Prineville woman gets prison sentence for manslaughter
Prineville woman Tina Hill was sentenced to 75 months in prison following a sentencing hearing Monday in Crook County Circuit Court.
According to Crook County District Attorney Wade Whiting, Hill, age 54, entered a "guilty plea by way of Alford" and was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, a Measure 11 offense. The sentence included no eligibility for any form of early release from custody and a period of three years of post-prison supervision.
Hill was initially arrested for murder following an investigation into a homicide in the Juniper Acres area that was discovered on Thanksgiving morning in 2017. She was charged with the murder of 51-year-old Dennis Allen Stewart, with whom she had lived with and had an on-again, off-again relationship.
Stewart's death was discovered when the Crook County Sheriff's Office received a request for a welfare check from his family, who had not heard from him in five days.
Upon arrival at the property, deputies made contact with Hill and noted that she had two black eyes.
Deputies asked Hill whether Stewart was OK, and she shook her head no, and pointed toward a small cabin on the property and said she had not seen him move in four days. While approaching the cabin door, a deputy noticed a pile of blankets and wood boards piled at the front entrance. While moving the debris, the deputy found Stewart lying face down on the ground deceased. Stewart was found clutching a 6-inch knife in a reverse grip posture with a .22 caliber rifle found next to his body.
Wade said the Major Incident Team was called in to investigate the cause of death, and Hill participated in several interviews with authorities over the course of two days. In each interview, she made numerous inconsistent statements and denied any knowledge of how Stewart had died. Hill was indicted by a grand jury and placed into custody shortly thereafter.
Hill claimed she acted in self-defense, claiming that Stewart returned home on the evening of the shooting and was unable to gain access to the cabin because Hill had nailed a blanket over the entrance in an effort to keep warm.
She said that Stewart got very upset and started cutting through the blanket with a large knife, so she picked up a nearby rifle in anticipation of a physical assault and the gun accidently fired striking Stewart.
Wade noted that at the time of the shooting, local law enforcement was already well acquainted with the couple from numerous domestic-related calls. In 2016, Hill petitioned the court and was granted a restraining order against Stewart for domestic violence. From November 2016 to August 2017, Stewart was arrested five different times for violating the terms of the restraining order by having continued contact with Hill.
When the term of the restraining order expired, the couple continued living together on the Juniper Acres property. Court records indicate Stewart had previously served a lengthy prison sentence for a past felony assault conviction.
Hill had a history of committing domestic violence crimes against Stewart. In the summer of 2016, she was arrested after Stewart called the police because she had thrown bleach in his face. Two weeks later, the defendant was again arrested when she fired multiple shots with a handgun at Stewart after a verbal dispute. Wade said both charges were ultimately dismissed when Stewart refused to cooperate with prosecution and no other witnesses could be located.
During the sentencing hearing, Hill gave a brief statement, apologizing to members of Stewart's family saying she was, "Sorry for what happened to Dennis."