United States District Court, D. New Jersey
G. SHERIDAN U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Robert Hill has submitted an amended pro se petition
for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254. (Am. Pet., ECF No. 5.) Petitioner's motion to
expand the record is also pending before the Court.
(See ECF No. 21.) For the reasons stated herein, the
Court will grant Petitioner's motion to expand the
record, but his petition will be denied and no certificate of
appealability shall issue.
succinctly explained by the New Jersey Superior Court,
Appellate Division, in its February 1, 2013 opinion affirming
the denial of Petitioner's state court application for
Sometime between 10:00 p.m. on May 17, 2002 and 2:00 a.m. on
May 18, 2002, [Petitioner] killed his fiancee, Gwendolyn
Boyd, by strangling her with a bungee cord.
[Petitioner's] cousin, Michael Scott, attempted to help
[Petitioner] dispose of Boyd's body.
On February 8, 2005, [Petitioner] and Scott were indicted . .
. and charged with second-degree conspiracy to commit murder,
N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2 and N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a (count one), and
first-degree murder, N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3a (1), (2) (count two).
Scott agreed to plead guilty and testify against
Following a jury trial, [Petitioner] was convicted of both
State v. Hill, No. A-0201-10T4, slip op. at 1 (
N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Feb. 1, 2013) (available at ECFNo.
Appellate Division, on direct appeal, summarized the facts
underlying that conviction as follows:
At approximately 1:30 p.m. on May 18, 2002, [Petitioner]
Robert Hill knocked "heavily" on the door of his
neighbor, John Winstanley. After observing [Petitioner] was
sweating, breathing heavily, and had mucous coming out of his
nose, Winstanley repeatedly asked [Petitioner] "what the
problem was or what's the matter," but [Petitioner]
did not "reply at all." Because he was unable to
get any information from [Petitioner], Winstanley told his
daughter to dial 9-1-1. As [Petitioner] started to leave,
Winstanley told him that help was on the way, at which point
[Petitioner] dropped to his knees and said, "She's
dead. Mother F'er." Winstanley understood that
[Petitioner] was referring to Gwendolyn Boyd, his fiance,
with whom he resided at 1854 Moore Road. Winstanley stood in
his driveway watching as [Petitioner] returned to his
Minutes later, Officer Kevin Geoghegan of the Dover Township
Police Department arrived at the scene. As he walked up to
the front door at 1854 Moore Road he heard a male voice
screaming and crying out. Geoghegan opened the screen door
and began to enter through the partially-opened interior
wooden door when he realized there was a female body clad
only in panties lying face-up in the doorway. He quickly
determined the victim was cold and had no pulse. Geoghegan
then observed [Petitioner] sitting on the steps leading to
the first floor of the split-level home. [Petitioner] was
distraught, yelling "[w]ho could have done this? Why did
Shortly thereafter, Edward Spahr of the Dover Township Police
Department arrived, and it was determined the victim was
forty-year-old Gwendolyn Boyd. Although the police officers
attempted to elicit information from [Petitioner], he was
extremely agitated, and, for the most part, "he was not
forthcoming with direct answers to direct simple
As more officers arrived at the scene, Geoghegan and Spahr
asked [Petitioner] if he would accompany them to the police
station to give a statement, and he agreed to do so. Spahr
testified that as they left the house, [Petitioner] "was
more concerned with looking out the window of the door than
actually looking down at his fiance." Detective James
Pissott, of the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, who was
also present in the house as [Petitioner] was leaving,
recalled [Petitioner] stating, "I don't want any
cameras out there," and "Damn, why is [sic] there
so many cops out there?"
Following [Petitioner's] departure, Pissott noticed a
bungee cord near Boyd's body, as well as a rubber glove
tip under one of Boyd's legs and another one next to her
body. He also examined the body and noted there was a
ligature mark on the neck. Dr. Hydow Park, the pathologist
who performed an autopsy on Boyd's body, subsequently
confirmed that she died from "ligature
strangulation." At trial, Park would not give an
estimated time of death, but he concluded Boyd had "been
dead at least six hours, and probably twelve hours" when
her body was discovered.
At the police station, Sergeant Vincent Frulio of the Ocean
County Prosecutor's Office and another detective
interviewed [Petitioner]. [Petitioner] stated he and Boyd had
been together for two years, and he had moved into her Toms
River home in January 2001. He related he had been unemployed
since May 5, 2002, and he said he was trying to start an
on-line business. He acknowledged he regularly used
Boyd's Mitsubishi Montero because he did not own a car,
and his cell phone was registered to Boyd.
[Petitioner] told the police he had driven Gwendolyn Boyd to
the Newark school where she worked as a second-grade teacher
on May 17, 2002, and then spent most of the day in the
company of his girlfriend, Nadia Bryant. He later picked Boyd
up around 3:30 p.m. and drove home after stopping briefly at
a fast food restaurant to pick up some food for Boyd. He
remained at the house with Boyd (except for a brief trip to a
local restaurant to pick up some take-out food) until
approximately 10:00 p.m., when he left to go visit friends in
During the trip north, [Petitioner] placed numerous calls to
Michelle Simmons, another one of his girlfriends.
[Petitioner] told the police he drove to various locations in
Jersey City and East Orange in the hopes of seeing some
friends, but he was unable to provide details of his
whereabouts. Eventually, at approximately 2:30 a.m. on May
18, 2002, [Petitioner] went to Nadia Bryant's apartment
in East Orange where he spent the rest of the night.
[Petitioner] consented to a search of Boyd's Montero, but
he asked to be present when the vehicle was searched.
Accordingly, the police took [Petitioner] to a motel for the
night and then picked him up the next morning and drove him
to 1854 Moore Road. Upon arriving at the house, Sergeant
Frulio noticed [Petitioner] was shaking, and he appeared
extremely nervous. During the search, [Petitioner]
"became visibly upset" when the police told him he
"would not be taking possession of the vehicle or have
access to the residence" when the search was completed.
At trial, Mitchell testified [Petitioner] "was
shocked" when he was told he would not have access to
Boyd's vehicle, and [Petitioner] stated: "What am I
going to do now?"
When the search of the vehicle was completed, Mitchell asked
[Petitioner] if he would return to the police station to
speak with him. [Petitioner] agreed. During this interview,
Detective Mitchell again reviewed [Petitioner's]
activities on May 17 and 18, 2002. [Petitioner] told Mitchell
that before he left home on the night of the 17th, he had
received a phone call from Omar Byrd, the house painter he
and Boyd had hired, who had advised him that he would be
unable to make it the following day due to the weather.
[Petitioner] also told Mitchell that he stayed with Nadia
Bryant until about noon on May 18, and when he tried to
telephone Boyd while he was driving home, he got no answer.
In addition, [Petitioner] mentioned that after he returned
from Winstanley's house, he touched Boyd and picked up
the bungee cord lying nearby. At the end of the interview,
[Petitioner] was given twenty dollars and driven to the Point
Pleasant Train Station, so he could take the train to his
mother's house in Roselle.
Over the course of the next few days, police determined there
were no broken windows in the house and no sign of a forced
entry, although a few windows were open. They found no
fingerprints in the house other than [Petitioner's] and
Boyd's. They submitted numerous items, including the two
rubber glove fingertips, to the police lab for DNA analysis.
They recorded the messages on Boyd's telephone answering
machine, which ultimately turned out to be inaudible, and
they confirmed Gwendolyn Boyd owned the home alone, and she
died intestate. They also spoke to Michelle Simmons, Nadia
Bryant, and Omar Byrd. During the course of their
investigation the police discovered a number of Boyd's
personal belongings, including her vehicle registration, Blue
Cross/Blue Shield card, a paystub and a credit union
statement, in a dumpster on Crane Street in Newark, near the
home of one of [Petitioner's] former girlfriends with
whom he was still in contact.
Based upon a review of [Petitioner's] cell phone records,
the police learned that a call had been placed to Kadisha
Little on the night of May 17. They subsequently learned that
Little was the girlfriend of one Michael Scott, and they
interviewed Scott on May 24, 2002.
[Petitioner] was not arrested for the murder of Boyd until
July 2003. The DNA results from the glove tips did not come
back until March 2004. The DNA of Gwendolyn Boyd and Michael
Scott, but not [Petitioner], was identified in the fingertips
of the rubber gloves. At that time Scott was also arrested
for the murder of Gwendolyn Boyd. Following his arrest, Scott
gave several statements to the police.
trial, Scott testified that sometime prior to May 2002,
[Petitioner] told him he had two girlfriends, who were both
pregnant, and he asked Scott to help him "get rid of one
of them." According to Scott, at approximately 10:00
p.m. on May 17, 2002, [Petitioner] telephoned him and said:
"Well, today is the day. I'm tired. Got to get rid
of - got to do this today." [Petitioner] subsequently
picked Scott up at Scott's girlfriend's apartment on
Crane Street in Newark. Scott's trial testimony included
Q. Where did you go?
A. First we went to a gas station on Route 22. And then we
went to Toms River.
Q. Did you have any conversation on the way down to Toms
. . . .
Q. Why were you going to Toms River?
A. To get rid of his problem.
Q. Did you arrive down at the house you just identified?
Q. What happened when you got there?
A. I sat out in the truck. He pulled up on the side of the
house. I sat in the truck. He went inside through a back
door. And when I came in after a light came on, I heard
rumbling and bumbling, stuff hitting the floor, whatever. I
came in and I went upstairs.
Q. And what did you see when you got upstairs?
A. I came upstairs I seen Gwendolyn Boyd's body.
Q. Where was it?
A. Laying on the bed.
Q. Where was [Petitioner]?
A. Standing in the room.
Q. What did he say to you?
A. He didn't say anything much. He just said, here, take
these. Help me move it.
Q. Here, take what?
A. Take these gloves and help me.
Q. What kind of gloves are you talking about?
A. Latex rubber gloves.
Q. And what did you do with the gloves.
A. I put the gloves on.
Q. And did you help move the body?
Q. Did he tell you where the body was being moved to?
Q. How did you grab the body? By the way, did anybody help
you move the body?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. Anybody else in the house other than the two of you and
Q. And how did you grab the body?
A. I grabbed the body by the upper torso.
. . . .
Q. You grabbed the upper torso. What does he do?
A. He grabs her down by the legs and stuff. And we start