Dateline   |  February 01, 2013

The Night Hannah Hill Disappeared, Part 1

Hannah Hill is eighteen years old, a former homecoming queen beloved by friends and family. Then, on a spring evening in 1999, she disappears. Dateline NBC's Dennis Murphy reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

TARA FERGUSON: I just can't see why is someone we knew would want to hurt her?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: How could this happen -- how could this happen to someone that we knew?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It's been very long thirteen years.

LESTER HOLT: Homecoming queen Hannah Hill was just eighteen when she disappeared. Everybody's sweetheart.

JUSTIN HILL: This doesn't happen to the people like her. What? Why? Where? When?

LESTER HOLT: And who? Was it her boyfriend? They had fought before.

ANNA FRAGALIA: Did you verbally abuse her?


ANNA FRAGALIA: Did you physically abuse her?


LESTER HOLT: Or was it another man in her life. They had been together the night she died.

DENNY ROSS: We kissed and stuff...

BROWN: Did you have sex with Hannah ?

DENNY ROSS: No, I did not.

LESTER HOLT: More than thirteen years would go by as Hannah 's family fought for justice -- two possible suspects.

ANNA FRAGALIA: Did you kill Hannah Hill ?

BRAD OBORN: Absolutely not.

DENNIS MURPHY: Did your kid kill Hannah Hill ?


LESTER HOLT: Two trials --

TARA FERGUSON: I was a wreck. It was just very intense.

LESTER HOLT: Would there ever be justice for Hannah Hill ?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The truth always comes out.

LESTER HOLT: I'm Lester Holt . And this is DATELINE . Here's Dennis Murphy with our story.

DENNIS MURPHY: She was a girl who made big entrances.

JUSTIN HILL: She can walk in the room and light up the place. She'd make the whole room smile.

TARA FERGUSON: She was always happy. Just wanted to have fun.

DENNIS MURPHY: But it was her exit, her sudden disappearance, poof, gone from her house just like that, that enshrouded young Hannah Hill in mystery.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Miss Hill was last seen last Wednesday. We're asking that anyone with any information contact the Akron Police Department Detective Bureau .

DENNIS MURPHY: She was eighteen years old, just days from turning nineteen and seemed to be in for the night. A former homecoming queen in her PJ 's phoning a few friends from the basement bedroom at her mom and dad's in Akron , Ohio . It's too late now but you wish she could answer just one question: why did you leave the house so suddenly that night? Her brother Justin doesn't know.

JUSTIN HILL: She got dress and said, "I'm going off for a little bit. I'll be back. I love you."

DENNIS MURPHY: And that was it?

JUSTIN HILL: Never seen her again.

DENNIS MURPHY: The thing was, the next morning on Thursday in May of 1999 was going to be a red letter day for Hannah . She drive her gold Geo Prizm the use car she was proud to be paying for to her first day of full time secretary work at Diebold , the company that makes ATMs . Her boyfriend of more than a year Brad Oborn expected her to swing by his place in the morning to pick him up. He says she was a no-show.

BRAD OBORN: I remember waking up at this eerie gut feeling that something wasn't right. I paged her, no answer. And she'd always call me back. Always. And she didn't.

DENNIS MURPHY: The kids relied on pagers back then. Cell phones and text messaging were often a future for Hannah 's circle of friends. Her mom Kim was a homemaker, and dad Elza was scratching out work as a boiler maker in the smoke stacks of the Rust Belt . Dad loved his girl.

ELZA HILL: Hannah , she was a very bubbly kid. She would always loved everybody.

DENNIS MURPHY: She like the Spice Girls and signed her letters with tiny pink hearts, a nice gift. These friends of Hannah thought so.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: She was a very easy going person. Definitely someone you could tell you could be friends with very easily.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: She was a great friend. She was a great girl.

DENNIS MURPHY: Tara Ferguson was the best friend forever.

TARA FERGUSON: She's so fun and silly and funny.

DENNIS MURPHY: There's no doubt she was a very pretty young girl .

TARA FERGUSON: Yes. She was a hopeless romantic and she was bound to trying to find that Prince Charming .

DENNIS MURPHY: Now not every teenage girl has the same definition of Prince Charming . Hannah 's boyfriend Brad , for instance, was a high school dropout with more than a few rough edges, but by all accounts Hannah was smitten.

TARA FERGUSON: Definitely her -- her one true love. She just really loved him and was really happy.

DENNIS MURPHY: And Brad , he remembers like yesterday being captivated by the girl at the party with the lively brown eyes. They quickly became a couple.

Did you think I'm really lucky to have this girl?

BRAD OBORN: I did, and -- and we used to get compliments. People would say you guys look so cute together.

DENNIS MURPHY: But by late spring 1999 , Hannah 's friends and family thought she was growing distant. They worried that Brad was tugging her into a world where she didn't belong.

TARA FERGUSON: She trusted everybody.

DENNIS MURPHY: Saw the best in everybody?


DENNIS MURPHY: And didn't have a radar up?

TARA FERGUSON: No. That's where we differed.

DENNIS MURPHY: And now Hannah Hill had vanished into the night. Out there somewhere, but where? Thursday turned to Friday. The close friends were frantic.

TARA FERGUSON: Brad and I are calling each other back and forth. I'm calling the Hills . I'm paging her. She's not calling. That just wasn't like her.

JUSTIN HILL: We're freaking out now. So we make out thousands of flyers and we're passing them out. Have you seen my sister? Has anyone seen my sister?

DENNIS MURPHY: And you're hearing no, no, no, no.


DENNIS MURPHY: Brad Oborn , the boyfriend took it a step further. He went down to the police station on that Friday, the first of several visits to the cops.

BRAD OBORN: My girlfriend is missing and it doesn't seem like the police are doing very much.

DENNIS MURPHY: Long days became longer nights with no word from Hannah . By Tuesday evening she'd been missing nearly a week, the police finally turned to the media.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Well, an eighteen-year-old girl has vanished and tonight police are asking for your help.

TARA FERGUSON: When it came across the TV that she was missing, I got -- it got really real.

DENNIS MURPHY: The very next morning a breakthrough, news that police had located Hannah 's car. It was parked on a quiet dead end street called Caine Road . Akron PD Sergeant Jerry Hughes raced to the scene, detectives popped the trunk. It was worse than he'd expected.

You've seen a lot of stuff in a lot of years. How does this fit?

JERRY HUGHES: That is --

DENNIS MURPHY: In the awful things that cops encounter?

JERRY HUGHES: It's sickening. It's -- it's something you did -- you can't unsee. You will see that for the rest of your life .

DENNIS MURPHY: The body of Hannah Hill had been found naked from the waist down. Posed, her shirt pulled up.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All right, at approximately seven thirty this morning that the auto belonging to missing person Hannah Hill had been seen parked on Caine Road .

DENNIS MURPHY: Pictures of her car being towed away made the evening news.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Devastated. How could this happen?

JUSTIN HILL: I just totally kind of blacked out. Every emotion just hit me all at once.

DENNIS MURPHY: What had happened to Hannah and why?

LESTER HOLT: And the even bigger question, who? Who had killed Hannah ? Police quickly focused on one man: Hannah 's boyfriend Brad .

JERRY HUGHES: We found out that he was a drug dealer, and that he liked to chase other girls.

DENNIS MURPHY: You know, it takes you pretty closely into means motive opportunity country.

JERRY HUGHES: Who would think?