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Joan Robinson Hill, Texas Socialite
In the late '50s, Joan Robinson, daughter of Texas businessman Ash Robinson, was the belle of every ball in Houston, Texas. She was an excellent horsewoman who earned many trophies and medals at various horse shows in Houston. Joan was a popular society girl and had many connections, knowing everyone who was worth knowing in Houston during the 1950s and '60s.
Joan was the only child of her wealthy Texas oilman father, Ash Robinson, and he made sure that his daughter had everything that she wanted. Joan's life was filled with love, admiration, and horses. Then, at a party one night, she met John Hill, who was attending medical school. The two became inseparable and were soon married despite Ash Robinson's gentle protests that Joan had been rather flighty in the past and married twice before the age of 20, with both marriages lasting less than one year.
John Hill and a Mismatched Marriage
John Hill did not have money when he married Joan, and Ash Robinson agreed to pay for the couple's expenses up until John became a doctor. Ash made it possible for the young couple to live in the manner that his daughter was accustomed to. The Hills had a son in 1960, during John's first year of residency. Ash Robinson doted on his grandson the same way in which he doted on Joan; he engaged a diaper service, a private nurse, and just about everything under the sun.
By this time, people were beginning to notice what a mismatch Joan and John really were, and questions that had been on the minds of all who knew them were now being openly discussed. Joan was happy and open, while John seemed overly private, unhappy, and complex. Was John Hill a gold digger? Did he charm Joan in order to make life in medical school easier? These questions would soon be answered. If he loved Joan, he would pamper her and respect Ash for making his dreams a reality, but if he were a gold digger he would meet another woman and dump Joan cold.
Affair With Ann Kurth
John did indeed meet another woman. He met Ann Kurth while out with his son. Ann was a great beauty and a very conniving woman to boot, and she had her three sons with her when she men John for the first time. An affair began instantly, with Ann Kurth's sights being set on acquiring all that was Joan Robinson Hill's. The two had actually attended school together, and Ann was well aware of Joan's position with high society. She felt that she was inferior to Joan, and she wanted John to prove to her that she was better than Joan by leaving her.
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In the years after John had become a physician, he had become more irritated with the Robinson family in general and wanted to distance himself from them. And now with the stress of his new mistress, he was spending very little time with Joan and his son. Joan had at some point discovered he was having an affair and told her father. Together they tried to put a stop to it, but Ann was extremely cunning, and began tormenting John with threats of seeing other men, and had John emotionally off-balance. He would run to Ann and stay with her, while Joan was left alone.
Joan did everything to please John and went on a self-improvement program. She changed her style of clothes and straightened her hair. She didn't need much help in the looks department as she had been blessed naturally with movie star quality glamor. John made an effort to give her more time while Ann fumed, angry at what she considered to be a slight to her charms.
Valentine's Day, 1969
On Valentine's Day, John gave Ann the works with candy, a bracelet, and wads of cash, and his wife received nothing. Now Joan was livid at John for staying out all night and also hurt that he chose someone else. She was now sleeping in late, which concerned her maid, as Joan was usually an early riser. She had become very ill, and her father, mother, and John were all waiting on her as she lay around listlessly. One morning John gave her a glass of orange juice that she threw up, and this continued throughout the evening. Eunice, the concerned maid, asked Dr. John Hill what was wrong, and John replied that she has a virus and went off to work. Hours later, Joan was dead at the age of 38.
It is believed today that it could have been toxic shock poisoning, which no one knew anything about in the 1960s, but Ash believed that John Hill and Ann Kurth killed his daughter together. Ash got the best lawyers that money could buy, and after the trial, John was found not guilty, but Ash made threats and swore that he would get even. There was another trial scheduled for one year after John was exonerated.
John Hill married Ann, but the marriage was very short-lived—approximately nine months—due to Ann's jealousy and demanding ways. John moved on to marry someone else very quickly, while Ann wrote a self-serving book, Prescription Murder, in which she accused John of killing Joan and then trying to murder her.
Death of John Hill
In 1972, Dr. John Hill was ambushed and shot to death in his home. He was with his new wife, Connie, and his son, who were both left unharmed. There were more civil suits brought by John Hill's mother and Ann Kurth.
The story became a bestselling book called Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson and later a TV movie called Murder in Texas, with Farrah Fawcett playing Joan Robinson.
Do you know anything about this case? Feel free to leave comments below.
Did Dr. John Hill Kill His Wife?
- Joan and John Hill Murder Investigations | Texas Archive of the Moving Image
- 40 years later: Joan Robinson Hill—Bayou City History
- 40 years later: Dr. John Hill's Scandalous Saga—Bayou City History
From a humble upbringing in the Rio Grande Valley, the doctor and musician entered Houston's social scene and remains a part of Bayou City infamy.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.