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Audrey Marie Hilley always pushed her luck.
First, she murdered her husband and almost got away with it until she tried to kill her daughter. Then, she skipped out on bail and avoided capture for years, but she ultimately got busted when she faked her own death.
By the time she escaped prison in 1987, her luck ran out altogether.
Known as Marie by her friends, she was born Audrey Marie Frazier in 1933 and grew up in Anniston, Alabama. She married her high school sweetheart, Frank Hilley, in 1951 and gave birth to their son, Michael, a year later.
Marie had an eye for the finer things in life, and she rubbed elbows with several prominent families in Anniston, climbing up the small southern town’s social ladder.
“She was a lady that liked to spend a lot of money. She was very meticulous in her dress,” former FBI special agent David Steel told “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Marie gave birth to a daughter, Carol Hilley, in 1960. Unfortunately, the mother and daughter weren’t much alike, and their relationship suffered as a result.
“I couldn’t please her no matter what I did,” Carol told “Snapped.” “She didn’t like what I wore. She didn’t like how I thought. She didn’t like who I hung out with.”
In the mid-1970s, Frank was struck by a mysterious illness, which rendered him unable to work. Doctors were at a loss to explain his ailment.
“His face, it was real ashy-colored, and his eyes were, like, really blood red,” Carol recalled. “They took him on to the hospital, and within a day or two, he was dead.”
Doctors believed Frank had died of hepatitis, and he was buried without further inquiry. He left behind a $31,000 life insurance policy, a substantial amount of money in 1975, but Marie blew through it quickly.
While the Hilleys did their best to recover from the loss, a mysterious illness began to affect Carol in 1979. When Marie was helping Carol get ready for her senior prom, her daughter was overcome with nausea. Over the next week, she became so sick she couldn't walk and had to be hospitalized.
Some in the Hilley family thought Carol’s symptoms were eerily similar to those that killed her father. When Frank had been sick, Marie had volunteered to give him injections of medicine, which aroused some suspicion. The family soon learned Marie was doing the same for her daughter.
Michael contacted the hospital staff, who said they never authorized Marie to give his sister injections. He then informed the Anniston Police Department about the incident, and he was shocked to learn that his mother was already under investigation for writing bad checks.
Authorities arrested Marie for check fraud that fall, and Carol was moved to another hospital and given a toxicology test.
“They found such significant levels in Carol’s blood that there was no question she had been poisoned,” former FBI special agent Wayne Manis told “Snapped.” “There’s no other way you could get that much arsenic into your system.”
Detectives learned that Marie had recently taken out a $25,000 life insurance policy out on Carol, which designated her as the beneficiary, according to court documents. “Parents very rarely take out an insurance policy on their children. We all expect our children to outlive us,” Manis said.
Two weeks after Marie’s arrest, Frank’s body was exhumed for testing. When the toxicology report came back, it revealed abnormally high arsenic levels in his body, ranging anywhere from 10 to 100 times the average amount, according to court documents.
Frank’s sister, Freida Adcock, was convinced Frank had been murdered, and she went to Marie’s house to search for evidence. Inside a box in the cellar, she found a pill bottle and brought it to police, who tested it and found it contained arsenic, according to “Snapped.”
Marie was soon indicted for the attempted murder of Carol, and several months later, she was charged with Frank’s poisoning, according to court documents.
During the course of their investigation, authorities came to suspect Marie had poisoned numerous people throughout the years. “She poisoned relatives, neighbors, business associates … where Marie was, the sickness followed,” Manis told “Snapped.”
Two months after her initial arrest, Marie made bail. Her defense attorney put her up in a hotel, but on Nov. 18, 1979, she went missing. A note found in her hotel room said she was kidnapped and told her attorney not to follow her.
Police compared the note to samples of Marie’s handwriting and found it to be a match. A manhunt ensued, but she was nowhere to be found.
It seemed Marie would never answer for her crimes until January 1983, when authorities in Keene, New Hampshire began investigating a possible case of identity fraud.
A woman named Teri Martin claimed she was the identical twin sister of a local woman who had recently died, Robbi Homan. Investigators, however, suspected they were the same woman and believed that Martin had something to hide.
Robbi had moved to the area from Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her husband, John Homan, in 1980. Thanks to her charm, she made fast friends and was well-liked at her job.
In the summer of 1982, Robbi said she had to return to her home state of Texas to receive treatment for a rare blood disease and visit her twin sister, Teri Martin. Several months later, John received a phone call from Martin, saying his wife had died and that her body had been donated to science.
Martin said her sister’s last wish was for her to meet her husband and visit her home in New Hampshire. The woman who showed up to meet John looked exactly like his dead wife, except she had dyed blonde hair and was wearing different makeup.
Martin moved in with John and quickly settled into life in New Hampshire. She even visited the company where Robbi had worked, telling her manager and co-workers that Robbi had died. Suspicious, they contacted police, who began looking into the puzzling case.
When Martin placed an obituary for her sister in the local newspaper with information about her death, investigators attempted to corroborate the details — none of which were true.
“One by one, I was able to discount every single claim that was made within that obituary,” Sullivan County Sheriff Detective Barry Hunter told “Snapped.”
Investigators brought Martin in for questioning, and she quickly revealed her true identity. “We took her to the police department, and she says, ‘My name is Audrey Marie Hilley. I’m from Anniston, Alabama, and I’m wanted for some bad checks,’” former Vermont State Police Detective Mike LeClair told “Snapped.”
After running her name through an FBI database, authorities realized they were dealing with a murderer, and Marie was subsequently extradited back to Alabama.
John claimed he had no idea the woman he was living with was actually his dead wife, and he was further astonished to learn the truth about her past back in Alabama. Despite the evidence, John stood by Marie and continued to support her all throughout the trial.
Marie was found guilty on all charges in June 1983. She received a life sentence for the murder of Frank and an additional 20-year sentence for the attempted murder of Carol, according to the Associated Press.
Even as a prisoner, Marie worked her charms and earned a three-day pass in late February 1987. She spent the weekend with John at a boarding house in Anniston. On the day she was supposed to return to jail, she said she was going to visit her mother’s grave. Instead, she made a run for it.
Marie picked the wrong week to make her escape. Despite being in the Deep South, the weather was terrible, with frequent rain and low temperatures.
A few days later, Marie was spotted crawling across the porch of a house in rural Blue Mountain, Alabama, just north of Anniston.
“It seems she had just traveled for miles through mountainous terrain. She’s bleeding, she’s bruised, her clothing is torn from her body,” Manis told “Snapped.”
First responders arrived on the scene, but before they could reach the hospital, Marie died from hypothermia at the age of 53.
To learn more about the case, watch “Snapped” on Oxygen.
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