Slain woman's mother testifies at murder-arson trial

  • Frank Hill

    Frank Hill

Updated 5/17/2011 10:45 PM

Two days before she died, Karyn Pearson went to her mother's Gilberts home early in the morning, crying and upset about her crumbling 5-year relationship with live-in boyfriend Frank Hill.

"I'm just really sad. I feel like we're not a couple anymore and I want him to leave," Pearson's mother, Mary Jo, testified Tuesday, echoing her daughters words from that morning.


Two days later, Karyn Pearson's body was found after an early morning fire ripped through her Gilberts townhouse in the 500 block of Telluride Drive on Jan. 9, 2007.

Hill, 33, formerly of Schaumburg, is accused of killing Pearson and torching her home to cover it up.

Tuesday marked the first day of testimony in his trial. If he is found guilty of murder and aggravated arson, Hill could face life in prison.

Mary Jo Pearson testified that three yellow Post It notes recovered from the fire were in her daughter's handwriting and directed toward Hill.

They said: "I'm tired of your cheating and lies," "It's over. Bye," and "Move out!" Parts of another letter directed toward Hill said, "You put your hands on me for the last time" and concluded with "I loved you so much but you took it for granted."

Tuesday's testimony also included members of the Kane County Fire Investigations Task Force, who described finding Pearson's body on a charred couch on the town house's first floor.

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"We didn't see the body right away. The whole structure itself was totally devastated," said Rutland-Dundee Fire Protection District Lt. Christopher Reedy.

Eight fire departments battled the blaze, which also damaged adjacent townhouses.

Forensic pathologist Larry Blum testified that Pearson's throat and air passages did not contain soot from the fire and her blood was free from carbon monoxide. This means she was either dead before the fire began or was killed instantly by the heat of a flash fire, Blum said. She did not have bullet or puncture wounds.

Assistant State's Attorney Greg Sams said during his opening statement Monday that neighbor testimony, cellphone records and I-PASS transponder data will show Hill was at the scene and his alibi was a lie. An empty gas can also was found in the car Hill drove that day, Sams said.

James Ercoli, a forensic scientist with the state's crime lab, testified that tests showed the presence of gasoline on two debris samples from the fire scene.

But Public Defender Tom McCulloch noted eight other samples were negative for gasoline. McCulloch also said in his opening statement Tuesday said not all cell tower data is absolute and suggested another person could have killed Pearson.

The trial is expected to run late into the week.