February 10, 1987
John Hill (34) is beaten and stabbed to death in his home
Thanks to reader Cade for suggesting the topic of this article!
Shortly before the murder, Jennifer Fair (19) told a group of her friends she had been sexually assaulted by Hill. The group — composed of Fair, Fair’s friend Lisa Harris (17), Lisa’s brother Billy Harris (16), Lisa’s boyfriend John Brian Stephens (17), and friends Scott Sanger (21) and David Hight (17) — decided to drive to Hill’s home to “kick some ass” and “to teach him a lesson,” in retaliation for the alleged rape.
“We didn’t associate going to the police with rape,” Lisa said during a 2017 interview. “I know it sounds stupid now, but I don’t think I was ever taught things like that — I don’t recall it being part of my knowledge. Somebody pushes you, you push back. It seemed like a normal thing to do.”
Somebody pushes you, you push back. It seemed like a normal thing to do.Lisa Harris, 2017
In the early morning of February 10, the group visited Hill. Fair and Lisa, armed with a club, hammer, and knife, entered the house alone while the others waited outside. They entered the house after hearing one of the teens inside scream. Sanger later testified he watched Lisa strike Hill in the head with a hammer at least 5 times while Fair hit him with a club. Hill collapsed to his knees at which point Lisa reportedly said, “Yeah, John, you really fucked up this time, didn’t you?” before kicking him in the abdomen and ground. Hill then fell on his face and Lisa knelt beside him to stab him in the back with a butterfly knife.
The group left the home after taking Hill’s bank card, a knife emblazoned with Hill’s initials, and revolver. Hill’s body was discovered a day and a half after his murder.
Hill’s autopsy showed he had 9 total wounds to his skull, including 6 circular holes which had been “punched out” of his skull, consistent with injuries inflicted by a hammer; any of these 6 wounds would have been fatal on their own. Hill also had 5 stab wounds to his back.
Lisa and Billy Harris were taken in for questioning, and Lisa admitted to the deputies she had attacked Hill with a hammer and knife. The following day, she directed law enforcement to the location of the murder weapons, concealed in a cave.
All six members were arrested and charged with Hill’s murder. Sanger agreed to testify against the other defendants and enter a guilty plea to conspiracy. Fair, Stephens, and Hight each pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. And Billy was convicted of second-degree murder.
Lisa was charged with first-degree murder and admitted to hitting Hill in the head with a hammer, but argued the killing was in self-defense. She was convicted after 2 hours of deliberation, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Lisa escaped from prison in 1991 and remained at large for 5 years. She was featured in an episode of America’s Most Wanted which led to her apprehension by U.S. Marshals in Wyoming, 2 months after she gave birth to her daughter.
During Billy’s parole hearing in 2002, he confessed to being the one to wield the hammer which killed Hill. This admission could have prevented his release and added additional time to his sentence, but his admission was dismissed and he was released. Lisa has similarly claimed she took responsibility for Hill’s murder to save her brother. “They kept telling me [during questioning] that somebody was going to die, that somebody was going to get the death penalty,” she said during a 2017 interview. “They told me my little brother was going to fry.”
Due to Lisa’s age at the time of the killing, the fact she was under the influence of psilocybin (hallucinogenic) mushrooms during the attack, and because Lisa did not commit any crimes during her 5 years at large, many have come forward to ask for leniency on her behalf. This includes a Change.org petition, addressed to Governor of Missouri Michael L. Parson and Newton County District Attorney William Lynch, to request Lisa’s release from prison.
Lisa Harris. DOC ID: 83183. Missouri Department Of Corrections. Offender Search. Accessed: February 10, 2021. https://web.mo.gov/doc/offSearchWeb/offenderInfoAction.do
Wolffe, Danielle. “Lisa, Laquanda, Machelle, and Kenya Were Sentenced as Children to Die in Prison.” The Nation. June 21, 2017. Accessed: February 10, 2021. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/women-without-parole/
Nelson, Alisa. “Missouri man opposes new juvenile sentencing law that could free his sister.” Missourinet. August 17, 2016. Accessed: February 10, 2021. https://www.missourinet.com/2016/08/17/missouri-man-opposes-new-juvenile-sentencing-law-that-could-free-his-sister/
Swedien, Jon and Keegan, Harrison. “A murder at 17. Prison for 3 decades. This year, she might get a second change.” Springfield News-Leader. January 7, 2016. https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/crime/2016/01/06/murder-17-prison-3-decades-year-she-might-get-second-chance/78258642/
Sigma, Leroy. “Not the first time for escapees.” The Daily Journal [St. Francois County, Missouri]. September 26, 1995
“Two female murders escape from prison.” UPI. March 29, 1991. Archived: https://www.upi.com/Archives/1991/03/29/Two-female-murderers-escape-from-prison/1448670222800/
State v. Harris. Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, Division One. January 10, 1990. 781 S.W.2d 137 (Mo. Ct. App. 1990). Archived: https://casetext.com/case/state-v-harris-1156
“Joplin man’s appeal rejected.” The Springfield News-Leader. September 22, 1989
Fullerton, Jane. “Witness: Girl struck murder victim with hammer.” The Springfield News-Leader. October 7, 1987
“Four Teens Plead Innocent To Murder.” St. Louis Post Dispatch. April 7, 1987