Houston 101: Andy Griffith, Killer

In 1969, the victim of one of Houston's most notorious murder cases died at Sharpstown Hospital after a long, painful episode.

Joan Robinson was the beloved daughter of River Oaks oilman Ash Robinson; she showed up in the papers all the time for her expertise as an equestrienne. She married a plastic surgeon named John Hill, and things went bad.

If you believe what everyone in Houston believed in their bones, John Hill murdered his wife....probably by injecting shit -- as in fecal matter -- into the pastries she loved. He then refused to give her needed medical treatment.

He was indicted for causing her death by withholding medical attention; Hill got Racehorse Haynes to represent him and got a mistrial, with the flamboyance and skill that only Haynes could do.

And that pissed off Ash Robinson very, very much.

Before Hill could be tried again, he was shot at his River Oaks mansion. He was supposedly killed by a robber (who was himself later shot and killed before going to trial), but once again Houston was absolutely certain about something -- specifically, that Ash Robinson had arranged a murder-for-hire.

That was never proved; Robinson was never indicted, moved to Florida and eventually died. Two women were convicted of helping to arrange the death, but Robinson never really had to fear reprisal since the whole town was on his side anyway.

Former Houston reporter Thomas Thompson wrote the classic Blood and Money about the case. The case was later turned into a hit made-for-TV movie called Murder in Texas.

Farrah Fawcett played Joan Hill; Sam Elliott played John Hill. (Racehorse was played by the  guy who was the captain in the Police Academy movies, much to his regret, no doubt.)

And Ash Robinson? None other than Andy Griffith, who was nominated for an Emmy.

The house where the Hills lived, and where John died, is still in River Oaks, hidden behind walls and shrubbery. Check out this thread in the Houston Architecture Forum for further details, or read Thompson's book, which is a classic of the true-crime genre.

View Larger Map

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.