What you're about to read is a story about me, Kim Hubbard. I was a 19-year-old resident of South Williamsport, PA, when I was arrested on November 16, 1973, for a crime I did not commit. According to the prosecutor at the time, Lycoming County District Attorney Allen E. Ertel, I murdered Jennifer Hill, a 12-year-old friend of my sister. The prosecution, in the months leading up to my trial, convinced the public through the local news media that I picked up Jennifer Hill, abused her, molested her, raped her and then choked her to death. They said I then disposed of her body in a nearby cornfield just outside of South Williamsport before returning home —and that I did all of this in just a half hour. The prosecution further claimed that the body of Jennifer Hill remained undiscovered in the cornfield for nine days.
But that's not what their own evidence shows. It shows Jennifer Hill, contrary to the scenario laid out by the Commonwealth, was never sexually abused and brutalized. The state’s own evidence also proves that Jennifer Hill's body was not in that cornfield for nine days. Instead the facts in the trial records establish that her body was discovered within three days, secretly removed to Williamsport Hospital where it was preserved via refrigeration and then reinserted in the field five days later to create a fake second scene.
All of this tampering with and manufacturing of evidence was used to frame me for a crime I did not commit. It is all there in the very evidence used to convict me, some of which was never fully understood until recent months. I ask you to read my story and judge for yourself.
Anatomy of a Murder Frame-Up
It may have seemed, at first, like a scene right out of American Graffiti fast-forwarded from the fifties to the early seventies. It was a crisp autumn evening when the high school senior drove into the parking lot of the local burger joint and teen hangout. The Humdinger sat along Southern Avenue, one of the main drags in South Williamsport, a small town in Pennsylvania whose chief claim to fame was as the home of Little League Baseball. You can’t get more American than that.
There was a hint of foreboding when Kim Hubbard noticed a number of uniformed Pennsylvania State Police, but he shrugged that off upon spotting his girlfriend standing inside the restaurant. He vividly remembers opening the door, walking in and, before the door had even closed behind him, the barrel of a gun shoved under his nose, and a voice growling, “Run if you want.”
The face on the other side of the gun was all too familiar. Lt. Steven Hynick was one of a number of state policemen who had recently intruded on his life, and that of his family, since 12-year-old Jennifer Hill had become a missing person on Oct. 19, 1973. Nine days later, on Oct. 28th, her body had been found in a cornfield just a few hundred yards outside the borough limits. Looking around the restaurant, Kim recalled that “it seemed like every customer in the place was a police officer.”
In a matter of minutes, his hands were cuffed behind him and he was sitting in the backseat of a police car jammed with five cops, the two on either side of him overlapping each of his legs with one of theirs.
“I was scared to death,” he readily confesses. As intimidating as those few minutes were, he had no way of realizing that he had just experienced the last few minutes of freedom he would enjoy for the next decade of his life.
THINGS HAD STARTED TO COME TOGETHER...
That day, Nov. 16, 1973, would also mark the end of a return to a normal life— or as normal as life could be for a 19 year old completing his senior year in high school after receiving a hardship discharge from the U.S. Army. His father, Joe, the sole provider for the family, had been dealing with health issues requiring hospitalization and subsequent recovery. This meant Kim’s mother, Dorisann, and 12-year-old sister, Ruth, needed him to help make ends meet.
While his father was getting back on his feet, Kim was going to school by day and working various jobs at night— the one at the time of his arrest was at a nearby Stroehmann’s baked goods plant where he worked from four in the afternoon until two in the morning. He was also receiving a monthly stipend through the GI Bill to earn a high school degree and between this and his employment he was able to support his family until his father recovered.
He drove around in his “ratty looking car” when he could have afforded something newer and more impressive, but he had got out of the military to support his family, and he was taking that responsibility seriously. It was only a temporary sacrifice and soon things would be back to normal.
“Things had started to come together for me,” he said of those fleeting days, “and then all of this happened.”
Jennifer Hill and Ruth Hubbard were friends, and Jennifer’s last night alive was at the Hubbards’ home, where she had stayed overnight on Thursday, Oct. 18. The next day, Friday, the 19th, a teacher training day, was an Indian summer holiday for the students, and Jenny, Ruthie and some of their friends had devoted much of that sparkling fall day to just having fun, including various neighborhood excursions and roughhousing.
The latter resulted in Jennifer ripping out the crotch in her good jeans— the pants she had worn to school Thursday that her mother had told her to change out of once she got to the Hubbard’s. Despite the mild autumn weather, the nights and mornings could be a little cool and Jennifer had also brought with her a hand-me-down old South Williamsport High School sports jacket.
The pants and jacket would take on critical importance later—but too late to save Kim Hubbard from being convicted of murder after a nine-day trial in February of 1974 that required just three hours of deliberation for a jury to render a guilty verdict on March 1.
THE MOTIVE? IT’S NOT SEX...
Although authorities were portraying the killing as a sex crime, citing inflammatory terms like “rape” and “deviate sexual intercourse” among the acts of the accused in the arrest warrant itself and letting the public know they were questioning known sex offenders, the postmortem report from the autopsy would reveal no evidence of sexual molestation. Jennifer Hill died a virgin or, as stated in the report, “the vaginal introitus is virginal.”
Cause of death was manual strangulation with no other significant injuries that would suggest the girl was attacked with the intent of committing rape or sexual assault. And yet, even in the trial, despite the quiet concession by the forensic pathologist that there was no sexual molestation, District Attorney Allen E. Ertel continued to impress upon the jury that the crime had been sexually motivated.
It was the only motive that made sense for a 19-year-old man to seek out and rendezvous with a 12-year-old girl. It was also a way of portraying the defendant as a menace to the community.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about the trial that followed was something that didn’t happen. Neither the postmortem report, based on autopsy findings, nor any other medical records were entered into evidence. That seemed a glaring omission in a murder case where the backbone of the body of the evidence should include cause of death, time of death and other facts related the condition of the body. As it turns out, the postmortem report contained much of the exculpatory material that should have been used by the defense to cast a huge shadow of doubt. Make that reasonable doubt.
The Hubbards opted to cooperate with the police from the beginning, answering all questions and turning over all items the police asked for. It was, as Kim would conclude after finding himself convicted of second-degree murder, a tragic mistake on their part.
“We were dumb enough to believe that truth was on our side,” he said years later as an older but wiser inmate in a state correctional facility. “One of the biggest reasons I went to jail was because we were so cooperative. They said, ‘We’ve got some real dummies here,’ and we didn’t wise up until it was too late.”
Kim said that since he knew he didn’t do it that there could be no possible evidence showing he did. What was presented during the course of the trial indicated that both he and his car had been at the field where the girl’s body was dumped. An “eyewitness” described a car subsequently identified as his picking up Jennifer Hill the afternoon she disappeared. Finally, the only alibis he had for the window of time during which the prosecution said the crime was committed came from himself and his mother.
After he got out of prison, knowing that he could be a suspect for any local murder or sex crime, be made it a point to always be somewhere where people could vouch for him. He would be at certain places at a certain time of day like clockwork. He was even seeing two different girls at one time but taking care not to spend too much time with either of them. He deliberately played softball on two different traveling teams and worked out regularly at the gym. His greatest fear was being alone, or having just one person to vouch for him, and not being able to prove where he was. In his mind, if he could be arrested and convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, he was a marked man as an ex-con— fair game for any unsolved crime.
Kim Hubbard does not have clear memories of much of the trial and, in fact, admits he was in something of a daze throughout. He can still remember the most crucial minutes of the trial: “When I stood up and heard, ‘Guilty!’ that’s the weirdest feeling I ever had. I felt like all the blood had run out of my feet, and it felt like my face was pushing out, bulging. And then I remember there wasn’t a sound.”
CASE CLOSED? NEVER FOR JOE HUBBARD!
Kim changed his residence from the Lycoming County Prison to the Rockview State Correctional Institute (SCI), the first few weeks in the Behavior Adjustment Unit awaiting a cell and admittedly concerned about how he’d be treated by other inmates as a convicted child killer. As his son began serving his time, Joe Hubbard embarked on a truly impressive investigative effort that would stretch for some two decades. It started the morning after the verdict was rendered on March 1, 1974.
Over the ensuing months and years, he would enlist the aid of journalists, which resulted in articles and series of articles in regional newspapers from the Harrisburg Patriot to the weekly Grit in Williamsport. He consulted or interviewed a wide range of experts in fields ranging from forensic pathology, tool markings, crime scenes, law enforcement, criminal law and embalming. He appealed to state and federal agencies, including the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and the office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. Along the way, he experienced his share of rejection or was just plain ignored.
“It’s been a long and frustrating journey— one that would have tempered my ardor had there been any doubts to erode away my determination,” he conceded in a letter to Gerald McDowell, the Department of Justice’s Chief of Public Integrity, some eight years into the battle he would never live to win. He decried “the Catch-22 mentality” of this case in which, on one hand, the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas ruled that Kim’s attorney, Patrick Fierro, had not been ineffective. Several years later, their appeal for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence was rejected even though that court agreed their evidence was pertinent.
Why? It was ammunition that should have been used in their defense. In other words, Fierro was ineffective, if not incompetent.
Joe Hubbard got his share of rejection from the news media, too, because as interesting as the case was, it was also complex, requiring detailed analysis. Despite its dramatic elements, it was a hard story to tell. For some, it seemed that the conspiracy had to be too vast with too many people involved.
In actuality, it required only an intimate band of plotters who could be credited—more like discredited— for pulling it off. More important perhaps was a string of others aiding and abetting, telling a little lie here, bending a rule there and conveniently forgetting elsewhere.
Kim Hubbard tells the story here, using the state’s own evidence against them to show its trail of deception. You see, the greatest gift Joe Hubbard left his son in his crusade for his exoneration was compiling the documents and photos that had served the prosecution so well in the Commonwealth vs. Kim Lee Hubbard. Add transcripts of expert analyses and investigative journalistic pieces on record and there is a wealth of information that exposes a strategic effort to notch a courtroom victory at the expense of the truth.
You have access to all of it here, including the trial transcripts comprising almost 1,300 pages of testimony, dozens of evidentiary photos and documents for you to examine and compare and analyze, as wells as affidavits of witnesses and experts.
You will be able to access the conflicting and confusing testimony of prosecution witnesses step by step. You can compare photos at the crime scene— in this case the few feet of space in the cornfield where the body was discovered— with the testimony detailing the gathering of evidence there. It is not only revealing but alarming for all of us who trust in our so-called system of criminal justice.
After you review the evidence in this case as the jury never had the opportunity to do, the words “criminal” and “justice” used in tandem will, unfortunately, take on an entirely different meaning.
They do more than expose the glaring weakness of the prosecution’s case. They clearly establish one truth: Kim Hubbard was framed for a murder he didn’t commit 40 years ago.
YOU LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE AND DECIDE
If you take the time—on your own pace— to read Kim Hubbard’s plea to look deeper into this case, he’ll answer the following questions— and more:
• Why would a body discovered within 36 hours after time of death in a farm field be secretly removed, preserved by refrigeration and then returned to the field to be discovered for the record more than a week later?
• Why would they put the body in another location in that same field upon returning it there? Furthermore, how did they come up with the killer’s footprints at the phony second scene?
• Why did the Commonwealth never have to explain why its own witnesses and photos had the body in three different locations in the field?
• Why would a district attorney and a county coroner seemingly conspire to invert a photo, flipping the image, to make a point to the jury in testimony?
• How could a body remain fresh, as if only dead for a matter of hours, when it had supposedly been in a field for nine days in unseasonably warm October weather, exposed to the elements, including insects and small animals?
• Why would the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy, after stating conclusively that there was no evidence of sexual molestation or injuries indicating an attempt at such, volunteer the following in his testimony: “I’m not ruling out there was some form of molestation…”?
• Why would that same pathologist, Dr. Robert Catherman, state in a published September 1977 newspaper article (Williamsport Grit) that he had told Joe Hubbard the “body was refrigerated long before the 28th” (Oct. 28, 1973, when the body was reportedly found) but that it wasn’t necessarily an artificial process — even though temperatures averaged in the fifties on all but the first day with daytime highs well into the sixties, approaching seventy on three of the days?
• How did they get a cast of a tire admitted as evidence, purportedly showing that Kim Hubbard’s car had driven up a farm lane to dump a body, when the tire was not even on the car until after the body was discovered?
• Was it a coincidence that a bulldozer deposited mud on a rarely used field lane less than six hours before it captured tire tracks of the car that supposedly brought Jennifer Hill’s body to its resting place? And why was there never a work order for the job this bulldozer did on an adjacent corporate property?
• Why was a witness hypnotized “to assist in her recollection” of an alleged incident key to the prosecution’s case against Kim Hubbard and what did it assist her in recollecting? Furthermore, why were the defendant and his family not made aware of this memory enhancement even though their attorney had been apprised of this several weeks before the trial?
• Why was a credible witness who saw Jennifer Hill just two blocks from her home on the afternoon of her disappearance —a sighting that would have all but invalidated the hypnotized witness’s testimony—essentially ignored by both the prosecution and the defense?
• Why, in the mouth of the dead girl allegedly still in field before the body was moved, does a close-up photo reveal an embalmer’s dental tie? Did her killer also prep her for embalming?
These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed on this website. Kim has the facts on his side in proving prosecutorial misconduct and manufacturing of evidence— and most of it is contained in the state’s own evidence. He cannot always explain why the prosecutor, the county coroner and Pennsylvania State Police did what they did, but the personal ambition of District Attorney Allen E. Ertel may have been the straw that stirred this toxic drink.
Ertel was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives just two years after Kim Hubbard’s conviction and had enough pull with Pennsylvania’s Democratic hierarchy to secure his party’s 1982 nomination for governor. He lost in the general election to Gov. Dick Thornburgh, the Republican incumbent, and, two years later, he lost out in a bid for Pennsylvania Attorney General, an office that previously refused to investigate Ertel’s conduct in the Hubbard case under the administration of Democratic Gov. Milton Shapp.
Now read Kim's story.