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JILL CAHILL - PLANNING A NEW START
The past few months had been extremely stressful and she had looked forward
to visiting her family for awhile. With them she didn't have to be on her guard or
have a fight over money or the impending divorce.
They were greeted with loving, open arms. Such a relief. She spent a week with
her family. It had been good to visit her family. She and the children had been
able to relax during their visit. But now, it was time to go back. Hugging her
family, she said goodbye.
As she went out the door she turned back and looked directly into her sister's
eyes. With a wry grin she said "If Jeff kills me, you can have all my things"
and she turned and walked to the car.
The next time her family saw her she was in the hospital.
Jill (Russell) Cahill, 41, was divorcing James "Jeff" Cahill.
Things hadn't been good for some time and the serious financial problems
weren't making things any better. She'd gotten a legal separation, which
Jeff had signed, but she remained living in the same house until she
could afford to move out.
Jill had taken the children to visit family in Tonowanda and before she left
to return home to Syracuse, she turned to her sister and stated "If Jeff kills
me, you can have all my things."
James "Jeff" Cahill, 38, a self employed contractor, did just that.
He murdered Jill Cahill.
THE BRUTAL ATTACK
1996 - April 21 - It was one night after Jill had returned from the visit with her
family and Jeff Cahill began arguing with her. It spun into a heated argument and
Jill started trying to walk away from Jeff. He grabbed an aluminum baseball bat,
came up behind her and began striking her. As Jill fought for her life she cried
out to her two frightened children to get help because "their father was trying
to kill her." Jeff dragged Jill into the kitchen and beat her several more times.
Jill was savagely beaten. She suffered at least four life-threatening blows to
her head, bruising on the right side of her neck and on her left breast; the
skin was scraped on her right shoulder, her right elbow, her right forearm
and on her wrist; her right hand was badly bruised and swollen and the nail
on her middle right finger had been ripped off. She had a smaller wound on
her left thumb, and her right arm was broken.
All in front of their young children, aged 9 and 10.
After a bit, James/Jeff called his parents. His parents, brother and a family
friend who was a doctor arrived at the house and found Jill covered in blood
writing in pain and moaning incoherently. It wasn't until their arrival that the
police and an ambulance were called.
Jeff lied and told police that they'd had an argument and Jill had started
stabbing him with a kitchen knife so he'd defended himself with the
Louisville slugger, slamming it straight to her head. He showed them
"cuts and scratches" on his body.
The Onondaga County Family Court placed the Cahill children into custody of
Jill's parents and then issued a protective order against James "Jeff" Cahill.
It barred him from entering the University Hospital (Syracuse, NY) where Jill
was hospitalized. He could not have any contact with his children.
Jeff Cahill was charged with assault and posted cash bail of $100,000 within
24 hours. He would await trial on the assault charges.
Prosecutor William Fitzpatrick "There was no reason to believe that Cahill
was a threat to his Mrs. Cahill." Cahill had been examined by psychiatrists
who determined he was not dangerous."
Still, as a precaution, the Judge had set a substantial bail and issued the order
But James "Jeff" Cahill wasn't done with Jill. He began plotting on how to finish
her off. After being released on bail, that week he began researching on the
Internet on how to purchase cyanide.
CLINGING TO LIFE
1998 - October - It had been a long six months. Jill Cahill had been hospitalized
with extensive damages to her body. Everytime she had a setback, she fought
valiantly back, hoping to get better. She'd had an initial emergency surgery and
then later surgery to remove a blood clot from her brain. Throughout her
hospitalization she'd had subsequent procedures. Most were to reduce brain
swelling or to fight life threatening infections. Yet Jill held onto life and inched
toward full recovery.
She'd started rehabilitation and her doctors were pleased and hopeful that she
would again be able to have a meaningful life. She'd been able to recall the
names of her two children and had regained some ability to speak.
The restraining order was in place and James "Jeff" Cahill's photo was posted
at every nurse's station in the hospital.
Jeff Cahill had researched the Internet for cyanide several times and eventualy
figured out a way to order it so that he alone could receive it, without tracing it
back to him. (So he thought.)
Cahill created a fake letterhead for General Super Plating, (Electroplating
Company in DeWitt) a company that uses cyanide in electroplating. Then
for $30.00 he ordered the cyanide from a Bryant Laboratories of Berkeley
California, and had the package shipped overnight by UPS (United Parcel
Service). Tracking the delivery he followed the UPS truck on its rounds
and then moved to intercept and obtain the package. He approached the
UPS driver and identified himself as a General Super Plating employee
and obtained the package.
The UPS driver thought the incident unusual, so he noted the man's license
plate and placed it in his report.
July - October - Jeff Cahill created his disguise and began casing out the
hospital. He created a fake hospital ID, a wig, boots, glasses and a uniform
which resembled the uniform worn by hospital maintenance workers.
October - One week before the 27th - Jeff Cahill dons his uniform of blue
shirt and white pants, wig, glasses, boots and ID. Then he entered the
hospital. A nurses's assistant sees a man dressed as a janitor and
questions him about his presence in Jill Cahill's room. He relies that
he "just came down to say hi to Jill."
October 27 - Cahill disguised himself as a hospital janitor and after
visiting hours attempted to sneak into Jill's hospital room. He even
carried a mop. Seeing his opportunity he snuck into her room and
forced the potassium cyanide down into her throat either by ramming
it into her mouth or use of a feeding tube.
Hospital employees noticed a man lurking in the hallway. He had on
a uniform that resembled the janitors, but his boots were outdoor boots
and it was clear he was wearing a wig. They became suspicious because
he "didn't look right."
None of them had seen him go inside Jill Cahill's room.
Cynthia Jones (Clinical Technician) "It looked he was having a
bad hair day. His wardrobe made him stand out, instead of blending
in." "The man was wearing boots, and not the standard, rubber-soled
hospital shoes. While his shirt and pants were close to those worn
by hospital staff, they weren't exactly the right color."
Tyrone Hunter (Nurse) "I noticed that the hospital identification card
the man wore was nothing more than a slip of white paper inside a
plastic holder. I and other hospital workers questioned one another
about who the strange-looking man was and no one knew." "We
began a room by room search for the unknown man."
I checked Jill Cahill's room. "I found her gasping for air. She couldn't
catch her breathe. There was an unusual odor in the room."
Julie Labayewski (Registered Nurse) "I arrived in Jill Cahill's room
steps behind Hunter." "There was a "white, waxy-like substance
across her chest." Jill Cahill lost consciousness within 2 to 3
minutes, Mrs. Cahill had been fine when I checked on her
just 10 to 15 minutes earlier."
10:00 P.M. "She had this white powder substance on her chest,
there were bruises around her mouth and she was gasping for
air. She went into cardiac arrest."
"Mrs. Cahill had scrapes and cuts around her mouth, consistent
with being force-fed."
One of the nurses who tried to save Jill's life felt her hands burning.
Tamara Danner (Syracuse Police Dept. Forensic Scientist)
"The sheets had such a strong odor they had to be treated carefully
to remove toxic fumes."
The substance found on Jill's neck and chest had tested positive
for potassium cyanide. A very potent, rapidly acting poison that in
very, very small quantities can cause death. It stops the body
using its oxygen and the cells essentially suffocate to death.
1998 - October 28 - Jill Cahill was deceased.
ARREST & TRIAL
Photo: James "Jeff" Cahill
James "Jeff" Cahill was arrested, held without bail and charged with
Jill (Russell) Cahill's murder. Judge William Burke of Onondaga County
ruled that prosecutors could try the two cases together. Prosecutors
decided to seek the death penalty.
1998 - November 20 - Cahill pled "Not Guilty" to charges of first degree
James "Jeff" Cahill's Attorney Richard Priest opposed the consolidation.
He argued that evidence of the assault would jeopardize Mr. Cahill's
right to a fair trial in his murder case.
Hospital's Chief Executive Officer "He apparently obtained a hospital
employee identification tag."
Sgt. Therese Lore (Police spokeswoman) "Employees saw him pushing
a broom but they thought he looked a little suspicious, a little peculiar
and unfamiliar. There was just something wrong with his appearance."
Hospital employess testified about Cahill wearing a wig and trying to look
like a hospital housekeeper but his clothes, boots and identification card
were all wrong.
Tamara Danner (Forensic Chemist) "I found a vial with a crystalline
substance wrapped in the blankets and sheets that a detective pulled
off Mrs. Cahill's bed after she died.
Dr. Rohrig (Onondaga County Lab Director) "A vial police found
contained .57 grams of potassium cyanide." "The mixture would be
quickly dissolved by the stomach contents. Jill's contained just 13
milligrams of cyanide. That amount in itself is probably not fatal,
but just the finding of that amount of cyanide indicates that she
received a large dose of it because it's rapidly abosrbed. The
cyanide remaining is a very signficant and strong reading.
The blood sample in the ER on Oct. 27 had 15 micrograms
of cyanide per milliliter. One microgrami s a fatal dose. Just
five or 6 hours later only 2 micrograms were remaining.
Dr. Mary Jumbelic (Medical Examiner) "An autopsy revealed
scrapes and abrasions around Mrs. Cahill's chin and lips. Those
were consistent with injuries one might receive from having the
mouth forcibly opened and closed.
Police officers testified that a "partially burned wig and opened
bottle of potassium cyandie was found during a search of Jeff
Cahill's house on Oct. 31.
Scott Greenleaf, (General Super Plating Company Vice President)
confirmed that General Super Plating's name was used in the scheme.
Mr. Cahill has no connection to the company or any of its employees.
He also said that the company has never ordered cyanide from the
California manufacturer. The company and U.P.S. immediately
notified the police about the intercepted package in July.
The U.P.S. driver thought the incident was so unusual that he
noted the license plate on the man's car. DeWitt police reports
indicated that a check of the license number showed a vehicle
registered to a relative of Mr. Cahill.
Detectives found computer data that showed that Mr. Cahill had
made numerous inquiries on the Internet about how cyanide
worked and how it could be obtained.
Jeff Cahill had later confessed that he had attacked Jill while she
was unarmed and that his wounds were self-inflicted in the first
attack on her.
Dr. Gerard Rodzieweicz "Jill had arrived in a horrendous state.It
had taken he and his team and entire hour to sew up cuts and
staunch the heavy bleeding before he could begin to operate on
her. She'd needed 10 pints of blood. It took hours of surgery to
remove the large blood clot on her brain.
"Every time you gave this woman a chance to get better, she did."
October 28, he walked in to find Jill in intensive care, brain dead,
being kept alive by a respirator.
The grisly photos of Jill's wounds in the first attack, and photos
of her after the attack in the hospital were shown to the jury.
Prosecutor Fitzpatrick picked up the dented metal bat and w
alloped it into his outstretched hand. "Did he snap during
the first blow?" He slammed the bat as hard as he could
down on his hand again. "Did he snap during hte second
blow to her head?" He smacked it down seven times in all
and asked, "Or did he snap durinjg the multiple, the
multiple blows to her head?"
"The jury flinched with each blow. It was incredibly dramatic.
Half of them were in tears. They really looked shell-shocked."
"Jeff sat cold. No emotion flickered across his face."
The Defense admitted that James/Jeff Cahill had disguised himself
as a hospital janitor and had killed his semicomatose wife with
Richard Priest (Defense Attorney) told an Onondaga County Court
jury that he would present character witnesses who would testify
that there was ''something to save in this man. There's still some
good left in him.''
John Cahill (Brother of James Cahill) told jurors his brother
James "Jeff" loved his children, enjoyed fishing and playing
soccer and was raised as a devout Catholic. Mark Cahill
(Brother of James Cahill) testified about the night he and
his parents arrived at Jeff's house to find Jill beaten.
Gary Miles (Defense attorney) called only Dr. William Allyn
in an attempt to explain Mr. Cahill's state of mind shortly
before the baseball bat assault in April 1998. Dr. Allyn, a
childhood friend and family doctor of James/Jeff Cahill,
testified "He had prescribed sleeping pills to help Mr.
Cahill with insomnia and anxiety related to the stress
of the Cahills' failing marriage.
Gary Miles gave a 50 minute closing and urged jurors not
to rush to judgment, saying the facts warranted a lesser
verdict of second-degree murder.
CONVICTION - SENTENCE OVERTURNED - RESENTENCING
A State Supreme Court jury convicted James Cahill, reaching their
verdict of Guilty of first-degree murder, assault and criminal possession
of a weapon after three hours of deliberating. The jury sentenced him to
James/Jeff Cahill exhibited no reaction as the verdict was read.
Prosecutors had obtained the death penalty, but the State Court of
Appeals overturned the death sentence. The Court of Appeals reversed
both convictions and reduced the crime to second degree murder, set
aside the death sentence, and returned the case to the trial court for
James "Jeff" Cahill was resentenced for second-degree murder and
sentenced to 37 1/2 years to life.
2001- July 18 - A wrongful-death lawsuit against death-row inmate J
ames "Jeff" Cahill, brought by the family of his murdered wife, was
filed and scheduled. The estate seeks $40 million in damages from
James Cahill and $10 million from Doyle Protective Services and the
Doyle Group, the company that provided security at University Hospital,
where Jill Cahill was murdered in 1998. There was a separate lawsuit
against the state.
2007 - December - Jeff Cahill filed an appeal seeking to serve
his sentences concurrently instead of consecutively. He is asking to
be eligible for parole after 25 years instead of 37 1/2. If his appeal is
successful he'd be eligible for parole in October of 2024 at age 64.
If he is not successful, he'll be eligible for parole April 2036 when
he'd be 75. But that would be up to the Parole board whether
he'd be granted parole.
Debbie Jaeger (Jill's sister) raised Jeff and Jill's two children, then
aged ten and nine years old in their Tonawanda home. She was
instrumental in pushing for the passage of "Jilly's Law." The law
would make it more difficult for alleged domestic violence abusers
to post bail. She also volunteers with the Family Justice Center of
"While She Slept" by Marion Collins is a book written about the case.