Sex offender suspected in 1970 Wis. child murder

Associated Press Modified: November 18, 2012 at 11:31 am •  Published: November 18, 2012

In 2004, Virginia Davis saw a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story about police arresting an 83-year-old man for a 1958 murder based on DNA evidence. She called the reporter for help getting police to take another look at her sister's case.

A cold case unit that formed in 2007 did, and soon focused on Hill. He had lived next door with his wife and five children and Davis said she remembered playing with his son. She also remembered his wife, who always yelled, but not him.

Prosecutors soon discovered physical evidence in Donna Willing's case had been lost during a flood or when detectives cleaned out the evidence room in the 1990s, according to police Lt. Keith Balash. So investigators in 2008 began interviewing Hill in prison — where he was serving a 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting four children under the age of 10 between 1995 and 2002.

Hill first told police he sexually assaulted Donna after she got into his car that night, according to court documents. She began to squirm and slapped him. He became angry, afraid she would tell on him. He strangled her and dumped her in a garage. It all took about 10 minutes, he said.

In another account outlined in court documents, Hill said he molested Donna for years, picked her up and had sex with her. After she screamed, he put his hand over her mouth and strangled her.

Hill, who is now being in held a supervised facility, has since recanted both statements. Balash said Hill knew specifics of Donna's injuries that hadn't been released.

Hill's attorney, Robert Prifogle, didn't return a phone call seeking comment before Monday's hearing.

Before her mother died in 2009, Davis finally asked why she needed Donna to go to the bakery. Her mother said she wanted to make French toast for dinner. That filled a big hole. This year, Davis met the man who discovered his sister's body — another big hole filled. She said she had blamed herself when she was younger for delaying her sister's trip until after dark, but no more.

Davis chokes up when talking about her gratitude for the cold case detectives who pursued the case.

"I want to invent or create a word and I can't come up with anything yet that is the equivalent to how I feel," she said.