Rhea, Joan & Ash Robinson
Rhea, Ash, Joan and John
Ash Robinson was born in 1898. His father was a medical doctor who practiced medicine in various parts of the south before settling in the promising state of Texas. The freedom business and overall attitude in Texas allowed for a strong middle class, where rice farmers and and cattlemen could actually afford a doctor. Ash was influenced by the strong men who built America and believed that he could be anything he wanted to be as long as he was not being held hostage by big governments taking half of his hard earned work money and ideas, as in other countries, he could make anything happen. His father had encouraged Ash to go to medical school, but Ash did not feel he belonged in the medical field. He wanted to do something big, something that one could only do in America.
He courted Rhea Ernestine Gardere and soon proposed marriage. They were a happy couple as Rhea would later say, "Ash was a gentleman who knew how to treat a lady." Ash did all he could to protect his wife from sadness, money worries and hard work. He wanted to treat his wife like a Queen, and be the best provider that he could be, however, life was becoming a roller coaster ride for the young couple. Ash was looking for the right opportunity for a smart and hard working honest man to make a killing. Ash learned plenty about business and politics in the 1920s when president Calvin Coolidge was leading the country to prosperity by allowing free enterprise. Ash dabbled in real estate and the stock market to earn enough money to buy Rhea diamonds and furs. Ash was a gallant and old fashioned man who loved to surprise his wife with small gifts and extravagances to make her happy. Rhea would later say that life with Ash was exciting and fun, as he was lavish with kindness and generosity towards family, friends and people who were down on their luck. Ash was known to throw hundreds of dollars around just to make people happy. In the late 20s Ash stopped running with the bulls and bailed out of the stock market because as he saw it, the fast talking democrats such as Joe Kennedy, were speculating and creating a false feeling of security, Ash's fears proved to be correct when the market crashed in 1929. Herbert Hoover was president at the time and was in no way responsible for the down economy, but the public turned against him and elected one of the most destructive U.S. presidents of all time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The great depression lasted ten years, and because Ash was not too proud to do all he had to do to earn a living, he did not flounder as more than 90% of Americans did during the 1930s, he did not seek government aid or mope about all he had lost, in the true old fashioned American spirit, Ash spent his time trying to figure out how to get himself in a position in which he would become a millionaire.
After becoming a used car salesman for a few years, Ash got back into real estate. He made a few simple transactions before buying mineral rights and putting all his money into drilling for oil. When Ash ran out of money, he did not lose his spirit, he took on a partner. Ash would never look back. He was soon what one views as a Texas oil tycoon. He looked and acted the part to a tee. He was kind faced, sweet talking, charming and generous. With all his wealth and position it was not long before Ash had his share of enemies. He was sued by an opportunist who claimed that Ash swindled him, but the whole case was eventually dumped for "lack of evidence." This case was to follow Ash for the rest of his life, to be thrown in the news as an example of how mean Ash Robinson could be.
Ash and Rhea were living large and extremely happy, but Ash wanted a child. He particularly wanted a little girl. Rhea went to the doctor to have a minor operation that would help her get pregnant. The "operation" is lost in a cloud of mystery due to its taking place in the 1930s, when people simply did not take an interest in the details of what was being performed surgically. It can be assumed that her cervix may have been closed, and she had the operation to open it up, or she may have even had a tipped uterus, whatever the operation was, Rhea never got pregnant. She felt ashamed for being unable to have children, and true to his gallant ways, Ash paid an unknown woman to bear his child without telling Rhea. Once the child was close to being born, Ash began to talk about having children with Rhea.
He suggested adopting a child. Rhea was not enthusiastic about adopting, but she desperately wanted to please her husband. They went to an upscale adoption house and were soon on their way home with a baby girl they would call, Joan Olive Robinson.
Joan was a beautiful child who Rhea and especially Ash doted on day and night. Ash wanted to give his baby girl the happiness that he did not have as a child and give her the opportunities that other children with less savvy fathers missed out on. He did all he could to teach her about life, and went overboard giving her what her heart desired.
Joan began riding horses at the age of four. Ash bought her a horse and hired a trainer to teach Joan how to handle her new pet. Soon Joan was the Queen of the equestrian center. She piled up trophies faster than any other rider, and by her teen years, her beautiful face was seen in the society pages of the Houston Chronicle as the beautiful sportswoman. She could not have made Ash Robinson more proud.
Joan Meets John Hill
Sometime in the late 1950s Joan met John Hill. John had attended a party and was introduced to Joan. The two were from very different families and backgrounds, and by all accounts John was out for money. His goal in life was money and every move he made was focused on moving into the upper class. It is believed that his sudden presence at a society party was with the intent of meeting a rich girl, but this is hindsight, and know one seems to remember how John Hill was suddenly present at a party in which only one person had a clue as to who he was. Joan was attracted to John on first sight because he was tall and handsome, John was probably awed by Joan because she moved around in the crowed he wanted to be a part of.
John loved classical music and quiet, and Joan loved horses and parties. They seemed to have nothing innately common, but Joan adored John and wanted his dreams of becoming a doctor to become a reality. Joan was the most precious thing in Ash Robinson's life and he had his suspicions about John right away, but when he saw how much Joan loved him, Ash buried his suspicions and did what he could to help his daughter and her soon to be husband live a comfortable and happy life.
John's mother Myra Hill, was not too pleased that John was marrying Joan. Myra loved to read about society people and was counting on her son becoming rich some day, but she had read about Joan being married twice before. Myra believed that there was no excuse for divorce and two divorces made Joan unsuitable as a wife for her son. Through jealousy or bordom, one of her noisy neighbors found out that Joan had been married twice and that her father has been arrested for swindling. John would not let his mother stop him from moving up in the world and refused to call off the wedding.
Joan Olive Robinson and John Robert Hill were married in a spectacular and lavish society wedding in September 1957.
Joan and John lived in Ash's home for six years while John studied hard in medical school. John had it easy compared to his classmates. Instead of taking odd jobs and living on a shoestring, Ash provided all the meals, cars and all expenses that came up. True to his style, Ash was gallant and generous with all things concerning his daughter's happiness. John planned on becoming a plastic surgeon, and was well aware that it was not just about being a skilled surgeon, but it was about a certain amount of bravado, and having the right connections. Ash Robinson made great connections for John, and made sure that Joan and John regularly entertained and hobnobbed with the right crowd on a regular basis.
On Jun 14, 1960 their first child was born, he was named Robert Ashton Hill. Ash became the worlds greatest grandfather. He entertained his grandson, changed diapers in the middle of the night and enjoyed every new experience the baby went through on a daily basis. Ash again paid for everything concerning the baby. A diaper service, formulas and a nurse to assist.
Joan, Rhea and Ash were happily enjoying the baby and and providing his entertainment and education while John Hill lived life in a blur of urry. He worked hard and frantically, virtually ignoring his home life, and as he became more independent financially, he excluded himself from his family even more.
John was ready to move out and away from Ash Robinson and into a huge mansion on Kirby drive. In his own palace John would set up his own music room, and a place of solitude.
John was becoming critical of Joan in every way, calling her masculine and showing little affection to his son.
Joan was losing her upbeat demeanor and Ash was worried about his depressed little girl and her lonely son, and began checking up on John Hill. Ash was no dummy and he knew the danger signs of a man carrying on an affair. He soon learned that John was seeing a woman named Ann Kurth. The facts at this point are blurred because years later Ann would accuse Ash of trying to break up her relationship with John, but the facts are that Joan soon found out about John's relationship with Ann and began on a self improvement routine to make herself more appealing to her husband and lead him away from his mistress.
Ash knew that Ann Kurth was like a dog with a bone and would not let go easily. When John eventually did break it off with her, Ann was tormenting John by telling him about the other men she was dating, and eventually John moved out of the house and began a more open affair with Ann. So began the Strange Case of Dr. John Hill & Murder in Texas.
Is John Hill a Murderer?
Who Killed John Hill?
Joan suddenly took ill and was rushed to the hospital. John is reportedly to have gone to the hospital to care for his wife, but left after briefly viewing his sickly wife. When Joan suddenly died, Ash Robinson was sure that John had killed his beautiful baby girl, and never forgave him or Ann Kurth for the misery that they had caused his daughter.
Many months after her death Joan's body was exhumed and reexamined only to find nothing conclusive as to the cause of death.
John married Ann Kurth and they remained married for only 9 months before they were divorced.
After their separation, Ann went straight to reporters and then to a publisher to tell her story of how John had killed Joan and then tried to killer her. In her famous book, Prescription Murder, Ann claims that John killed Joan by putting fecal matter in pastries. Many of her accusations have been dismissed due to her untrustworthy character due in part by John's quick third marriage to Connie Hill.
Ash tried desperately to have John convicted for the death of his daughter but the case was thrown out of court in mistrial. It was at this point that the saga of Dr. John Hill took a very strange turn.
Another trial was set for the following year, and in 1972 John was shot and killed in his home by thugs. All of Houston, including John Hills mother and Ann Kurth were sure that Ash Robinson had hired this people to kill John Hill.
Ash was now the one being taken to court, but much to the dismay of Myra Hill their just was not enough evidence to convict Ash Robinson.
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Suzette Smith on August 16, 2018:
Luckily, I read the book, I wanted more. I was a kid when it happened, but it was one of the best true crimes i"ve ' ever read
Cinnamonbear on June 05, 2017:
Prescription Murder by Ann Kurth was I thought a very cheesy book. Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson was a much better book.
Glenda Goddard (author) from Arizona on July 15, 2013:
Thank you howtoguides2learn,
I am very fascinated by this old story. I appreciate your nice comment...
Vidhya L from Chennai, India on July 14, 2013:
Came across this hub from your profile after reading your question. Intriguing style of wring that made the story very interesting. Thanks for the nice read. Read both the related hubs.
Glenda Goddard (author) from Arizona on June 28, 2013:
Thank you nighthag. I am a true crime junkie and this story has always fascinated me.
K.A.E Grove from Australia on June 28, 2013:
A good solid read, I can be so fascinated by these types of old crimes and this was no different... thanks