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Published: Tuesday, 10/25/2005

2 decades later, woman seeks justice for slain sister

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rachel Hill of Swanton Township reflects on the slaying of her sister, Lori, who was shot to death 20 years ago today in a crime that remains unsolved. Lori, 14, was last seen alive walking along the Fulton-Lucas county line after a spat with her boyfriend during a party. A self-described 'wild child' before Lori's death, Rachel, who named her daughter Lori, says she became 'insanely wild' for years afterward - years that were, as she recalls, 'absolutely . . . nightmarish.' Rachel Hill of Swanton Township reflects on the slaying of her sister, Lori, who was shot to death 20 years ago today in a crime that remains unsolved. Lori, 14, was last seen alive walking along the Fulton-Lucas county line after a spat with her boyfriend during a party. A self-described 'wild child' before Lori's death, Rachel, who named her daughter Lori, says she became 'insanely wild' for years afterward - years that were, as she recalls, 'absolutely . . . nightmarish.'
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SWANTON - On the fourth day his 14-year-old daughter was missing, Roger Hill rode home from Swanton with the police chief.

As he got out of the car, he appeared in such distress that his older daughter, Rachel, wondered for an instant whether he had suffered a heart attack. But deep inside, she already knew what he was about to say.

"They shot her," he told his wife, Dorothy, as he held her.

"And my mom just started screaming," Rachel Hill recalled.

It was 20 years ago today that Lori Ann Hill was last seen alive, walking along the Fulton-Lucas county line toward home after a spat over class rings with her boyfriend at a party.

Since then, both her parents have died.

Her sister, Rachel, has gotten to the point she no longer thinks about Lori's death every day.

Lori Ann Hill Lori Ann Hill
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But the murder remains unsolved.

"We still have suspects, but we're not in a position to go any further," Fulton County Sheriff Darrell Merillat said yesterday.

The likelihood of solving the case is difficult to predict, he said. His office has two other murder cases from the 1980s - both women whose bodies were apparently dumped in the county - that also remain unsolved.

"I encourage anyone to call," the sheriff said. "That's what we need."

Rachel remains bitter over what she calls a botched investigation.

As a teenager, she secretly feared that whoever killed her sister might attack her too. And she became very protective of her daughter, also named Lori.

But Rachel, who was 16 at the time, also exposed her daughter, who turned 2 the month her aunt was killed, to talk of revenge.

She'd still like her sister's killer to be executed, but she wishes now she had shielded her young daughter from such conversations.

"I'm sorry she had to hear all the things she heard," Rachel said yesterday.

But in the fall of 1985, it was all she could think about.

Lori's 15th birthday fell the week after her beaten, nude body was found by a deer hunter in a wooded area along Fulton County Road M, between County Roads 12 and 13.

Although the wounds to her head initially appeared to have come from a gunshot, the coroner later ruled that she was beaten, possibly with an object such as a tire iron.

And the village of Swanton reeled that such a thing could happen there.

Lori was a sophomore at Swanton High School who loved horses. She talked about wanting to become a teacher; her dream was to work with disabled students.

She started classes in Swanton the year before as a freshman after attending Springfield Local schools.

Most of her childhood, however, was spent in Florida. She was born in Miami, and then lived in a rural area near Jacksonville.

When she was 11 or 12, the family moved to Lucas County to be close to Toledo's Historic Woodlawn Cemetery where her father sold vaults and markers.

After Lori's murder, her mother took to her bed and never really recovered.

Her father turned to investigating, trying to find details of how his daughter was killed.

And Rachel, who had been in her words a "wild child" before her sister's death, became "insanely wild" afterward.

That went on for years.

Years, that were, she recalls, "absolutely ... nightmarish."

Contact Jane Schmucker at:

jschmucker@theblade.com

or 419-337-7780.



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