Man gets 90 years for Gilberts murder, arson

A judge sentenced Frank Hill to 90 years in prison Wednesday for murdering his girlfriend and torching her Gilberts townhouse in January 2007.

Hill, 34, formerly of Schaumburg, was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated arson after a May trial in the death of Karyn Pearson, 27.

Kane County Judge Timothy Sheldon didn't have any words for Hill, who still claimed his innocence and never apologized.

Pearson's relatives didn't have anything to say directly to Hill, either, preferring to focus on a young woman who was described as kind, happy, selfless and artistic.

“Karyn was a beautiful woman, a free spirit and a happy person,” said her mother, Mary Jo Pearson, who declined to comment after the sentence. “Her smile lit up the room. You could count on Karyn to be the first person on the scene to help if something happened.”

She described that winter morning when she and her sons gathered outside Pearson's burning townhouse in the 500 block of Telluride Drive desperately trying to get a hold of her on the phone to see if she was OK.

“No one knew where she was except one person, a coward,” Pearson said.

Her older brother, Chris Pearson, said he will not let his sister's murder define her life.

“Karyn was taken without regard or remorse. She was beaten, burned and discarded like trash,” he said. “Her opportunity to bring sunshine to everyone she meets is over.”

During the trial, prosecutors used cellphone records and I-PASS statements to put Hill at the scene of the fire, which was set at about 5 a.m. Jan. 9, 2007.

Neighbors also testified that they heard Hill and Pearson, whose body was burned beyond recognition, fighting and arguing that morning. Co-workers testified that Pearson wanted Hill to move out of her home because their five-year relationship was over.

Eight departments battled the fire, which destroyed Pearson's home and other units. Debris from near where Pearson's charred body was found on the first floor tested positive at the state crime lab for the presence of gasoline. Police also found an empty gas can in the trunk of the Pearson's Jaguar driven by Hill.

Assistant Public Defender Thomas McCulloch argued for a 20-year sentence, saying Hill has five children and close family ties — and long sentences don't act as a deterrent to others.

Hill remained defiant until the end, interrupting Pearson's mother while she was addressing the court and alluding to ”untrue” and misleading statements he claimed were allowed at trial.

“I did not kill Karyn Pearson, nor did I set fire in and around her residence,” Hill said, unsuccessfully petitioning Sheldon for a new trial. “I am an innocent man. You have to ask yourself, your honor, is it more important to be right or do what's right?”

Hill must serve 100 percent of his 60-year murder sentence and 85 percent of his 30-year arson sentence. With credit for the 4½ years spent in jail awaiting trial, that equates to about 81 years in prison.

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Frank Hill
Karyn Pearson