A Madison woman who was charged in September with first-degree reckless homicide for the death of her adopted daughter in 2007 pleaded guilty last week to reduced charges.
Taylin M. Hill, 51, was convicted on Wednesday of child neglect causing death, failure to prevent mental harm to a child and child abuse in the death of 15-year-old Erika Antoinette Hill.
A second charge of child abuse was dismissed but can be considered when she is sentenced at a later date by Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke.
Hill had originally faced five counts of child abuse and an additional count of child abuse causing great bodily harm in addition to the reckless homicide charge.
Hill was charged in the 2007 cold case after her daughter approached police in Gary, Indiana, claiming to know the identity of the body known as the “Lake County Jane Doe.”
Authorities confirmed that the unidentified girl was Erika Hill, who was 15 years old when she disappeared from the family’s home in Fitchburg.
Hill’s daughter told Gary police in August 2015 that she was 17 when her mother murdered Erika, and that she and two of her siblings had helped her take Erika’s body to the Chicago area to dispose of it.
She told police that Hill told her to go into the bathroom at the family home where she found Erika on the floor unresponsive and cold.
The body was left in the bathroom overnight, she said, and the next day Hill pulled some of Erika’s teeth out to conceal her identity.
Then, according to Hill’s daughter, Hill had her children put Erika’s body into the family van, drove to Chicago, put the body under an overpass and lit it on fire.
Later, they went back to Chicago to move the body to a garage in Gary, said Hill’s daughter.
Hill’s daughter said that Hill was very physically abusive to all of the children, but especially to Erika, who, by February 2007, had been beaten and starved so much that she appeared gray.
Child neglect causing death can carry a penalty of up to 25 years of combined prison and extended supervision, mental harm to a child can carry up to 12½ years, and the child abuse charge six years. The first-degree reckless homicide count she originally faced could have resulted in up to 60 years.
According to court records, there is no agreement on a maximum sentence recommendation to be sought by prosecutors.
Hill was previously employed as a special education assistant or substitute assistant with the Madison School District from 1998 until a leave of absence in October 2004.
Her employment ended in 2006 when she didn’t return from leave, but she went back to work for the district in the same position in December 2013 until her arrest last fall.
When the connection between Hill and the Jane Doe in Gary came to light last fall, Lt. Todd Stetzer of the Fitchburg Police Department said it was a “very sad and disturbing case, not only for the victim but for the other children involved in the abuse.”
Stetzer also said at the time that it was disturbing also because Fitchburg police were never contact by anyone asking about finding Erika.