State: Gas can, phone records will prove Hill guilty in Gilberts murder, arson
Prosecutors don't have a witness who saw Frank Hill torch his girlfriend's townhouse in far West suburban Gilberts in January 2007.
But they have absolutely everything else to prove that Hill killed 27-year-old Karyn Pearson, Kane County Assistant State's Attorney Greg Sams said Monday afternoon.
"It's a simple story," Sams told the jury in opening arguments in the trial against Hill. "(He) killed Pearson, his longtime girlfriend, a woman who was just trying to end the relationship."
Hill, 33, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and aggravated arson. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
Neighbors in the 500 block of Telluride Drive heard noises and stomping coming from Pearson's townhouse hours before the first flames were seen at 5 a.m. Jan, 9, Sams said.
The gasoline-fueled fire damaged other townhouses in the six-unit building and burned Pearson's body so badly that dental records were needed to identify her, Sams said.
Sam said Pearson's relationship with Hill was basically over. She confided in friends and sent emails to co-workers indicating she was trying to make Hill move out and wanted to change the locks afterward, Sams said.
Two nights before her death, Pearson slept at her mother's place, also in Gilberts. The next day, she returned to her home to get a change of clothes and was never seen again.
"That was her mistake because the defendant was there," Sams said.
When Hill was questioned by police later that day, Hill said he left the townhouse at about 3:30 a.m. to meet a co-worker in Schaumburg and then went to Indiana to visit a friend, Sams said.
But, Sams noted, Hill was on his cellphone at 4:52 a.m. -- and cell tower records show his location to be less than a mile from the crime scene. Neighbors also saw Pearson's two vehicles in her driveway shortly before the fire.
Investigators believe the gasoline was the accelerant for the fire and debris samples from the home sent to the state crime lab back that up, Sams said.
Sams said police seized the I-PASS transponder from Pearson's Jaguar that Hill was driving. Records show it was driven through an Elgin tollbooth at 5:11 a.m. -- presumably as Hill was escaping the scene.
The final piece of evidence that authorities took from the Jaguar?
"In the trunk was an empty gasoline can," Sams said.
Hill's defense team will give its opening statement to the four-man, eight-woman jury Tuesday morning.
The trial is expected to last late into the week as prosecutors have some 30 witnesses to call.