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Ash Robinson Dies In Florida Hospital

February 16, 1985 GMT

HOUSTON (AP) _ Ash Robinson, a Texas oilman and the father of a Houston socialite whose mysterious death in 1969 was the basis for the best-selling book ″Blood and Money,″ has died at a Florida hospital of natural causes.

Robinson, 87, died Thursday afternoon at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla., said hospital spokeswoman Mary Ellen Kelchner. He had been hospitalized for about two weeks, Ms. Kelchner said.

Robinson’s death closed a chapter in the bizarre story that began with the mysterious death of his daughter, Joan Robinson Hill. Robinson, never indicted, was accused of arranging the 1972 killing of his son-in-law, Dr. John Hill, a Houston plastic surgeon. He denied the allegations.

The Hill-Robinson case was the subject of Tommy Thompson’s book ″Blood and Money″ and a television movie, ″Murder in Texas.″

The tangled drama began unfolding in mid-March 1969, when Mrs. Hill, 38, suddenly became ill.Her father thought she had a case of the flu. But, after treatment at home by her husband, her condition worsened and she was rushed to a hospital. She died 15 hours later.

Mrs. Hill was embalmed before an autopsy could be done, complicating efforts to find the cause of death. Repeated examinations, including exhumation of her body five months after her death, left her fatal illness unexplained beyond a finding of ″massive infection″ from an undiscovered source.

Hill soon married Ann Kurth, but divorced her nine months later, shortly before he was indicted on a charge of murder by omission in his first wife’s death.

The grand jury alleged that Hill contributed to Joan Hill’s death by ″willfully, intentionally and culpably″ failing to give her proper medical treatment.

At the trial, Ms. Kurth testified Hill had tried to kill her and had confessed to Joan’s murder. The case ended in a mistrial in February 1971.

Hill, 41, married for a third time and four weeks before his second murder trial was to begin, he was fatally shot by a masked gunman at his plush River Oaks mansion in September 1972.

The gunman forced his way into Hill’s home, tied up Hill’s son Robert, then 8, and Hill’s elderly mother, Myra, and announced a ″robbery.″ But the man waited until Hill returned.The gunman then shot Hill three times with a .38- caliber pistol, took his wallet and fled.

Hill’s third wife, Connie, and his son sued Robinson for $7.6 million in a wrongful death action, claiming Robinson masterminded Hill’s killing.

Robinson professed his innocence while insisting his son-in-law was responsible for Joan Hill’s death.

″I didn’t want him dead,″ Robinson said of Hill. ″The killing didn’t solve his problems or mine.″

Ms. Kurth later published a book supporting Robinson’s suspicions. Her book, ″Prescription Murder,″ claimed Hill tried to kill her and probably had poisoned Joan Hill with pastries laced with human fecal bacteria.

Police eventually charged Bobby Wayne Vandiver in Hill’s death. But Vandiver was shot to death in May 1974 by East Texas police before his involvement in the case could be detailed.

A Houston woman with a past in prostitution and gambling, Lilla Paulus, and a young Dallas prostitute, Marcia McKittrick, were convicted as accomplices.

Mrs. Paulus refused to testify in the wrongful death trial. Miss McKittrick testified she understood Robinson paid Mrs. Paulus $25,000 to find someone to kill Hill. She said Mrs. Paulus paid Vandiver $5,000 to do the killing.

Miss McKittrick passed a polygraph test. So did Ash Robinson. A civil court jury decided Robinson did not mastermind the killing.

The Robinsons left Houston and moved to Pensacola seven years ago in an effort to escape publicity.

A funeral service was scheduled today at 3 p.m. EST, said an official at Harper-Morris Memorial Chapel in Pensacola.

Robinson is survived by his wife, Rhea, 84, and a grandson, Robert Hill, 24.