Witnesses came from all over the East Coast yesterday to portray Louis Hill III more as a religious peacemaker than as a murderer who may be headed for Maryland's gas chamber.
The 26-year-old Morehouse College graduate and businessman was convicted Tuesday of the premeditated murders of Dorothy J. Langmead and Anastasia "Stacey" George and the attempted murders of Barbara Mitchell Aldrich and Cindy Ann Thomas.
The women worked for the Randallstown branch of the Farmers Bank & Trust Co. in the 9800 block of Liberty Road. All were shot Oct. 26, 1992, as they lay helpless on the floor of the bank's vault. Hill's accomplice, Benjamin Franklin Boisseau Jr., 23, is serving multiple life sentences for his role in the crime.
Baltimore County prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty against Hill, called no witnesses at yesterday's sentencing hearing. They said the crime's brutality outweighed anything that Hill's defense could offer.
Harford County Circuit Judge William O. Carr heard from more than a dozen defense witnesses, then said he would review the evidence before making a decision. He did not say when he would decide. He must weigh any aggravating factors of the crime against mitigating factors, such as the fact that, until the murders, Hill had not committed any violent crimes.
During the hearing, Hill beamed as witness after witness described his exceptional qualities as a student, athlete and businessman. They called him "a peacemaker," "a mediator," a spiritual man who brought friends, relatives and jail inmates to Christianity.
After two years of working for a pharmaceutical company -- whose regional manager testified that Hill tested third in a nationwide job search -- he worked with his mother in their Spankin' Clean Inc. residential and commercial cleaning service.
Almost every one of the well-dressed, well-educated and successful men and women said that the Louis Hill they knew abhorred violence. Assistant State's Attorney John P. Cox said Hill had "misled all these good people."
"The bottom line is, this man had everything: an incredible family, an education, support all around him," Mr. Cox said. "He had no adversities, and yet he still placed himself" in the bank with the Mac-11 Cobray automatic pistol he bought in 1990.
Hill was the youngest of three children. His mother, Willie Mae Hill of Chetwood Circle in Timonium, said she stayed home in Memphis to raise him. His father, Hollis L. Hill, a one-time social worker, became a successful businessman. Mr. Hill, 50, wept as he beseeched the judge to spare his son.
Named for his entrepreneur grandfather, Louis Hill made friends easily as the family moved about. Although they lived in largely white, elite suburbs, Mrs. Hill said, "race was never a problem for Louis."
His sister, Chaunfayta Hill, a Vanderbilt University graduate, said her brother is her best friend and is full of common sense.
While at Morehouse, Hill asked the Rev. Frederick Meredith if he could move into the seminarians' dormitory. Mr. Meredith said that, although he thought Hill's request unusual, "I wanted him in my building. He wanted to talk about spirituality. He was influential with the students there."
Sean Cotton had driven down from New York just to testify in Hill's behalf. Mr. Cotton, a software engineer for a utility company and fellow Morehouse alumnus, said Hill "saved my neck a couple of times [when] school rivalry got out of hand. . . . He was definitely about keeping the peace."
Hill did not testify under oath yesterday. However, he did make a speech in which he thanked God and his family, then said he had been "falsely accused."
"I've been serving Jesus Christ since I was 12 years old," he said. "I'm going to be a soldier for Jesus Christ wherever I go . . . to the death chamber, if that's where it leads me."