Homicide investigated

Published 10:39 pm Saturday, October 18, 2014

Detective: Virginia Marie Hill, pictured here at her home in 2005 during a newspaper interview, was killed at home Saturday morning. Police have ruled her death a homicide.

Detective: Virginia Marie Hill, pictured here at her home in 2005 during a newspaper interview, was killed at home Saturday morning. Police have ruled her death a homicide.

Victim was retired Philly police detective

A former Philadelphia police detective who spent much of her career helping reunite parents with their missing children died Saturday of injuries she received in an attack at her home in Suffolk’s Walnut Hill Estates.

Twelve hours after 69-year-old Virginia Marie Hill was found suffering from traumatic injuries that would eventually take her life Saturday morning, police announced in a press release that they had ruled her death a homicide.

Neighbors in the 400 block of Collier Crescent expressed shock over Hill’s death.

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“She was just good people, man,” said one neighbor who wished not to be identified.

She would look after neighbors’ homes when they were out of town, he said, adding, “That’s what we do out here.”

“I didn’t ever think anything like that was happening,” another neighbor, who would identify herself only as Myrtle, said. “It’s still kind of hard to believe.”

Neither of the neighbors noticed anything out of the ordinary until police arrived in the community early Saturday morning.

Suffolk spokeswoman Diana Klink stated in a press release that police and rescue personnel were called to the home at 5:28 a.m. Saturday. When they arrived, they found Hill “suffering from trauma,” and they took her by ambulance to Sentara Obici Hospital. She was pronounced dead a short time later, the release stated.

Hill was identified and her death ruled a homicide later in the day, after police had begun their investigation and located her next of kin.

Klink would not elaborate on the nature of the injuries, or whether the person who had called dispatch had been a resident of the community or a passerby.

“The information provided is the only information police asked to be released at this time since the investigation is in the preliminary stage,” she stated in an emailed response to questions about the initial release. “Just as soon as any additional details are available I will provide an updated release.”

Hill joined the Philadelphia police department in 1977, stepping into the Juvenile Aid Division in 1981, where she worked before retiring in 2002. She became a missing persons specialist in 1989.

During an interview with the Suffolk News-Herald in 2005, she described her zeal for the work of solving missing persons cases.

“I still get calls at all hours of the day trying to get me to come help find missing kids” she said, surrounded by flyers and other information about preventing abductions. “If you’re in law enforcement, you have to be the best you can be. When I investigated, I put my whole heart into it.”

In January 1980, the body of a young woman was found in a basement. About 15 years later, with the help of a bust and tissue samples from her family, Hill identified the girl as missing teenager Jacqueline Gough, who had been murdered years before. The case was featured on the television show “Sightings.”

During her tenure in Philadelphia, eight of the city’s 12 longest-running missing-child mysteries were solved, she said in 2005.

“You just don’t give up on these cases and you don’t close them until you find the child, or in some cases; identify their bodies at the morgue,” Hill said in a 2003 interview with the News-Herald. “The cases I investigated are the kind that haunt you. They keep you up at night, but you can’t let it make you fall apart. You have to … you are driven to find these kids.”

“Those kids were mine just as surely as if I’d given birth to them,” she said in 2003. “I cared for them, because I’d talked with their families and I had grown to know them. It feels good to find a missing child, but it also makes you feel sad. They should not have died so young. They should have had a life.”

Aside from “Sightings,” Hill also appeared on CNN and several local television and radio talk shows and had been a guest on the popular show “Most Wanted.” She had been profiled in the New York Times and Police Magazine and had been honored by the National Organization for Black Law Enforcement Executives, which she had represented on the board of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Project Alert steering committee.

She appeared in the 2004 National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund calendar, which labeled her a “living legend.”

The investigation into Hill’s death is ongoing, and police are seeking the public’s assistance, Suffolk’s Klink stated in an email.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Line at 1-888-Lock-U-Up. Crime Line callers do not have to give their names or appear in court. Citizens can also utilize TipSoft to anonymously submit crime-related tips through the Web, a text message, or from any Android or iPhone mobile device with the TipSubmit mobile app.

Tips can be submitted by visiting www.tipsubmit.com, or by texting the word “CRIMES” (274637) with the keyword SPDVATIP. TipSoft also supports users’ ability to submit videos or photos using the TipSoft mobile app. If information leads to an arrest, the tipster could qualify for a reward of up to $1,000.

Staff writer Titus Mohler contributed to this report.