Vermont Man Held In Stabbing At N.H. Hotel
Rodney Hill, 37, is led into Littleton District Court on January 29, 2013, where he was charged with killing Dr. Catherine "Kitty" Houghton, of Novoto, Calif., at the Hampton Inn in Littleton, N.H., the night before. (Caledonian Record photograph)
Littleton, N.H. — A West Danville, Vt., man has been charged with stabbing a woman to death Monday night in a hotel lobby in what law enforcement officials said appears to be a random attack.
Rodney A. Hill, 37, was arraigned yesterday on second-degree murder charges in Littleton District Court and was held without bail.
The victim was identified as 70-year-old Catherine “Kitty” Houghton, a trustee of Bethlehem, N.H.’s White Mountain School, where she was an alumna. She was keynote speaker at the school’s 2011 commencement.
“The world has lost a truly bright light,” said Tim Breen, White Mountain head of school. “Kitty was a trustee, a classmate, a friend and an inspiration to us all.”
Prosecutors at the state Attorney General’s Office have not disclosed a motive for the stabbing that occurred shortly before 9 p.m. at the Hampton Inn on Meadow Street, where Houghton, of Novato, Calif., was staying.
Littleton police received multiple 911 calls and encountered Hill outside the hotel, where he was taken into custody, said prosecutors.
Police found Houghton inside with multiple stab wounds. She was taken to Littleton Regional Hospital, where she died of her injuries.
Yesteray, Hill, in handcuffs and leg irons and wearing a gray sweatsuit, was led into Littleton District Court by Littleton police and state troopers. Represented by public defender Marcie Hornick, Hill appeared calm in court.
The relationship between Houghton and Hill is still being investigated, but it is not believed they knew each other and the murder appears to be a random act, Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said after the arraignment.
Morrell, who did not disclose the weapon used, would not comment on whether Hill, like Houghton, was staying at the hotel and if there was a confrontation between them. She also did not say whether Hill was thought to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the stabbing or if he has been diagnosed with a mental illness.
An autopsy was conducted yesterday at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Concord. As of yesterday, Morrell said it was undetermined how many times Houghton had been stabbed.
Hill faces two counts of second-degree murder: one alleges he knowingly caused Houghton’s death by stabbing her in the neck and torso and one alleging he caused her of second-degree murder for recklessly stabbing her in the neck and torso. A conviction on either charge would carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
A probable cause hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 5 in Littleton District Court.
Houghton, a 1960 White Mountain School graduate, had been in town for White Mountain board meetings and had been scheduled to sing during a rehearsal for the school’s a cappella group last evening, said Rob Constantine, the school’s director of advancement. Houghton had stayed an additional day in Littleton, he said.
“The entire White Mountain School is deeply saddened by Dr. Houghton’s death,” Breen said at a press conference outside the school yesterday afternoon.
“She will long be remembered for her kindness, her keen intellect, her love of music and her adventurous spirit,” he said. “She lived life to the fullest, pursuing each next step with curiosity and joy. Through her words, actions and deeds she has inspired countless others to do the same.”
Houghton was a strong student and athlete, and her love of music, mountains and friends she made at White Mountain — then known as St. Mary’s of the Mountains — continued to play a prominent role in her life, he said.
After earning a doctorate from Stanford University, Houghton served in the Peace Corps in Nepal and also served as an international officer for Bank of America.
She spent most of her career as a business counselor in the global commerce arm of the U.S. Foreign Service, traveling to Columbia, Austria, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Germany and Canada, said Breen.
Houghton spoke 14 languages, he said, with fluency in German, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Nepali and Bengali, and upon retiring, remained an avid hiker, skier and musician, he said.
She also obtained a private pilot license and volunteered for Angelflight, a nonprofit providing air transportation and supply for financially distressed people in medical need, and for Lighthawk, a nonprofit providing air transportation for conservation organizations.
“She firmly believed that today’s youth deserve the same quality of education and depth of experience in academics, the arts and the natural world that she received while a high school student at St. Mary’s,” said Breen.
Houghton returned to her alma mater to become a trustee in 2010.
In her 2011 commencement address, Houghton challenged graduates to cultivate an open mind and learn from bad experiences.
“Try to have fun, whatever you are doing,” she said. “Stay as informed as you can be. Don’t be afraid to be different. You can even be revolutionary without harming others.
The last homicide in Littleton occurred in 1999, said Littleton Police Chief Paul Smith.