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Hill v. D'Ilio

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

September 25, 2018

ROBERT HILL, Petitioner,
v.
STEPHEN D'ILIO, et al, Respondents.

          OPINION

          PETER G. SHERIDAN U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Petitioner 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.

         II. BACKGROUND

         As 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 postconviction relief:

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 [Petitioner].
Following a jury trial, [Petitioner] was convicted of both counts.

State v. Hill, No. A-0201-10T4, slip op. at 1 ( N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. Feb. 1, 2013) (available at ECFNo. 14-15).

         The Appellate Division, on direct appeal, summarized the facts underlying that conviction as follows:[1]

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 residence.
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 this happen?"
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 questions."
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 North Jersey.
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 the following:
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 River?
Q. No.
. . . .
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?
A. Yes.
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?
A. Yes.
Q. Did he tell you where the body was being moved to?
A. No.
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 the victim?
A. No.
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 carrying ...

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