Originally created 01/25/00

Snow stalls selection of Hill jurors



YORK, S.C. -- Snow and sleet were blamed for postponing the first day of jury selection in the capital murder trial of David Mark Hill, who is charged in connection with the killing of three caseworkers at an Aiken County Department of Social Services office.

Circuit Judge Marc Westbrook said snow began falling in the Upstate at about 9 a.m. Monday, creating conditions that were too dangerous for jurors to drive.

Jurors had been given a telephone number to call in case of emergency. On Monday, the message told them court was canceled, instructing them to report to the York courthouse today at 10 a.m. unless conditions remained hazardous.

"We told them not to come if they thought there were going to be any problems," Judge Westbrook said. "We'll just keep hanging in and plugging away."

Court officials now can add Mother Nature to the reasons the trial has been postponed. The trial was stopped in October when an impartial jury could not be selected in Aiken County because of pretrial publicity. Judge Westbrook moved the trial to York County, where he will select a jury and bus them to Aiken for trial.

In April 1998, Judge Westbrook authorized a delay in the case "with reluctance and regret" after a defense forensic psychiatrist quit.

In July, the public defender's officer requested another lawyer be added to the case, furthering the delays and pushing the trial date to the three-year anniversary of the killings.

Jimmy Riddle, Josie Curry and Michael Gregory were shot to death in the North Augusta office of the Department of Social Services in September 1996. Prosecutors say Mr. Hill killed the caseworkers because he was upset when his children were put into foster care.

Mr. Hill and his wife were estranged, and both were unemployed and receiving $2,122 a month in disability payments, according to court records.

Mr. Hill has been charged with three counts of murder, assault and battery with intent to kill, kidnapping and burglary.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

ReachGreg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.