Skarlet writes about famous (and infamous) people, business development, medicine, physical education, beauty, fashion, and crafts.
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.
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.
Luciano on January 09, 2020:
No, he didn't kill her. Her father, Ash Robinson is a murderer. And Ann Kurht was a real gold digger.
Cinnamonbear on March 17, 2018:
I don't know who wrote this article but Dr John Hill was not found "not guilty" or exonerated in this case. His 1st trial was declared a mistrial and before he could be tried again he was murdered.
Martha Schaefer on March 16, 2018:
The movie was my first time enjoying the movie actor Sam Elliott. I was hooked!! Handlebar moustache, slightly crooked smile, voice with 1000 nuances, he was just delicious to look at. He was a very believable Dr. Hill who in the movie also had a fanatical obsession with music. Always listening to some concerto and at the moment of the cymbals cue Sams eyes. They’re dead. He was a gifted pianist as well. He and Joan quite the couple. Earning big money, spending big money as high society dictates. Farrah Fawcett played Joan-well. She played spoiled as her birth right and smoked a mean cigarette. Well GOLLY Andy Griffith was her dad Ash Robinson. His first foray as a narcissist. There’s always unrequited love and a girlfriend. The girlfriend was played by the amazing Katharine Ross who was and is Sam Elliott’s real life wife. Such a subtle journey literally into Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebration pan a skeleton decorated cemetery and white linen suit. Visions of hiding Nazis and their new South American homes skipping Nuremberg. Such delicious evil and really, no ready answer.
Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on March 13, 2017:
I'd like to read the book and see the movie someday, an interesting case.
MN on October 18, 2016:
Do I recall that John Hill's face was rendered unrecognizable in his murder? The hint that he may have been seen and photographed in Mexico later on, is interesting. After all, he was a plastic surgeon, wasn't he? Bound to have had plenty of connections both in the US and Mexico. Curious.
LG Liang on February 29, 2016:
If "Boot" Hill starts to throw up and has a bacterial infection, please notify me. I am curious how this case resolves itself. Or of any past lovers of
Joan Hill turn up, please notify me. I want to research this case. I find it very interesting, since the pieces of the puzzle haven't resolved itself.
Cinnamonbear on September 15, 2015:
Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson is by far the best book on this case. Prescription Murder by Ann Kurth in my opinion was a joke and much of it reads like a tabloid. Most of the people involved are dead. Marcia McKittrick died a few years ago.I first read Blood and Money in the late 70's or early 80's. Ash Robinson was on trial at the time. I believe it may have been a civil suit. Fascinating story!
Minnie on August 16, 2014:
I grew up in Houston and remember this case. The reason I remember is that I had a doctor with the same last name. No relation.
Also I have the blood and money book when it first was in paperback.
Skarlet (author) from California on November 28, 2013:
I have. It's a great site, but I haven't paid for the crime footage or any of the hidden info...
murray57 on November 23, 2013:
has anyone been able to access the website joanhillmurdersaga.com mentioned in se gerlach's comment?
Alicia Walls-Raffkind on August 30, 2013:
So interested. I've read blood & money super good & sad.... :dr hill was quiet strange, however will def ck out joanhillmurdersaga.com. Would love to buy/read you're book S.E. Gerlach hey thanks..... I'm in Amarillo & my husband owned a restaurant during the T. Cullen Davis trial . He always said Karen Master was @ his bar every night .....said it was an interesting time as well, Ft Worth & Houston had some strange rich murder cases
Skarlet (author) from California on August 08, 2013:
Thank you S.E. Gerlach. I will definitely check out joanhillmurdersaga.com. Would love to know what is in Joan's diary. Look forward to your book.
S.E. Gerlach on August 08, 2013:
I have conducted 3 years of research on this case and have Joan's personal diary and notes. What I have found is shocking and you won't believe the true ending of this case. It appears that when Blood and Money was written the info was no accessible because of the on going court cases. I have a web site at joanhillmurdersaga.com that contains crime scene pics and other info obtained through court records. I will be publishing a book in the near future with all the explosive details.
Skarlet (author) from California on August 06, 2013:
Thank you for your comment Txredesign. I totally agree with you. I would love to hear some accounts of those who are still alive, and particularly their son, "Boot Hill" who is practicing law somewhere on the east coast. I am not sure what ever happened to John Hill's third wife.
I believe that getting into an affair with Ann was the biggest mistake John Hill ever made.
I guess the whole thing is even more intriguing because even though it was such a major case, there is not a lot of info about it.
I first became interested in the case when I came across Ann's book, but after loaning it to a sharp older man who said, this is BS. Why would she stay married to him when he was trying to killer her? Then when I read Blood and Money, and came across some statements by John Hills son that Ann was very controlling and jealous, it became clear that she was trying to cash in on the scandal and seek revenge all at the same time. After reading a second time it was very clear.
Txredesign on August 06, 2013:
For several years I have been fascinated with this Texas story, Blood and Money is a superb book about this case/cases, extremely well researched. Noticed you had some photos I've never seen before, the one of Ann Kurth never have I seen that before. It's really hard to believe that Hill would want to "trade down" for someone like her, I believe much of her book, Prescribtion Murder was bogus and written just to make some money. It would be very interesting if people that were still alive and knew some of these people involved would comment today and tell what their accounts were.
Skarlet (author) from California on September 21, 2012:
You are welcome poetvix. I am glad you stopped by. I should have known you were from Texas. I was there visiting two years ago and loved the levelheaded, and friendly people. I am in Crazy brained California. It gets frustrating at times. Thanks you for the comment.
poetvix from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country. on September 21, 2012:
I live here and had never heard of this! It was fascinating. Thank you for a most interesting account of local history.
Angela Blair from Central Texas on June 04, 2012:
I've never abandoned the case entirely as its always held such interest for me. I agree, it's difficult to find much information pertaining to the case now. Again, your treatment of the case was superb. Best/Sis
Skarlet (author) from California on June 04, 2012:
Thank you Angela,
Wow! I have always found this case interesting, and its rather hard to find any details about it now. I have never heard that theory before, but then again, I am in California. This Makes me want to learn more.
Angela Blair from Central Texas on June 04, 2012:
Excellent read and subject matter, Skarlet. In Texas, those of us having followed this saga when it was happening, doubt seriously John Hill was shot to death in his home as reported. Yes, a man believed to be John Hill was murdered that day but as to whether it was John or not has always been nebulous at best. Identification of the body, other than it having been in Hill's house, was very sketchy and reports of a man -- a dead ringer for John Hill -- later came out of Mexico -- including photographs (after Ash Robinson died). It's widely believed among Texans that John Hill faked his own death as he knew he'd never escape from Ash Robinson who was a very powerful man in Houston and well "connected." John Hill's death is still regarded as open for conjecture in the State of Texas. I've read the book you speak of and found it to be one of the best true crime stories I've ever read. Houston, at that time, was a hotbed of strange happenings among the rich, famous and crime hierarchy. Voted this Hub way up for its excellent presentation of the facts and superb writing. Best/Sis
Skarlet (author) from California on June 04, 2012:
Thank you fpherj48
I have the same question. I am fascinated by True Crime, and I am shocked at what people do when it seems they could have just lived their lives, but, they chose to turn it all upside down.
Suzie from Carson City on June 04, 2012:
Skarlet.....Love True Crime/Murder Mystery. Our fellow-hubber Kim Cantrell focuses on this topic.
I am always shocked and amazed at the criminal activities of the over-privileged individual.....my question is always...how does anger and revenge over-power the fear of total destruction of your life?
Interesting story... UP++
Skarlet (author) from California on June 03, 2012:
Yes, it was a suspenseful movie, and the book was really something. It is sad, because she was so young and because the last years of her life were unhappy.
Thank you for your comment- Always a pleasure to see you here.
Dianna Mendez on June 03, 2012:
I think I saw the movie with Farrah. It was quite suspenseful. It seems like a very clear case that John murdered his wife. Sad that she had to die in this way and so young. Voted up.