Paul Hill was born in Miami, Florida on February 6, 1954, to Oscar Jennings Hill, an airline pilot, and his wife Louise. He was raised in Coral Gables. He was charged with assault at the age of 17, by his father, when his father attempted to get treatment for Hill’s drug problem. Hill said he experienced a religious conversion two years later in 1973, after being sent to a military school. Hill later enrolled in Belhaven University where he met his future wife, Karen Demuth, with whom he would have three children. Hill graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary, where he studied under Greg Bahnsen, a founder of the right-wing Christian Reconstructionist movement. He attended St. Paul Presbyterian Church, which espoused theonomy, a movement related to Reconstructionism. Following his ordination in 1984, Hill became a minister affiliated with both the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He was excommunicated in 1993 following a number of nationally televised appearances in which he claimed to be the new national spokesperson for “defensive action” against abortion providers and claimed a connection to the Army of God. Following his excommunication, Hill supported his family with a franchised auto detailing business, cleaning and detailing cars for new and used car dealers. His customer base dwindled once they became aware of his public agenda.
On July 29, 1994, Hill approached the Ladies Center, an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. When he spotted clinic doctor John Britton and his bodyguard, retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel James H. Barrett. outside the clinic, he fired on both of them at close range with a shotgun. Both Britton and Barrett died; Barrett’s wife, June, was also wounded. Following the shots, Hill laid his shotgun on the ground and waited to be arrested. Following his arrest, Hill was brought to trial in the Supreme Court of Florida, and charged with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of shooting into an occupied vehicle. He pled not guilty on all counts. During the trial, the judges did not allow Hill to use an affirmative defense justification. According to Hill, his actions were a defensive act, rather than a retribution. His arguments did not persuade the judges, and on December 6, 1994, Hill was found guilty of the charges made against him. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection under Florida law. The execution warrant for Hill was not signed until July 2003, at which time it was signed by Governor Jeb Bush. Hill died by lethal injection in Florida State Prison on September 3, 2003, aged 49. His last words were, “If you believe abortion is a lethal force, you should oppose the force and do what you have to do to stop it. May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected.“
Prior to the murders, Hill sent two position papers to Reconstructionist author Gary North, which set out Hill’s views of abortion and why he considered murder of abortionists to be warranted. The papers were followed by three additional letters to North in October 1994. North’s responses, issued after the murders, comprised two letters that were made available to the public. The letters rejected and refuted Hill’s theological arguments, and concluded that, “…the public will regard your dual assassination as the act of a condemned man outside of God’s church and acting on his own in defiance of Bible-revealed law and therefore also God’s moral law.” Hill spent almost a decade in prison awaiting his execution. In a statement made before his execution, Hill’s views on the murders remained unchanged; he said that he felt no remorse for his actions, and that he expected “a great reward in Heaven”. Hill left behind a manuscript manifesto which his backers promised him they would publish. Hill also encouraged others who believe abortion is an illegitimate use of lethal force to “do what you have to do to stop it.” While being led by police, Hill told the media “Now is the time to defend the unborn as to defend a slave that’s about to be murdered.” Hill’s purported ties to the Army of God movement as well as his life and crimes are explored in the feature length HBO Documentary film Soldiers in The Army of God (2000) directed by Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson as part of HBO’s America Undercover Series.
- February, 06, 1954
- Miami, Florida
- September, 03, 2003
- Starke, Florida
Cause of Death
- execution by lethal injection
- Swainsboro City Cemetery
- Swainsboro, Georgia