Episode 525: The Death of Joan Robinson Hill- Part 1


Jan 1 2024 • 1 hr 33 mins

On March 19, 1969, thirty-eight-year-old Houston socialite Joan Robinson Hill died at Sharpstown General Hospital from what doctors at the time believed was flu-related symptoms. Hill’s body was quickly taken to the mortuary and embalmed before an autopsy could be performed, violating Texas law and undermining any attempts determine the cause of Joan’s death. Nevertheless, Joan’s father, a wealthy oil tycoon, believed his daughter’s death to be a homicide, used his influence to have her remains exhumed and had not one, but two additional autopsies performed to determine the cause of death.

Despite conflicting reports from the pathologists regarding a cause of death, Joan’s father was eventually successful in convincing the district attorney that her death was no accident, but was in fact murder committed by her husband, John Hill. After two unsuccessful attempts to convince a grand jury of John’s guilt, the district attorney finally convinced a third grand jury that John Hill had intentionally contributed to Joan’s death and he was charged with “murder by omission,” a first in the history of the Texas courts.

John Hill was put on trial for the murder of his wife in the winter of 1971, but the jury would never get a chance to weigh in on his guilt or innocence. In September of 1972, after one mistrial and several delays leading up to a re-trial, John Hill was murdered by an intruder who’d broken into his home. Although investigators believed Hill’s murder to have been a robbery gone wrong, many in Houston suspected Joan’s father, believing his son-in-law had evaded justice, had paid to have John Hill killed, leaving the deaths of Joan and John Hill an enduring mystery.

As always, thank you to the fantastic David White, of Bring Me the Axe Podcast, for research assistance


Associated Press. 1971. "Doctor 'hated' first wife." Corpus Christi Times, February 26: 1.

—. 1972. "Houston doctor slain at home." Corpus Christi Times, September 25: 13.

—. 1969. "Meningitis said fatal to socialite ." Corpus Christi Times, October 11: 13.

—. 1971. "Judge calls mistrial in Houston slaying." Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 27: 12.

—. 1970. "Panel indicts doctor in death of wife." Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 23: 3.

—. 1973. "District judge clamps lid on Houston doctor's murder." Odessa American, April 27: 3.

—. 1971. "Testimony continues in trial of physician." Odessa American, February 23: 2.

Gonzalez, J.R. 2009. 40 years later: Joan Robinson Hill. March 19. Accessed November 7, 2023. https://blog.chron.com/bayoucityhistory/2009/03/40-years-later-joan-robinson-hill/.

New York Times. 1977. "Oilman is cleared in Houston murder of his son-in-law." New YorkTimes, October 22: 1.

Thompson, Thomas. 1976. Blood and Money: A True Story of Murder, Passion, and Power. New York, NY: Doubleday.

United Press International. 1980. "Heiress may have been toxic shock victim." United Press International, November 23.

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.