I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
Audrey Marie Hilley was truly an enigma. She got away with the murder of her husband for many years, attempted to kill her daughter, played the role of her own (nonexistent) twin sister, and was finally arrested on a bad check charge. And if she hadn’t told on herself, chances are the police would have never known she was a fugitive.
Fortunately, she did and police had a cold-blooded killer in their grasp. Until she escaped. Then, and only then, was the deadly Ms. Hilley truly stopped from murdering anyone again.
The Making of a Murderess
Audrey Marie Frazier was born on June 4, 1933, in Blue Mountain, Alabama. It was a town of barely-middle-class mill workers in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains. Huey Frazier and his wife, Lucille Meads Frazier, adored their baby girl from the moment she took her first breath.
Unlike other mothers of the time who stayed home to raise their offspring, Lucille couldn’t afford to do so and returned to work, leaving her infant daughter in the care of relatives.
Perhaps her parents felt guilt or maybe they were just so enamored with the little girl, but for whatever the reason, the Fraziers, despite their meager existence, dressed their daughter in fine clothing and never (that anyone can recall) administered any punishments. Marie, as she was called, frequently threw temper tantrums when she didn’t get her way. As such, she wasn’t well liked by her cousins or even her aunts and uncles.
As Marie grew into a beautiful young lady, her parents dreamed she would live a life far better than their own. It was their intent to see Marie graduate high school and obtain a job as a secretary – a desirable position of the times for women. It wasn’t going to happen in Blue Mountain, so the Fraziers moved the few miles to Anniston, Alabama; a town offering superior schools and more opportunities.
While Marie had been viewed as one of the more privileged children in Blue Mountain, she was suddenly cast among students whose parents didn’t eek out a living. Anniston parents were professionals and provided their children with large homes and many other luxuries the Fraziers could never afford.
Secretly envious of her new friends lifestyle, Marie never showed it. Instead she moved among them as if she belonged, and developed close friendships with many of her classmates; no doubt her neatness and beauty earning her a position in their ranks.
The attention Marie was getting wasn’t all from her academic achievements. The boys were noticing the beautiful young lady in the neatly-pressed dresses. Marie, however, had eyes for only one of them.
His name was Frank Hilley.
Frank and Marie Hilley
Frank Hilley came from a working class family, which included his parents and two siblings. The family of five may not have had a lot in material things, but they had a lot of love and, as such, were a very close family.
Frank first met Marie, who was only 12, when he was sixteen. Marie was very mature for her age, and by the time he graduated high school, he knew Marie was the only girl for him.
Her parents, on the other hand, wasn’t too thrilled with their daughter’s boyfriend; though they went along with their daughters wishes, justifying it by acknowledging Frank treated Marie like royalty, just as they did.
It was easier for the Fraziers to deal with their daughter’s romance when Frank went into the United States Navy. With Frank stationed in Guam, the couple felt as if they were on separate planets. They wrote to one other frequently, but it wasn’t enough. In May 1951, while Frank was home on leave, he and Marie were wed – just days before the bride’s 18th birthday.
Married with Children…And Debt
After Frank’s tenure in the Navy was over, he and Marie returned to Anniston and purchased a home. In 1952, they welcomed a son whom they named Michael and eight years later, Marie gave birth to a daughter, Carol Hilley.
By the time Carol arrived, the marriage was in trouble. Despite Frank’s well paying job and Marie’s secretarial employment, they had little money in savings. To Frank’s consternation, Marie spent money like it grew on trees. They frequently argued about her excessive spending habits. Despite Frank’s best efforts to stop the financial bleeding, Marie kept spending.
What Frank didn’t realize, at the time, was Marie was spending more than they earned combined. Where was the money coming from? Years later, Frank would learn that his wife frequently engaged in sex with her bosses in exchange for money.
Otherwise on the home front, Mike and Carol had been lavished with the finest of material things but would have preferred the attentions of their mother, who was always, essentially, emotionally unavailable to her children; any actual parenting the Hilley children received was usually from their grandmother, Carrie Hilley.
In short time, Mike was a grown man and pursuing a career in the ministry. Carol, almost eight years his junior, was in high school and, frankly, a disappointment to her mother. Carol was tomboyish, enjoying football and roughhousing, much to Marie’s dismay; which she blamed on the extremely close relationship between Carol and her father. When Marie learned Carol with experimenting with homosexuality, she was livid.
Nonetheless, the Hilleys' greatest challenge was still their ever increasing debt. Although Frank was sick and growing worse everyday, he couldn’t afford to miss work. One day he was too sick and had to return home early, only to walk in and find his wife in bed with her boss. It was then Frank understood where Marie got the extra money she spent.
Although he was hurt and disgusted, with his failing health, Frank didn’t feel he could do much of anything about his wife's unfaithfulness. Mike, then an ordained minister living in Atlanta, Georgia, tried to counsel his father through the marital difficulties.
Unfortunately, Frank never told Mike about being sick or how it was rapidly growing worse. Maybe, just maybe, things would have out differently if he had.
Frank spent the better part of 1974 suffering from stomach cramps and periodic bouts of nausea and vomiting. By the time May 1975 rolled around, Frank’s illness had finally pushed him to see a doctor.
The doctor prescribed several medicines for his very ill patient, but none of them seemed to help. When Frank’s sister visited him in the latter part of May, he told her he was afraid he would die. Soon thereafter, Frank was admitted to the local hospital and testing revealed his liver was failing. The official diagnosis was infectious Hepatitis, and was also noted as the cause of death following Frank’s death on May 25, 1975.
Marie went about collecting on Frank’s life insurance policies, receiving about $31,000 in total. Despite being the sole income earner of her home now, Marie continued to spend with wild abandon. She was struggling to pay the necessary bills, which she hoped would change when she invited Mike and his wife, Teri, to move in with her and Carol when Mike accepted a job at a nearby church.
It was the beginning of something very, very strange.
Revolving Doors, Fires, and Mysterious Illnesses
Things weren’t going well at the Hilley home. Marie and Carol bickered constantly over Marie’s ridiculous demands, while Teri was frequently admitted to the hospital with mysterious symptoms that puzzled doctors; she even suffered a couple of miscarriages during this time.
Mike and Teri wanted to be out on their own and soon found an apartment. The night before they were to move, however, Marie’s house caught fire and she, along with her ailing mother whom she was now caring for and Carol, had to move with Mike and Teri into the apartment.
In a strange series of unfortunate events, as soon as the repairs to Marie's home were complete, a fire in the next door apartment forced Mike and Teri to move to his mother's newly refurbished home for a few months.
Notably, when MIke and Teri were finally able to live alone, the preacher's wife's symptoms mysteriously disappeared.
Marie's mother, Lucille Frazier died in 1977 and her death seemed to spark a whole string of mind-boggling events. Marie continued spending money, and enhanced her shoplifting and petty theft skills, but she also began reporting small fires kept occurring in her home, gas leaks, and harassing phone calls.
Saying she needed to get away from the person or persons doing these things to her, Marie Hilley, with Carol in tow, moved in with Mike and Teri at their home in Pompano Beach, Florida. Her spending continued at a dangerous pace, and she even ran up $600 worth of debt on Mike’s VISA, promising to reimburse him later. She never did.
Claiming to be homesick, Marie and Carol returned home to Anniston, moving in with Frank’s sister then with his mother. Unbeknownst to anyone, Marie had been purchasing insurance policies for fire, cancer, and life; the latter covering not only herself but her children as well.
While Marie and Carol lived with Carrie, the grandmother began suffering stomach cramps with nausea and vomiting. The strange occurrences of fires, harassing calls, and vandalism had also began again.
Just a few short years after her father's death, Carol Hilley also began suffering the ailments experienced by Frank, sister-in-law, and paternal grandmother. Like her father, however, Carol’s illness continued to progress rapidly.
Carol was still strong-willed however, and soon moved to an apartment of her own. Her mother frequently visited, fussing over Carol by cooking her meals and administrating medications. Marie also took her daughter to several doctors, none of whom were able to give a diagnosis.
When Carol began experiencing numbness in her arms and legs, she was admitted to the hospital. Her doctor, at first, believed the symptoms might be in Carol’s head and suggested she seek the services of a Psychiatrist. Following her doctor's advice, she made an appointment with a psychiatrist. During her first session, Carol told the doctor she wanted to die and he immediately committed her to a psychiatric ward.
Meanwhile, even as her daughter was locked away in a mental hospital, Marie was bouncing checks all over town, including several written to pay the premiums on the life insurance policies Marie had taken out on Mike and Carol. The bank, believing they had no other choice, filed criminal charges and Marie was arrested.
The Truth Will (Not) Set You Free
In Florida, Mike had seriously began reconsidering the cause of his father’s death. Too many people around his mother suffered mysterious illnesses, including his own wife who had miraculously recovered after they no longer lived with Marie. Mike even went as far as to call the Calhoun County, Alabama, corner to inquire about having his father exhumed for additional testing. He was disappointed when they told him he’d have to have something more than suspicion to get exhumation done.
Pretty soon the “more” Mike needed was about to fall into his lap.
Eve Cole, a friend of Carol’s from church, was visiting the Hilley home on a couple of occasions when Marie had given Carol injections, allegedly ordered by the doctor. While visiting her friend in the hospital, Eve learned Marie had given Carol injections - even as she was hospitalized, and thought it quite odd. She offhandedly mentioned it to Carol’s Aunt Freeda, who in turn told Mike. When Mike asked his sister about the rumor, she confirmed it was indeed true.
Mike, his suspicions now more than just nagging, called Carol’s doctor and told him what had been occurring. The next time Marie came to visit Carol, the doctor told her she should not visit Carol for a while.
A panicked Marie, feigning indignation, removed her daughter from the hospital and declared she was taking Carol to the Mayo Clinic or Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans, where Carol was sure to get treatment by doctors who knew what they were doing. After spending the night in a hotel, Carol was admitted to neither of those hospitals but to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hospital instead.
At UAB, Carol was under the care of Dr. Brian Thompson. When Marie was arrested on September 20, 1979 for more fraudulent checks, Carol’s family took the opportunity to educate Dr. Thompson of Carol’s medical history. They also shared their suspicions. It may have been an incredible story, but Dr. Thompson listened. After checking Carol’s fingertips and toenails for Aldridge-Mees lines, he immediately ordered arsenic testing. It was discovered the young woman's body was full of arsenic and and had been for some time, it seemed.
Mike was angry and determined to stop his mother, whom he now suspected of doing the same to his father, both of his grandmothers, and his wife. He sent a detailed letter to the Calhoun County coroner and District Attorney. Marie, while awaiting trial in jail on bounced checks, suddenly became a murder suspect.
An autopsy on the exhumed body of Frank Hilley confirmed his son’s allegations. The medical examiner stated Frank had a died a slow and agonizing death from arsenic. An autopsy of Lucille Frazier indicated her arsenic levels were four to ten times that found in a normal, healthy person but, according to the medical examiner, it was cancer which actually caused her death.
While evidence continued to mount against Marie, she was charged with the attempted murder of her daughter. Unfortunately, her bail was only $10,000, a grand total of $14,000 when added to check charges, and Mike, inexplicably, convinced five individuals to contribute funds to the $10,000 he was paying and his mother was released on bail.
After her release on November 11, 1979, she went to a local hotel, claiming she feared retaliation by Frank’s family.
On November 18, 1979, when friends went to visit Marie at the hotel, they discovered she’d disappeared without a trace. Everything she owned was left behind expect for her wallet, credit cards, and checkbook. A subsequent search of her home revealed her car was missing as well as several articles of Marie’s clothing. The car was found a few days later in Marietta, Georgia.
The same day Marie disappeared, Carrie Hilley died of cancer. An autopsy showed extraordinary high levels of arsenic in her body.
The FBI joined the hunt for Marie, who was now suspected of poisoning four people and tracked her as far as Savannah, Georgia before the trail went stone cold.
Audrey Marie Hilley was officially a fugitive.
John, Robbi, and Teri
In February 1980, Marie met the recently divorced John Homan in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She introduced herself as Lindsay Robbi Hannon from Texas, a mother of two children whom she had lost in a tragic car accident. The two became inseparable and in October, "Robbi" and John moved to New Hampshire, where his brother Peter lived. She and John both quickly found jobs.
Robbi often talked with coworkers about her life in Texas of her twin sister, Teri. Several of them were weary of the new employee's stories but chalked it up to a someone with low self-esteem issues.
When Robbi announced to her husband and fellow employees in 1982 she had a rare blood disease and was dying, John was devastated but most of her coworkers believed she was lying. Why? They didn’t know. Instinct just told them she was.
In September 1982, Robbi said her good-byes and headed to Texas where she said Teri was going to take care of her until her death. She did go to Texas, but only for a few days then she arrived in Pompano Beach, Florida. There she bleached her hair and secured a job under the name of Teri Martin.
At her new job, the woman now going by Teri, told her boss about her gravely ill sister Robbi. When she called her boss in mid-November claiming she was in New Hampshire and her sister had died, he wasn’t surprised. She also informed him she’d be remaining in New Hampshire to tend to her sister’s affairs.
Next she called John Homan and, acting as Teri, gave him the bad news: his wife Robbi had passed away. The next day she flew to New Hampshire and, with John by her side, went to the local newspaper with Robbi’s obituary. They also visited Robbi’s former place of employment.
Teri moved in with John Homan. Teri got a job at a printing company and everything seemed to be going well. She didn’t know, however, her former coworkers had believed the woman who introduced herself was actually Robbi? Why would someone pretend to be their twin sister? What was Robbi hiding? They were determined to find the answers to their questions.
Police had gotten word of the suspicious woman and her fantastic tales of twin sister’s death. On January 12, 1983, they approached Teri as she was leaving work. Although they didn’t tell her, police wanted to question her in connection with a bank robbery as the wanted woman, Carol Manning, fit the description of this Teri Martin.
She had nothing to do with the bank robbery, nonetheless for Marie/Robbi/Teri, the gig was almost up.
The Grand Finale
Once police had her at the police barracks, they asked Teri her name. Marie looked puzzled and told them her real name was Audrey Marie Hilley and she was wanted in Alabama on bad check charges. Following up with Alabama authorities, New Hampshire police were shocked to discover the woman they had in custody as Teri Martin, was indeed Marie Hilley, but bounced checks were the least of her worries: she was wanted for attempted murder of her daughter Carol and for the murder of her husband Frank.
Marie was extradited back to Alabama on January 19, 1983, to stand trial for the charges against her. Carol, who still had trouble accepting what her mother had done to her, visited Marie frequently at the jail.
Although Marie’s defense team attempted to distort the action of their client by focusing on Carol’s homosexuality, alleged drug use, and suicide attempts, it was to no avail. After only three hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts. She was sentenced to life in prison for Frank’s murder and an additional 20 years for the poisoning of Carol.
In June 1983, Marie entered the Tutwiler State Women’s Prison in Wetumpka, Alabama. Despite reports of Marie’s escape plans, she was classified as a medium security inmate which made her eligible for the occasional furlough. On February 19, 1987, Marie left on one of those passes and never returned.
During the weekend of her leave, Marie had shacked up with John, who had relocated to Anniston, at a local hotel. Claiming to be going to visit her parents' graves, Marie left and later John found a note saying she was leaving for good as she believed it best for everyone. Marie finished her letter by claiming she was fleeing to Canada with a man named Walter.
Just a few days later, however, on February 26, Blue Mountain resident Sue Craft called the police to report a strange, delirious woman on the porch of her home. Even though Marie told the police her last name was Sellers and that had walked to the home after her car broke down, they quickly identified her as escaped prisoner Marie Hilley.
As she was being rushed to the hospital by ambulance for hypothermia, Marie began convulsing and lost consciousness. A few minutes, Marie Hilley took her final breath. She was pronounced dead on arrival.
Does He or She Exist?
Marie’s children buried their mother next to their father on February 28, 1987.
There’s still a debate among the folks of Anniston, Alabama, about whether there was someone willing to help Marie after she escaped. Many believe there was. If so, who was he? And why did he back out of the plan?Chances are pretty good no one will never know the answers to those questions.
Marie Hilley will remain as much of a mystery in death as she was in life.
Read More About Audrey Marie Hilley
Several books have been published about Audrey Marie HIlley but none of them compare to the 1987 book by investigative reporter Phillip Ginsburg titled Poisoned Blood: a True Story of Murder, Passion, and an Astonishing Hoax. Ginsburg provides more than 500 pages of information about this enigmatic woman which leaves readers with their jaws dropped in amazement.
© 2016 Kim Bryan
Suzie from Carson City on September 03, 2018:
Hey Kim......Don't know this one got past me. Looks like this crazy chick got past a lot of people who must have been sleeping at the switch for much too long!
This Killer Diller tired me out trying to keep up with her thirst for blood money. What a pair on this woman to play through the Twin switcheroo! Unbelievable! Apparently, when you're Kookie enough to dose your family members with arsenic, one after the other....all the other stuff is child's play!
Good one Kim! Paula
Kim Bryan (author) on March 29, 2016:
Thank you so very much!
CJ Kelly from the PNW on March 29, 2016:
Learned a lot. Amazing story. Thx. Shared.