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Ohio governor reduces sentence for man who killed mom

  • Story Highlights
  • Jeffrey Hill stabbed his mother after smoking cocaine in 1991
  • Family recommended commutation, said they had suffered enough
  • Hill will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison but could be released
  • "I constantly wish I could take it back," Hill has said
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By Bill Mears
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A man who stabbed his mother to death while on a crack-cocaine binge was spared lethal injection Thursday after Ohio's governor commuted his sentence to life in prison.

Gov. Ted Strickland said he agreed with the state parole board that Jeffrey Hill deserved a 25-year-to-life sentence. The inmate was to be put to death March 3.

The objections of Hill's family to the capital punishment, saying they had suffered enough, was among the reasons cited by the governor in his decision.

The parole board unanimously recommended last month that Hill be given clemency and serve life in prison. He had expressed repeated remorse for his actions, telling the Cincinnati Enquirer this week, "I constantly wish I could take it back."

Corrections officials in the state said it was the first time someone who killed a family member had the unanimous backing of surviving family members against execution.

"I made a promise to my family. If they wanted to fight, I would fight" the planned execution, Hill said in the interview. "If they wanted me to die, I would do it. I didn't want to hurt them anymore."

Hill said he does not recall stabbing 61-year-old Emma Hill to death in her Cincinnati apartment in 1991. He admitted smoking cocaine both before and after the crime, and getting into a heated argument with his partially paralyzed mother.

Court records cited his trial testimony, in which he said he remembered his mother "was talkin' to me ... and the next thing I know, she's layin' on the floor" and stabbing her "more than once" with a kitchen knife."

He then ransacked the home and stole money to buy more drugs. The woman's body was discovered by police two days later.

Lawyers for the 44-year-old inmate argued that he did not have adequate legal representation at his capital sentencing and that the death sentence was excessive when compared with similar murder cases.

Strickland's commutation means Hill could be released from prison. He remains at the Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown.

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