Family and friends of Hannah Hill gathered at the gazebo next to Springfield Lake Sunday afternoon to remember Hannah Hill.
AKRON, Ohio - One of the reasons that Paul Hill is now an Akron police officer is the violent death of his cousin, Hannah Hill, who was beaten, strangled and stuffed inside the trunk of her car in 1999.
"I always wanted to be a cop. It just helped me pursue it a little harder I guess you could say," Hill told NewsChannel5 during an exclusive interview this week.
Paul was 19, a year older than Hannah, when she was murdered.
The two were close cousins. They hung out with the same friends, played pool and bowled together. Hill recalled Hannah had a laugh that everyone remembered.
"She was very well-liked, a real bubbly, happy person all the time. We called her cricket," Hill said.
Hill said the family has experienced a painful rollercoaster of emotions over the past 13 years.
He remembers a feeling of disbelief when he got the news about the killing.
"It didn't seem real. Usually, it's stuff you see on TV, until it happens to your family, it hits home," Hill said.
Hannah's accused killer, 33-year-old Denny Ross, stood trial in 2000, but a judge declared a mistrial after discovering the jury had discussed a lie detector test that wasn't evidence during the trial.
It was later learned the jury had voted to acquit Ross of aggravated murder, but the verdicts were never read in open court.
That led to a series of a lengthy appeals that caused more heartache for the Hill family.
"That put my parents and me through agony," said Hannah's brother, Justin Hill.
Paul Hill said, with so much attention focused on Ross, he wants to make sure people don't forget about Hannah, who died one day before she was scheduled to start a full-time job at Diebold.
"I'm sure she would have helped a lot of people. Maybe she would have had some kids and been a good mother. Her life was taken before it even started," Hill said.
Family members said Hannah was an acquaintance of Ross, but they did not date. Akron police reported that she disappeared after leaving her parents' home for a late-night visit with Ross at his Springfield Township apartment.
Her body was found inside the trunk of her Geo Prism on Caine Road in Akron's Ellet neighborhood six days after she vanished.
Ross has maintained his innocence and said he was insulted by plea deal offers made by prosecutors in July.
But the Hill family is convinced that Ross is responsible for Hannah's murder and believe that prosecutors, armed with DNA evidence that wasn't available at the first trial, will get a conviction.
"Our family is a good family and we just want justice and we want to see this come to an end," Paul Hill said.
Justin Hill said he will attend as much of the trial as possible and his parents plan to sit through all of the proceedings. Judge Judy Hunter said the retrial could last up to eight weeks.
"When this is all over and done, I think my sister will be remembered forever," Justin Hill said.
Denny Ross murder case
After being convicted of the 1999 murder of Hannah Hill in Akron, Denny Ross is headed to prison for at least 19 more years.
A jury convicted him of a 1999 murder last week. This afternoon, a Summit County judge will sentence Denny Ross for the crime.
Brimfield Police Chief David Oliver met 18-year-old Hannah Hill in 1999 and warned her ' If you keep hanging with this crew, you will be dead in six months."
Jurors in Akron have found Denny Ross guilty of murdering Hannah Hill in 1999.
After deliberating for about five days, jurors have reached a verdict in the Akron retrial of Denny Ross for the 1999 murder of Hannah Hill.