Tuesday, May 09, 2000

Debbie Hill free after five years in prison

She killed man she said stalked her

By Sara J. Bennett
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOVELAND — The yellow ribbons can come down now. Debbie Hill is home after spending five years in jail for shooting an ex-boyfriend she said stalked her.

        The Warren County mother walked out of a Columbus prison Monday morning and into the arms of family who kept yellow ribbons on her childhood home in anticipation of her freedom.

        “It was indescribable,” said Timothy Slemp of the moment he saw his sister. “It was a big relief and a happy occasion. A lot of hugs.”

        Ms. Hill, who declined an interview saying she preferred to spend a quiet first day home with family, was granted parole in March. She went to prison for killing Omar Pierson, 51, in November 1994 — two days before they were scheduled to go to court on charges that he stalked her.

        People throughout the area rallied around Ms. Hill's case, sending hundreds of prayers and letters. Yellow ribbons adorned her parents' home on Wards Corner Road in Loveland the entire time she was gone.

        Monday evening, Ms. Hill's family gathered at the house for dinner.

        “It's a big relief for her to finally be home,” said Mr. Slemp of Williamsburg. “She's ecstatic.”

        But while one family celebrated Monday, another mourned.

        “We've got no justice whatsoever,” said Omar Pierson's mother, Zella Pierson, of Harlan Township. “I've been in bed all day over this. Nobody knows how I've suffered. I've shed so many tears I'm blind.”

        Mr. Pierson's family campaigned to keep Ms. Hill in prison during previous parole attempts.

        “She wasn't supposed to get out (this time),” Ms. Pierson said. “We weren't notified of the hearing. They said they sent the letters, but we never got them.”

        Debbie Hill, a mother and widow, shot Omar Pierson on a deserted country road. She claimed the truck driver and hired hand from Harlan Township started threaten ing her and her family when she tried to end their dating relationship.

        The night of the killing, Ms. Hill, then 45, said she followed Mr. Pierson to get his license plate number. When Mr. Pierson got out of his vehicle and approached her car menacingly, Ms. Hill said, she shot him five times through the closed window.

        Ms. Hill plea bargained for 2-10 years for negligent homicide and carrying a concealed weapon. She thought she would serve a year or so, but the Ohio Parole Board denied earlier requests for release.

        Robin Piper, the Butler County special prosecutor who handled the case, said he trusted reports that Ms. Hill has been rehabilitated.

        “It's been a long process and it's been an unfortunate case for many people for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “And despite all of the pain that has been caused, hopefully everyone can continue to move forward in a positive direction.”

        That's exactly what Ms. Hill's family and friends have in mind. Her brother, Timothy Slemp, said she spent her first day of freedom talking with her son, Travis, 20, and visiting the home she hasn't seen in five years.

        Rebecca Case of Lebanon, a lifelong church friend who corresponded with Ms. Hill while she was in prison, said her release was long overdue.

        “It's about time that she's been let out,” Ms. Case said. “We prayed for this, so this is an answered prayer, and so many people are ecstatic.”

        Ms. Case said she planned to wait a little while before seeing her friend.

        “I'll give her some quiet time then check up on her in a couple of weeks,” she said. “I think the adjustment is going to be huge. You can imagine being in that environment for five years and then coming back to your old life — that's going to be a major life change.”


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