Greetings my name is Medria Taylor Buford. On behalf of my father, brothers, sisters, family, and supporters we "Thank You" for taking the time to visit justice4jewel.com. We have been collecting court documents and evidence since the trial . Once completed this case summary will provide you with a clear picture of the level of injustice in this case. Some details will come from court documents that have been passed down over the past 33 years and some are first hand accounts. I would love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to send us an email and let us know how you felt about what you read.
This is synopsis is aimed at bringing awareness to the life of Dwayne "Jewel" Hill and his long road home to his family. Thank you again and God bless you real good.
Medria T. Buford
STATE of Louisiana, Appellee,
Dewayne HILL, Appellant.
PROSECUTION'S THEORY OF THE CASE
Ronnie Martin, Tameisa Russell, and Dwayne Hill, met at or near a washeteria in Rayville. The three decided to go to the home of Mrs. Elnora Coon, an elderly woman who resided alone and who knew Tamesia knew. Ms. Coon is what people would call "a friend of the family". Mrs. Coon opened the door and allowed Russell to enter her home. What happened next is unclear. The two women engaged in conversation and watched television for approximately 15 minutes. Hill then entered the house and sat on the couch with the two women.
Martin entered shortly thereafter and went into the back bedroom where he rummaged through Mrs. Coon's possessions in search of valuables. Martin knocked some items off the bed, which alerted the victim to what was going on. Mrs. Coon got up from the couch and asked why they were doing this to her. Hill grabbed her under the arms and hurled her into the ceiling. The victim's head hit the ceiling with such force that the sheetrock fell to the floor. Hill then dropped her body. As she lay on the floor, Hill choked Mrs. Coon and kicked her in the chest and rib area. Hill took a pouch of money which he found underneath her clothing. The threesome then exited the house. Mrs. Coon died from her injuries.
Dewayne Hill, was convicted, by a unanimous jury, of second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.
OUR THEORY OF THE CASE
The events that lead to the incarceration of Dwayne Hill from his heart to yours. May grace and mercy fill your spirit as you read the following.
Some time around July 13, 1989, the day started with all the family going to work at the funeral home in Rayville. There was nothing different about that day, they didn't have any services, no one had passed away so there weren't any bodies to pick up. Daddy recalls that it was hot and I was excited about being home to visit from Connecticut. Earlier in the day my grandmother, Wilma Gundy had been on his case because she felt he wasn't spending enough quality time with me and telling him he needed to stay home that night with me.
He went to the store and bought me a bike and some new clothes and later on that evening around 5:00 p.m. when they left the Funeral Home he went to the store to buy some groceries and that night my grandma cooked some spaghetti. Elaine, the housekeeper, was there when we got home but she left shortly after. She told grandma she would be back the next day to finish cleaning up. We ate and watched the evening News which was always a ritual for us after we got off from work.. So we hung out watching some T.V. and later on around 9:00pm or 10:00pm Angie, my daddy's baby brother's, William, girlfriend at the time, came to the house looking for William. He wasn't there so she stayed and watched T.V. with us. She was lying on the small love sofa and Daddy and I were on the big sofa.
Later on, a lady who daddy was dating named Sophie called him to come pick her up but he told her that he was spending time with his daughter, and that his mother had gotten on him because she said that he was going out too much. Her exact words were, "this baby has been here and you haven't spent one night at this house!" So he stayed home to calm her down and so he could love on me some. Sophie was determined to see him so she got a ride to the house from an army soldier, Tony Elmore, home on leave from Saudi Arabia. (Thank you for your service.)
Around 12:30 am he awoke to somebody knocking on the kitchen door but by the time he made it up to check no one was there but he could see there was a car outside in front of the house from the headlights so he hurried over to the dining room and when he looked out the window he saw it was in the car with a dude. He waited about (15) minutes which he figured would have been enough time for her to get home and he called. She answered the phone and was telling him that she had come by the house, but no one answered the door and wanted to know where he was?
“I told her that I was in the house, but I didn't have any clothes on, and she had left before I could get to the door. Then I began to question her about who the dude was in the car and where she had been. It was during that time that I heard William knocking on the door and I got up and let him in. Then he woke Angie up and they both went to his bedroom. This was around 1:00 A.M., because I had looked at the clock which was hanging over the door. I told Sophie to hold on then I picked you up and went downstairs to put you in the bed with Mama. I got back on the phone with Sophie and we talked for about two hours. She kept trying to get me to come pick her up, but I was telling her it was too late and I would see her tomorrow” daddy tells me during one of our many conversations.
I'm not sure when Ms. Coon’s body had been discovered but I do remember Elaine calling the house the next day and telling us that she had heard that someone had found her dead and no foul play was suspected. It was unusual that someone, especially someone of color had passed and the family didn’t know about it given their profession. The Sheriff's Office typically called them if it was a Coroner's case. I believe the family of Mrs. Coon had a personal relationship with Tennant's, and so they called George Tennant to pick up the body. George had been a trusted member of the Simm’s & Gundy family business for years. He later had other aspirations and decided to start his own funeral home business.
Later on, while being noisy, daddy found out that she had been killed, by strangulation. They were all "shocked" because this type of thing didn't happen in Rayville, not in our community, especially to an elderly person. The idea that an elderly person had been killed who lived so close to the house was concerning to say the least. See, my grandma often left the door's open for my dad, and uncles to come in at night.
Several days later daddy was teaching me to ride my bike in the yard and Charles McDonald pulled up and asked him if he wouldn't mind coming down to the sheriff's office to answer some questions in relation to Mrs. Coon’s murder investigation. He told him that he didn't mind, and he would come up there as soon as he dropped me off at the funeral home. So when we got to the funeral home he told grandma about McDonald stopping him and wanting him to come up to the police station to answer some questions.
Time passed since Charles McDonald asked him to come by to answer a few questions.
"NEVER" could we have imagined that the police investigators at that time (Willie Robinson and Charles McDonald) were looking at daddy, uncle Mike, his oldest brother, and uncle William as suspects. They weren’t saints by any means, and as teenagers and young men hung out with some people that others might have considered to be lower class and did some unbecoming thing's of choir boys, but murders, Hell NO!!!!!
Ladies men YES!!!
The only thing they ever killed people with was kindness!
The police already had statements from Jesse James Jones, owner of the Snack Hut, and his wife Linda who had given them information concerning Ronnie Martin and a guy named Charles Marshall being suspect's. Both of them told Willie Robinson and Charles McDonald that they had seen him the same night around the Snack Hut, and that they had seen him mowing her yard the day before. We were unaware of Jesse's statement to the D.A. 's office or the Police Dept. but we were able to get an affidavit from him before he passed away.
Aug 15, 1989, there were several funerals scheduled for the day. Daddy got dressed and jumped in the Limo but didn’t go straight to the funeral home because he had a summons to appear in Court to pay a traffic ticket.
“I arrived at the courthouse and sat with my mother who was there with attorney Charles Jones who was there to represent my brother Mike. While waiting in court I saw Willie Lee and Charles looking in our direction whispering to one another. Soon after I saw them at the side door behind me motioning for me to come here. So I walked over there and they asked me if I wouldn't mind coming down stairs so they could ask me some questions. I said that I would as soon as I was finished paying my traffic fine. They said O.K. and left. I didn't have the money I needed to pay my fine so they held me for a few hour's upstairs in the "The High Fi," that was the name everyone used to describe the jail because it was the tallest building in town. Out of all my year's looking at, passing by and hearing dudes holler from up there I was getting to experience what that was like for the first time.”
Once he finished taking care of my traffic court fine he leaned over and told grandma what they had said and that he would be right back. The minute he got off the elevator they put him in the bullpen, a large cell with other men, uncle Mike happened to be in there on a forgery charge. That is when he told him that Willie Robinson and McDonald had questioned him about Ms. Coons murder. He told me that he had told them that he didn't know anything about it and that he was out of town when it happened. He told me not to talk to them unless somebody was with me.
“I walked in the room and they were initially very polite. "Hey Dwayne, have a seat." So when I sat down they said, "look first we need to read you your rights." I immediately asked them what do you need to read me my rights for? I asked them this several times. Each time I repeated the question my level of frustration increased. Eventually they mentioned the death of Ms. Coon. I said, "Man, you've got to be kidding! Y'all already know that I didn't have anything to do with that, you're trying to frame me for something that I didn't do!" Then I said, “Nah, Nah, this is not gonna happen like this. I tell you what, go up stairs and get my Mama and Charles Jones.” As soon as I said that McDonald left and came back with Charles Jones and my mother. I can still see the hurt, anguish and distraught look on Mama's face.
Basically, they wanted to know if I knew anything about what happened to Mrs. Coon, and where I was on the night that bit happened. I told him that I definitely didn't do anything, and I was at home that night with you, Mama and Angie. I never left home during the entire time you were here. I was either at the house, the funeral home or hanging out with the fellas. However, I would have never minded them trying to discredit me. But to discredit "my Mama," to discredit my eight year old daughter, and Angie. HELL No!!!!!!!”
I asked daddy about all this one day after reading through his integration transcript and he said,
“They tried to say that I made an offensive comment towards them. I said I didn't know anything about no damn murder! Yes, I was more than very upset but I don't recall saying anything offensive towards them. I had heard about how low-down and dirty they were in their police dealing with other people, but I never thought that one of those people would be Me!”
During the trial they claimed that they had been looking for daddy for several weeks and he had been dodging them. Daddy didn't know anything about it and they played on his ignorance, arrogance and innocence like a lamb being led to the slaughter. If he was supposed to be a dangerous killer and there was a 1st degree warrant for his arrest why leave him up stairs in the Courtroom and allow me to get away? Why not arrest me right then? Why trust him to even show up? Why would he show-up at the Courthouse anyway, and park out front knowing that he committed a crime?
Our family was being victimized, and demeaned by a Jim Crow system and crooked cop's, who relished in our distress and our downfall. I still don't have a full understanding of "why" the Lord allowed us to bear this Cross. But we have taken the suffering, the tribulation, and all the adversity like SOLDIERS!!! We realize that our adversity is not personal per-say, but Generational. So we endure as those who have gone on before us and on whose shoulders we stand so that others will not have to.
My grandmother was and will always be the most respectful, truthful, honest, faithful, God-fearing woman I know! She was "The Truth”. I have never known her tell a lie, fabricate, or withhold any discipline no matter what. If my father and his brothers were down bad she would tear their tails up! To think that she lie to protect him even if he was guilty is Ludicrous!
I’ve heard stories of my grandmother standing up to white folk in the bank, at the school, in the grocery store, in the street's and in town meeting's. Daddy saw her father, mother and brothers Jasper, Phillip, and his great grandfather confront the KKK, (especially after his Uncle William was gunned down by the police in the back of a police car, they had an issue with a female who was riding in his car whose skin color was to light. His story was featured in the April 17, 1958 Jet Magazine article, pages 10-13.
In 1968 my Uncle Joseph Michael was the first African American student to integrate the all white school in Rayville, La.
That’s where my father first met my then and now his BFF Judy. Yes, Judy is white. Her father was one of the richest farmers in Richland Parish at the time. So you can imagine some of the contention and hatred they endured due to their friendship. He told me all the rest of the white kids were being real mean and nasty, but Judy was different. They kicked it off and have been friends since grade school! Judy was the first white girl he took to the prom, brought out to the club in Rayville, and was allowed to come to my grand-mama's house even when he was not there.
That sort of racial tension was just a part of it. Daddy once saw my grandfather Willie “Dub” Hill make a State Trooper back-up out of their yard. Granddaddy told him that he didn't have any right on his property! This eventually led Granddaddy to staying up all night watching the front door while they slept. Nobody knew it but Granddaddy was a silent member of the Deacons for Defense. They were a group of Black men in Northeast La, who had organized to fight, patrol and protect black people in their communities during Jim Crow and Segregation.
My fathers incarceration is a discredit to my family's lineage, my fathers character, and he has spent his entire life in prison trying to prove that the powers that be in Rayville were at the least dishonest about his case.
“The guilt I have for not being a better Father, a better Son, a better Christian and living a lifestyle that even suggested to anybody that I could have done such a thing are my biggest regrets. God has shown me that I don't have to avenge my family's honor and true character. Scripture says that, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay!" Heb 10:30. .”
Shortly after daddy went to Angola. Judy ended up going to St. Gabriel for forgery but as God would have it she ended up in the same dorm as Tamesia Russell, and Wanda Thomas. Wanda testified during the trial that she was testifying out of the goodness of her heart:
Truth is at the time of the trial she had pending charges for distribution of cocaine and she was a paid informant. Investigator Willie Robinson paid her $100. In 2015, receipt of the payment and copies of the money were found during a visit to the Clerk of Courts office.
During Wanda's recorded Statement to Chief Investigator Willie Robinson and Detective Dale Carter, on October 17, 1989, she stated she was walking downtown when Dwayne and Ronnie whispered to her in the dark asking her if she knew where they could get a couple of chugs (cocaine). that they normally go to buy it themselves. However in her trial testimony she said it was "just this time" that she had seen daddy and Ronnie together before.
Wanda went so far as to say that Dwayne, whom she refereed to as "Dee" keep saying he had to "Ruff a Nigger Up". That he had some $20's, about $100 and that a week after the murder she saw T.C., Eddie Joe, Poochie. Mitch, Dwayne and his brother William in Magic City. That Dwayne got on his knees and crawled to the DJ stand to hide from the police.
To date I have been unable to locate any corroborating testimony or statements, of this night at the club, from any of the people Wanda mentioned in her statement including her brother, a female named Trish, and two men named Larry and Brice.
Wanda subsequently received a reduced sentence for her pending charges.
During Wanda and Tamesia's time with Judy at San Gabriel Women's Correctional Facility they both confided in her that daddy had not committed the crime. That they had been coerced by Investigator Willie Robinson to say what they said.
Wanda Faye is now deceased but during an interview on December 15, 1990, with former Louisiana Senator, Attorneys Charles Jones and Travis T. Vance, Jr. in San Gabriel, Louisiana, Tamesia, 19 years old at the time of the murder, told them how she had come to end up in the Women's Correctional Institute.
MORE DETAILS TO COME!!