Arrest of husband gives life to case

Some things haven't changed in the year since Deborah Fortunato Dill went missing from her home on Woodbine Road.

 

The victim's family is still struggling with the loss of their loved one, but without any answers to the questions surrounding her disappearance.

And police still have the same suspect, but are lacking a body to prove a murder took place.

Now, however, Richmond County investigators say that suspect's arrest in Greenville, S.C., has given them hope the case could be jump started. John Dill, the victim's husband and prime suspect in her disappearance, was arrested Feb. 5, on burglary, conspiracy and grand larceny charges.

Mr. Dill had left the Augusta area about four months after his wife's disappearance a year ago today -- March 24, 2006. Before he left town, he was questioned by sheriff's investigators and even took a polygraph test. That exam was deemed inconclusive, said Investigator Steve Fanning, because Mr. Dill used various "countermeasures" while it was being taken.

Now, investigators say, his arrest gives them another chance to ask him about the night his wife went missing.

Investigator Fanning said new information has surfaced that makes talking to Mr. Dill more important, but refused to comment on it citing the ongoing investigation.

"We are going to re-initiate contact with him because we want to gain as much information from him as possible," said Investigator Fanning, who plans to travel to Greenville next week. "We are hoping that some piece of information from him might help."

Mrs. Dill was reported missing by her sister on April 25, 2006, more than a month after her husband said he last saw her at their home.

Investigators initially treated her disappearance as a missing person case. They monitored Mrs. Dill's bank accounts, which had cash deposited every month, as well as her phone activity. After two months without a sign, it became clear to investigators that Mrs. Dill was no longer alive.

"We were led to believe at that point that her disappearance could not have been voluntary," Investigator Fanning said.

To this day police have never detected any account activity and family members have never received a call, letter or any other word from Mrs. Dill.

Amanda Daniels, Mrs. Dill's daughter, said not knowing is the hardest part.

"It's awful and it's been the worst year of our lives," said Mrs. Daniels, who originally reported her mother missing to police. "It's one of those things that's not supposed to happen to you. It happens to other people and it happens on TV but it doesn't happen to you. But it happened to us."

Mrs. Daniels said she and her aunt, Jan Cliett, were pleased to learn of Mr. Dill's arrest because they believe he is the only person who knows what happened to Mrs. Dill.

"We're happy that he's not out just enjoying his freedom, but at the same time it doesn't bring my mother back," she said. "More than anything we want her."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

TIMELINE

March 24 - Deborah Dill and her husband, John Dill, have an argument at their Lake Olmstead home. This is the last time Ms. Dill is seen alive.

April 25 - Deborah Dill's daughter, Amanda Daniels, reports her mother's disappearance to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.

May 1 - Mr. Dill undergoes a polygraph test. The results are deemed inconclusive.

May 5 - After no evidence or trace of Mrs. Dill is discovered, Richmond County Investigator Steve Fanning begins looking at the case as a homicide. He executes a search warrant on the couple's home and interviews Mr. Dill.

May 6 - Investigators travel to Greenville, SC., to interview John Dill's ex wife.

May 7 - Investigators search the computer hard drives of John Dill and his employer. They discover internet searches on subjects such as how to handle a polygraph test, the rate of decomposition and serial killer Web sites.

May 9 - Canine search crews from Jesup, Ga., search the Dills' home and vehicles. 2313 Woodbine Road, rental apartment.

May 23 - Dog search expands to areas around the Dill home address and lake olmstead. A $2,000 reward is offered for information leading to her whereabouts.

July 24 - Investigators discover Mr. Dill has his probation transferred to Simpsonville, SC.

Feb. 5, 2007 - Mr. Dill is arrested by Greenville County sheriff's deputies on charges of burglary, conspiracy and grand larceny charges for the Oct. 5 break-in's at two local businesses.

Source: Investigator Steve Fanning.

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