LISBON - A village man who still maintains his innocence was sentenced to one year in prison for engaging in sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl.
Bobby Joe Hill, 47, of West Spruce Street, was sentenced during a Friday hearing in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court after previously entering an Alford plea to a single count of gross sexual imposition. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgement by the criminal defendant there is sufficient evidence for the prosecution to obtain a conviction.
The crime occurred on July 22, 2010, at Hill's home. The victim and her mother were living there at the time when Hill reportedly went to the girl's bedroom about 4:30 a.m. and began to perform sex acts on her as she slept. The girl woke up and fled to her grandmother's house after distracting Hill.
Defense attorney James Hartford said his client only took the Alford plea because otherwise he was facing a lengthy prison sentence on the original charges and just wanted to put the whole matter behind him.
Hill was originally charged with three counts of rape and three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, all based on the same crime, which carried a maximum possible combined prison sentence of 45 years to life.
Gross sexual imposition carries a maximum possible prison sentence of 18 months, and Judge C. Ashley Pike was puzzled why the county prosecutor's office would offer to make such a deal based on the seriousness of the original charges. Pike decided to read the grand jury testimony of the girl and came away with the belief something happened that day.
He imposed the one year prison sentence recommended by the prosecutor's office, with Hill receiving credit for 32 days already spent in the county jail.
After the hearing, Assistant County Prosecutor Tim McNicol said they encountered some "substantial evidentiary issues" during the course of preparing for trial. Specifically, while the girl maintained the crime occurred, she began having trouble recounting details.
Hill is the older brother of Clifford Hill Jr., husband of 25-year-old Tracy Hill, Sprucevale Road, Rogers, who was last seen on June 7, 2001. The day after Tracy was reported missing, the car she had been given by her mother was found in Clifford Hill's possession at his mother's home.
Clifford Hill told investigators he had no idea what had become of his wife and that she had given him permission to drive the car. Tracy had obtained a domestic violence protection order against her husband but dropped it the day before she disappeared.
Meanwhile, Clifford Hill went on to rob an Amish woman and her young daughter riding in a horse-drawn buggy in Holmes County in 2004. Following a stint in prison for that crime he was sentenced in 2009 to 23 years in prison for shooting an Ashland County man during a home invasion/robbery.