as an inmate at the state prison.
"He was insane at the time of the offense," Sisti said.
Asked if she had advised Houghton's family of the pending proposal, Morrell said she had but declined to discuss their reaction.
"They'll have an opportunity to speak at the hearing," she said.
During his rambling account of what happened that night, according to court records, Hill – a self-employed welder who's married and has young children - acknowledged that Houghton was an "innocent" person he did not know.
Houghton was a 1960 graduate of St. Mary's in the Mountains, which preceded The Mountain School in Bethlehem, where she was a trustee and in the area to attend a trustees' meeting when she died. The hotel where she was attacked is about five miles from the school.