I recently wrote about Nannie Doss, a “black widow” from Alabama known as the Giggling Granny. Click here to read it. Today, I’m featuring another Alabama black widow, Marie Hilley.
Audrey Marie Frazier Hilley was one of the nation’s most infamous “black widow” killers. Her heartless crimes and calculating schemes were the topics of headlines throughout the 1980s as her case played out in bizarre twists and turns. She died of exposure in 1987 at the age of 53 while on the lam from authorities.
Hilley was born in 1933 in Anniston, Ala. She would eventually be convicted of killing her first husband, Frank Hilley, and attempting to kill her daughter, Carol, with poison. She was suspected, however, in the deaths of others who died in her care. Hilley’s mother, Lucille Frazier, also died in Hilley’s care, as did her mother-in-law, Carrie Hilley. The final count of Marie Hilley’s victims remains unknown.
Frank died in 1975 after he’d been married to Marie for 25 years. Not long after, Marie’s daughter Carol became sick. Doctors misdiagnosed the cause of Carol’s illness several times before discovering arsenic in her system.
Authorities began investigating the suspicious deaths surrounding Hilley. She was indicted in 1979 for the attempted murder of Carol but escaped while free on $14,000 bond.
While on the run, she not only created one new identity, Robbi Hannon, but also portrayed Robbi’s invented twin sister, Teri Martin. As Robbi, Marie married John Homan in Marlow, New Hampshire, in 1981. When “Robbi” suddenly disappeared, “Teri” appeared to console Homan, her “brother-in-law.” Coworkers suspicious of Robbi-Teri alerted police and Marie Hilley went back to jail in January 1983. She was sentenced to life in prison for the death of Frank Hilley, plus twenty years for the attempted murder of her daughter, Carol.
John Homan, the duped husband, stood by Hilley, moving to an Anniston hotel to be near her during the trial. He died in 1989.
On February 19, 1987, authorities made the mistake of granting Marie a furlough from Tutwiler prison in Wetumpka. She initially spent time with Homan but one day left him a note and fled. On February 26, Hilley was discovered roaming near Anniston. She had been out in torrential rains and frigid temperatures for days by the time authorities captured her. She died a few hours later of heart failure brought on by exposure.
An article in the Los Angeles Times the next day announced that the woman “who once faked her own death has died of exposure while trying to elude authorities.” The article quoted Bob Field, the Calhoun County District Attorney, as saying, “It seems to be an anticlimactic way for someone who was the great escape artist (to die).”
Marie Hilley is buried in Forest Lawn Gardens in Anniston. Her case has been the subject of numerous books, reality TV shows, and a TV movie starring Judith Light as Hilley.