The defense team for a Prineville woman accused of killing her abusive boyfriend intends to assert self-defense, and has sought to have her mental health evaluated.
Tina Marie Hill 53, is charged with murder, first-degree manslaughter and unlawful use of a weapon in the death of Dennis Stewart.
Court records, including a newly unsealed search warrant affidavit, depict a tumultuous romantic relationship between the two.
Her case began in November, when Stewart’s brother called police to say he hadn’t heard from Stewart in five days. Officers on the night shift were reluctant to visit Stewart’s property because he had previously made violent threats against police, according to a court document written by Sgt. Ryan Seaney of the Crook County Sheriff’s Office. So on the rainy morning of Nov. 23, Seaney and another officer visited Stewart’s land on SE Myrtlewood Lane, about 25 miles south of Prineville. After initially seeing no signs of activity, they noticed Hill “among the juniper trees breaking juniper branches.”
“We approached Tina and inadvertently surprised her due to the wind covering our footsteps and my attempts to call out to her,” Seaney wrote.
She had two black eyes.
Hill told the officers she hadn’t seen Stewart “move” in four days.
“I found this statement strange,” Seaney wrote. “I asked her if Dennis was alive. Tina told us she did not know.”
There were several vehicles parked around a loop driveway on Stewart’s property in Juniper Acres, an RV and next to it, a one-room cabin — the only residential structure there.
Hill directed the officers to the cabin, where Seaney discovered Stewart on the ground in front of the cabin’s only door, laying under a pile of blankets and boards.
He was cold to the touch; his ears had a bluish hue and his head and neck stayed in line when Seaney pulled up on his shoulder, he wrote. Stewart had one shoe on and was clutching a knife in his right hand. A black rifle was found near his right arm. It was empty and the trigger and trigger lock had been broken off.
The rifle appeared to officers incapable of firing, but after further investigation could be fired with pressure applied in the right way, Seaney wrote.
Crook County medical examiner Ken Long arrived and examined the body. He found an entrance wound on Stewart’s left shoulder, as if the bullet passed laterally, and no exit wound.
A spent .22 round was discovered in the driveway in front of the cabin and bagged as evidence. Stewart’s other shoe was found behind the cabin. Among the other evidence was a cellphone found in the corner of the cabin and a cellphone battery found under Stewart’s body.
Crook County sheriff’s deputy Eric King sought to take an initial statement from Hill at the scene, but reported she’d been “all over the place” with her statement.
The court report states that after providing several more inconsistent accounts, Seaney asked her if Stewart had any issues with anyone who’d want to hurt him.
“She told us that lately, he has had issues with everyone,” Seaney wrote. “Tina told me Dennis wants to hurt and kill lots of people, sometimes.”
Last month, one of Hill’s attorneys, Tim Gassner, asked to have her transferred to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem for a mental health evaluation. He wrote to Judge Daniel J. Ahern: “Over the course of the last two weeks, I have seen the defendant’s mental and emotional health deteriorate to the point where she is unable to communicate effectively with me and with the other professionals that have been hired to assist in the preparation of the defense for her case.”
Ahern approved the order.
Hill has a settlement conference in this case scheduled next month.
Hill and Stewart have a history of domestic abuse convictions.
In 2015, Stewart was convicted of domestic harassment. His probation was revoked late last year when he failed to follow through with a court-ordered batterers intervention program.
In June 2016, a deputy responded to a domestic dispute at Stewart’s home. After arguing about whether she had slept with one of the neighbors, Hill threw bleach in Stewart’s face. He told a detective some had gotten in his eye.
A week later, police were called again, this time because a neighbor in their rural subdivision heard gunshots. Hill told deputies that Stewart had again confronted her about having sex with a neighbor. But this time, she told a deputy, she’d fired a .45-caliber pistol at him four times, accidentally hitting his dog.
Hill was arrested for attempted murder, animal abuse and other charges.
When asked if she meant to kill Stewart, she allegedly said, “More likely than not.”
The day after Stewart’s body was found, a woman who used to live on the property contacted police and directed them to a Facebook comment thread.
On the deleted thread, Hill accuses Stewart of using methamphetamine and sodomizing her.
Hill goes on to express frustration with Stewart’s past statements about her having sex with a neighbor.
“I PRAY THAT YOU GET WHAT’S COMING TO YOU,” she wrote. “I KNOW YOU WILL TOO.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, email@example.com