September 19, 2014

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Oberlin author to be on ‘Dead Files’

ELYRIA — Don Hilton is not one to delight in the ghastly violence of life.

Hilton

Hilton

“I’m not a morbid person by nature,” the Oberlin resident and author said. “It’s more about showing how little people change, how little human nature has changed over time.”

And about how anyone, under the right circumstances, can be capable of murder.

“Sometimes it happens out of love, lust or guilt, and sometimes it’s for no good reason at all,” Hilton said.

A 1953 murder case in Cambridge Springs, Pa., in Hilton’s native Crawford County drew the attention of producers of the Travel Channel’s “The Dead Files” series to Hilton and his 2012 book “Murders, Mysteries and History of Crawford County, Pennsylvania 1800-1956.”

Hilton was interviewed for 90 minutes for the episode scheduled to air 10 p.m. June 28 that looked to his experiences researching the 1953 disappearance and murder of Doris Hatch, a 22-year-old woman from the tiny town.

The case is one of the more than 100 murders in Hilton’s native Crawford County, Pa., which inspired his most recent book, published independently through AuthorHouse in Bloomington, Ind.

“I don’t know if we’ll see five or 10 minutes of me or only 30 seconds,” Hilton said with a smile.

Information that Hilton supplied in his interview comprises the “Dead Files” segment detailing an investigation into Hatch’s murder by retired New York City homicide detective Steve Di Schiavi.

A second, independent investigation was conducted by psychic Amy Allan.

The episode is billed on the Travel Channel’s website as “Lethal Waters,” and includes this description: “Steve and Amy investigate a shocking case of dangerous paranormal activity at the historic Riverside Inn in Cambridge Springs, Pa. While Steve uncovers a deadly secret, Amy discovers the spirit of a woman who can control the living.”

Unsure of how the psychic’s “findings” relate to the case, Hilton’s interest in the woman’s murder was strictly fact-based.

After leaving the bank where she worked for lunch on July 27, 1953, Hatch stopped by the hardware store where she also worked part time for William Turner, her 38-year-old boss who soon became the prime suspect in the woman’s disappearance.

With a degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Turner knew how to manipulate the legal system to his advantage, Hilton said.

“They were certain he did it early on but never charged him because the evidence was all circumstantial,” including signs of a love triangle involving Turner’s wife.

Turner, his wife and daughter wound up moving to Massachusetts after the case went cold.

In the fall of 1955, a Connecticut hunter came across a badly decomposed body that was conclusively identified as Doris Hatch through dental records, and a Bulova watch whose serial number matched that of one sold to the woman in Cambridge Springs, according to Hilton.

After learning Hatch’s body had been found, Turner told his wife he planned to return to Crawford County to clear himself.

He then went for a walk, only to be found sitting against a seawall with a fatal self-inflicted gunshot wound.

In a letter that later made its way to a Cambridge Springs newspaper, Turner professed his innocence but said he took his own life as he was broke, in poor health, and wished to spare his family the emotional turmoil of a trial.

Hilton said one of the most fascinating aspects of the case was the amount of time it took authorities to close in on Turner.

“You have to remember this was before U.S. courts ruled that someone could be convicted of murder by circumstantial evidence in the absence of a body being found,” Hilton said.

“Up to that time, you had to have a body in order to prove someone guilty,” Hilton said.

“This is why Turner continued to taunt police by saying ‘if I did it, then where’s the body,’” Hilton said.

Hilton is now poring over Lorain County court records and county historical society files to compile information for a similar volume on area murder cases through the years.

Hilton’s book can be purchased online from Amazon and at major bookstores.

To read more about Hilton, visit www.DHiltonBooks.net.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.