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    January 16: 1936: Serial Killer Hamilton Howard “Albert” Fish was executed in the electric chair in Sing Sing Prison. He was responsible for at least 5 murders, including 10-year-old Grace Budd whose murder he was sentenced to death for.

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Hamilton Somerville murder 11/13/2001 Orange County, VA *Wife, Donna, acquitted of his murder*

Hamilton Somerville
Hamilton Somerville Jr

Widow on the Hill movie
Black widow? A native son’s death rattles Somerset
Death rattles gentry
Donna Somerville acquitted
Va. Woman Acquitted In Death Of Husband
Widow loses civil suit to stepdaughters over Somerville death
Vanity Fair: Widow on the Hill

Murder Down

Donna Somerville


74 Responses

  1. Hello Robin Knepper,
    Thanks for your interesting article. We have just watched the movie “Widow on The Hill” and your web site provide valuable background information.

    It would be intersting to know how the Somervilles live today.

  2. Robin Knepper is the author of the article, not this blog. I do not know her. It was an article I found online. Sorry if it was misleading.

  3. It is hard to believe that three poisionous substances can be found in someone’s stomach, and the only individual with a huge amount of motive and opportunity can be acquitted of the charges. She was smart to build it up gradually, so that it could be intrepreted as abuse by him, but who among us would mix a “get high” drug or even a pain killer in our own bowl of soup? Especially a lethal cocktail. Of course, the defense could argue that he took the pills before she provided the soup, but this old man would have to be on par with a Cheech and Chong junkie, hooked on three different substances, and I doubt the guy even knew how to pronounce the names of the drugs, much less what they were used for or how to obtain them (unless we are expected to believe she was his enabler). I saw the movie, and thought it was quite captivating, although I agree with a prior blogger that the producers went way overboard with Hamilton’s character to establish discontent between Donna and the daughters. It just goes to show you that where there’s money involved, you ultimately can’t trust anyone. I hope and pray that the daughters will win the civil suit.

  4. She is guilty; and she is not even attractive, what did Mr. Somerville see in her?

  5. I agree 100%!!!!! Donna is guilty as sin! Maybe she got away with murder in this life, but rest assured, like Mr. OJ Simpson, I believe the both of them will rot in HELL someday!

  6. What’s the latest on Donna J. Somerville?

  7. I actually live a couple miles from Donna Sommerville’s place. She is literally like a hermit. She never comes out of her home and is never seen in town anymore. No one has heard from her in a long time and her place is posted with all sorts of “no trespassing” signs. She is guilty as sin and everyone in Orange County knows she is.

  8. I feel that she is guilty and i hope she looses the civil suit

  9. What a horrible crime she has committed. May his soul rest in peace and may his family somehow find peace.

  10. I think she’s guilty too.

  11. I truly believe she is quilty also. I would very much like to know when the civil suit is settled and the outcome of that.

  12. Honestly, if she wanted to collect his money from the time they started having a relationship, then she would’ve gradually drugged him from when they started their courtship to his untimely death, imo. With that in mind, I can’t make heads or tails of whether or not she’s truly guilty. Attack me all you want, but seriously she would’ve had to have planned out this whole thing in her head from the time she was a hospice nurse to Hamilton’s first wife when she was dying from cancer in order for me to believe she was guilty. Because there was no concrete evidence that would’ve determined her guilt, thus there wasn’t a possible way to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that she did or didn’t do this. Besides, I can’t say that I blame her for hardly ever being seen out and about. You never know when some idiot will be out seeking some vigilante justice against her. She shouldn’t have to fear that, which upsets me. In fairness, though I think the only thing her former stepdaughters can sue her for is malpractice of some sort if that is at all possible. I imagine that since they’re suing for wrongful death(in this case, isn’t that the same thing?), they might not be awarded the asking amount because Donna was proven not guilty. Is it possible that the trial’s outcome could affect how much money the judge could award Hamilton’s daughters with his first wife if they win the civil suit?

  13. I think that she was an easy target and there is no concrete evidence that she actually did this crime. Just because a person ie. her late a certian way all their life does not mean that they cant have a life altering experience that changes there outlook on life ie. his wife dying. Even at that late of a stage in his life. Maybe he did take up drugs..he was after all an alcholic at one point in time. And when recoveries have a hard time fully quiting they tend to switch to another vice. Maybe she did want the money..who in their right mind wouldnt want 15 million dollars?! But it doesnt mean she knocked him off to get it!

  14. I think she did it. She thought it through carefully.

  15. Of course she did it – the question is, if new ev idence is available can she be re-tried?

    note from blog owner
    No, she could not. It is called double jeopardy. If she was guilty, the prosecution had the duty to prove it.

  16. Does anyone know if she went through with the cremation or if they buried him in the family cemetary?

  17. Does anyone know how the civil cases were settled? If she was not guilty, why would she insist on immediate cremation? If she was innocent, an autopsy might have proved she was innocent? Someone who inappropriately touches her husband’s friends and is promiscuous in public would not care if an autopsy revealed herpes. The judge in the criminal case should be voted out of office.

  18. Margie,

    Why should the judge be voted out of office? What did the judge do wrong? Now, DON’T go by the movie, but by the facts of the case and in the courtroom. I have not seen anything to imply that the judge did anything wrong. If you are saying that because she was acquitted that the judge is to blame, then you do not know or understand our justice system and should be educated on it.

    Also, many people, guilty or not guilty of murder, insist on immediate cremation. That is really not abnormal. I know several people who want to be cremated right away. And then there are religions that believe that they need to be buried within a few hours of death. While immediate cremation may bother you, it may or may not even be a factor here.

  19. First of all, before I start with anything, I have a question…The family had a family plot! As do most everyone with a lot of money, he was a dedicated church member…follow me please! So why in the hell would this man tell his new wife that he wanted to be cremated, he did not cremate his first wife, which leads me to believe that this man certainly did not request a cremation! You would have to be a very ignorant person not to get that much from the information given! Secondly, no they were not able to convict this obvious murderer, only because of lack of evidence that does not mean that she didn’t do it; it only says she got by with it! And not every recovering alcoholic turns to something else in place of their drinking habit, this man ran a ranch, a pill popper could not keep up with the day to day needs a farm requires! And the daughter is not a liar just because she had an alcohol problem herself. The daughter was sober during the entire time he was married to wife #2, what if it were your dad…what would you think? And as far as the lawsuit goes, the daughters can sue for wrongful death regardless if she was found guilty or not, and that has no effect on the amount, remember the OJ Simpson case and the families brought the wrongful death suit against him after he was acquitted, and they wiped his ass out! I’m sure the Judge will be very generous with his daughters especially given the circumstances!

  20. Darlene,
    I agree 100% with every word that you said. This woman is guilty. This was a very fine crafted scheme; she saw a very wealthy man that was grieving the sickness of his dying wife; she saw a window of opportunity, and dived right through it. She should be ashamed of herself for what she has put his daughters through. I hope that they win the civil suit that they have brought against her. Not only did she take their fathers life, she took their family home and the family fortune. One of the earlier posting stated that she lives the life of a hermit; I guess life at the “top of the hil” is very lonely.

  21. If it wouldve been my father, she wouldve had to suffer AT LEAST the same fate. And there is no way IN HELL, HEAVEN OR ON EARTH, that I would allow her to have ANYTHING from my family; even if it meant, I had to go down with her.

    She deserves to be burned alive, NOW,for what she did. And I have nothing else to say.

  22. If his daughter’s can prove to me who they are I will get My husband to buy them that Damn farm back! terrible, may she rot in hell!

  23. This woman belongs on death row ;certainly not on Mount Amos.It is clear she abused a recovering alcohol addicted man for his money by getting him hooked on opiates(instead of alcohol)then killing him by administering him an overdose of the drugs Being a nurse that is called powerabuse + murder.
    Hamilton Somerville was a church going guy for him to order cremation should have rised suspision by authorities immidiately .But justice was not done in this case at all.
    This women has similarities with dr.Death ;Harold Shipman.
    I say ;deathrow for this women +death by lethal injection.

  24. Hello,
    I believe Donna in everyone like to judge others the bible teaches you not to judge people it was a lot of money invovled so poeple want it so attorneys got paid and of cousre the kids will blame donna their father was rich and they felt they should get it their father married donna and that was his wife weather anyone like it or not iam glad the judge found donna not guilty, GOD IS GOOD ALL the TIME.

    • Well, Gloria, the daughters have the last laugh-Donna lost the civil suit and justice was partially done when the daughters got back their rightful inheritance. You see Gloria when a person tries to connive and take away something that belongs to others it comes back on ya.If Donna had wanted to do right maybe she should have asked for some sort of payout or cash settlement and let the daughters have what was rightfully theirs!I am not saying Donna should not have gotten anything but she was not honest in her dealings with her stepdaughters she ended up getting what was nothing!

  25. I say if she did kill him made he rest in peace.
    And she will get what coming to her here or when she meets her maker. My thougths If you didnt kill
    him why would you hide mmmm. If you are not
    guilty live life dont hide . These are my thought

    If she kill him may her soul burn in hell soon

  26. so did the girls win their lawsuit?
    is distillingkansas still out there?

  27. What if the result of the civil case? Has it been decided?

  28. I saw Donna about a month ago, it was like seeing a ghost. I hadn’t seen her out in 8 years. I haven’t heard anything lately around town about the civil case, but she’s still up there on Mt. Athos.

  29. Everyone keeps asking what happen to the civil case, and nobody answer. Well i looked for a couple of hours and STILL can’t find anything.
    If you just look at her photo above she looks evil. I mean damn. Evil bitch will burn in hell.

  30. I just found this blog and just watched Widow on the Hill again yesterday. I would like to know what happened in the civil case as well. For those of you who vehemently wish her to rot in hell, no one guilty of such a crime ever really escapes unscathed. It appears that she is a prisoner of her own castle.

  31. No one has never mentioned her daughter! How was her daughters life affected by this, from my understanding she had the daughter while she was working her way through nursing school. Also, just to follow up with the blog, I don’t think the lady meant to kill her husband however, I do believe she drugged him and was just trying to surpress him because he found out that she was not as decent as he thought. In fact those whorish tendecies came out and she could not supress those, which ultimately lead to her husband possibly filing a divorce. All in all any jury would find her guilty of wrongful death. Because of her the drugs that were found in Ham was in the house, she made those drugs accessible to him. So therefor she was at fault. I really would like to know if this has gone to trial yet because this should have been resolved 6 months after the trial was over.

  32. I believe she is guilty. It is unfortunate she was acquitted. However, it is also sad that the movie makers chose to glamourize her and Hamilton. Of course, the movie wouldn’t be so exciting if they have cast people more like the real characters.

  33. Also, even if she did not do it, she does not deserve to inherit everything. What makes her think she is entitled to all of it for the short time she was married to him.?

  34. I believe she is guilty also. She would have been a decent person and given it back to the family where it rightfully belongs. Yes she was intitled to a part of it for the marriage of 14 years. But that home and 90% of that money belongs to the family daughters not her. She was greedy, and a horrific crime was done to that man and his family. I pray they get some kind of justice, but she is a woman that loves money.

  35. Actually Bonnie, double jeopardy does not apply in the case of strong new evidence. The idea behind double jeopardy is to ensure that the State cannot try someone over and over on the same evidence until they get the verdict they want; if they want to retry the case, they need proof that there was some undue process (e.g. mitigating circumstances in the judgement, like the judge being blackmailed) or that something was not a part of the trial that should have been, such as new evidence or testimony. If new evidence arose, there would be a hearing to determine if the evidence is compelling enough that a different decision MAY have been reached. If the judge decides it is, a case can be retried with new evidence.

    In fact, the movie “Double Jeopardy” is erroneous. Given that the circumstances of her husband’s death would have changed from the drowning to the shotting, if she had killed him, she would have been retried in real life. However, should she be convicted a second time, the judge would have been permitted to apply her previous time served towards her new sentence.

  36. If you don’t believe me, the very first line of “Double Jeopardy” on Wikipedia confirms it: you cannot be tried “twice for the same crime on the same set of facts.”

  37. This is the second time i have seen this movie, I truly believe that she was guilty. I can not see the daughters father not leaving anything to them at all. There is an article that talks about an undisclosed settlement but it is very evasive. I have many questions like what was his previous will like. Did she also speed up the death of their mother, was there an autopsy done on the mother also. Maybe there is a link there. What about the guy that turned evidence against her. I can’t believe that no one would re-open this case and re-investigate with new eyes.

    • only you-

      Donna Smmerville cannot be retried for this murder, so there is no reason to reopen or reinvestigate. Double Jeopardy has attached to this. Once acquitted, you cannot be tried again for the same offense.

  38. I worked in the legal field for almost 20 yrs, and after looking at the evidence in this case, have to say that I am shocked she actually was acquitted. Unlike the O.J. Simspon case, which failed to present the adequate evidence due to misconduct on the part of police and tainting of evidence, this case provided ample evidence that this woman did indeed have both the motive and opportunity to commit the murder of her husband. The fact that Mr. Somerville would have had no way of obtaining the morphine by which he died, whereas Donna had the drug at her fingertips is evidence personafide. In addition, I am surprised that the boxes containing the morphine and other medications, which were found in the home, could not have been traced to those at the facility where she was employed and the connection made to prove the medication was appropriated by her only. It is ludicrious to assume that a man, who had lived his entire life as Mr. Somerville had, would have managed to locate the amount of medications which were found in his body upon the autopsy. This is definitely one of those cases which drives home the inadequacies of our judical system.

  39. So everyone is absolutely clear, I am in no way implying that Simpson was not guilty of the crime, only that the evidence was mishandled, thereby resulting in his (improper as it was)being acquitted. As for the comments about double jeopardy, yes, it does apply to this case no matter what evidence can now be found. The only way Donna could be tried for anything to do with this case, would be if new evidence was obtained to prove she was connected with the death of Mr. Somerville’s first wife. In which case, she would be brought up on charges of murdering the first Mrs. Somerville. Nothing more can be done regarding Mr. Somerville, with the exception of the civil suit which seems to still be pending. This was a crime of opportunity, as sad as that is. My heart goes out to the children of Mr. Somerville. Whether or not they are adults is irrelevant, the pain of the untimely death of a parent, especially under these circumstances, runs deep.

  40. I watched “Widow On THe Hill” for the first time today. It was nothing like the articles I’ve read on the internet. It seemed to be a little one sided to me. All these questions keep coming up about the daughters getting their fathers money. If I’m not mistaken I think I read an article that they were estranged from their father. What was the deal with that? And if they they did’nt have anything to do with him, why should they get his money?

    • just wandering,

      Remember, the movie is only based on the true story. It is not a factual retelling of the story. It takes liberties for drama and entertainment.

  41. If Donna Sommerville killed her husband for the money as some might say, why did she wait so long to do it. I mean were’nt they married for like ten years?

  42. I just watched the movie as it was playing on the Women’s Network. Excellent! I had never heard of this case prior this day. I hope the entire Sommerville family can find some peace.

  43. any updates on this case??

  44. There is a lot more to all of this than any of you know. Ham’s daughters did not estrange him. After their mother passed, they were adults living their own lives while Ham got with Donna did not settle well. She pushed the family apart.

    FYI – The civil suit ended yesterday. His 3 daughters were awarded the farm along with $900,000 in binding arbitration.
    “… [It] is my opinion by preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant is liable and that the plaintiff is entitled to recover in the pending suit,” wrote retired Judge Robert L. Harris Sr.

    On 9/10/10 Ham’s 3 daughters were able to step foot on the farm for the first time in almost a decade.

  45. I am so happy for the family. A decade is a very long time but justice did prevail..

  46. Oh thank you God! I saw the movie a long while ago, but never forgot about it. I’m so glad there was some justice! I did a search on donna and some psychic website came up…is that her? crazy sociopath!

  47. I’m so glad that the girls were able to at least get their family farm back. I can’t believe she was acquitted…I think some more digging should be done and she should be charged with murder of the mother. I hope she rots in hell…and soon!

  48. I was intrigued by the movie and disgusted by the outcome. SO, I googled Donna Somerville and YES…. she lost the civil suit just this year in September. The daughters recieve something like 35mil and Mt. Athos. Hadnt had a movie anger me so in quite some time… To think that that the greedy hepher got away with taking the family home made me so mad. I can only imagine the pain that the daughters have felt for all of these years. Justice finally….how sweet it is!!!

  49. Wonderful news that the daughters won their case and inherited the property!

    There is something v wrong with the law when it allows a short-term wife to inherit everything, and the children nothing.

    I have little sympathy with the husband, who should have used his brains, not another part of his anatomy. Presumably he drew up a will to leave everything to his wonderful, new wife.

    The judge who let her off should be SERIOUSLY investigated.

    Never mind though, the children eventually re-gained their home and the wife and Judge will have to live with what they have done.

  50. Sarah, honestly, Donna was guilty.She may not have been guilty of 1st degree murder but at least voluntary manslaughter.I can tell you one thing she didn’t love Ham like she should or she would not be flirting around and doing what she did.As for the stepdaughters suing her, they can sue her for any amount they wish under the law because that land belonged to their father and natural mother NOT DONNA!! She brought her own problems on herself by her disrespectful behavior. The daughters had every right to come to their own childhood home without her threatening them with trespass(which she did).If she did not want to live like a hermit MOVE OUT and let the daughters have their rightful inheritance and Donna go get your own home!In the end, Donna was acquitted but lost the civil case; justice was partially done. Donna maybe free but lost everything she tried to steal from her stepdaughters and got just exactly what her deserved; nothing!

  51. well.. she is guilty SURE!

    I m spanish …and here and in europe…if there are children the law says…that they take 2/3 of parents fortune…

  52. 4/19/2011 Just saw on the Internet that Donna lost the civil suit to his daughters. That means that the daughters get the house an she’s out! Not sure how much money the girls are getting. I am so happy for them. That is years and years of hard work on their part. Their lives consumed with their dad’s ex-wife. God bless those daughters for fighting her. They deserve their home back, not Donna!

    • Roxy a BIG amen!!IF Donna had really loved and wanted to be a good wife and step mom to Ham’s daughters she would have allowed his children to have a say in planning Ham’s funeral and would want them to have a civil relationship.This was a well thought out plan to try and get the house and estate.Donna did not want to share anything with Ham’s children(wanted it for herself).It was stated in one of the articles she manipulated Ham into willing everything to her and that she would be fair with his children-the opposite happened.Well, she got nothing in the end.Otherwise, I would say she should get a life insurance policy payout, some sort of pay out or be allowed to live there until her death but the house should have always remained with Ham’s children.Now she must start anew and Ham’s children can go on peacefully with their lives.

  53. Does anyone know if what Donna is doing today/ I only ask because I hope that if she was really from a trailer park that, that is where she ended up. If the daughters ended up with 35mil of the 50mil. this would probably mean that Donna is still well off. This is more than unfair to the daughters as Donna should have been left disituted, as far as I am concrened. Does anyone know if this info. is true or not. It is just what I read, but not everything we read is true either.

    I do believe that Donna did it. I realize there are those who question how she could have planned the whole thing. Well I can asure you from my personal experience dealing with a sociopathic personality, that they can plan multiple moves ahead just like in a game of chess, and win, because they will stop at nothing to do just that, WIN, and this includes murder. They are able to do all this without any true emotionally attachment and yet they can cry if they need to do that too. They spend their life giving people the reactions that other normal people would expect , but they control in all inside.

  54. looks like she is still into conning folks

  55. Ok….first of all the real “Donna Somerville” looks NOTHING like the Linda Cavanaugh portrayed in the movie. Gold digging whore. I hope the Somervilles rest in peace and the daughters win the civil suit. What comes around goes around. Donna…..if you are reading this….please remove your website – you are FUGLY (Fu…kng….ugly… please don’t flatter yourself with the actress that portrayed you……and no one cares about your spirtual bs….you should be ashamed.

  56. I think she`s an ugly, evil,slutty gold digger who was preying on that family like an animal. Damn she`s UGLY !!! Donna just remember this, to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. You think you got away ? Well just wait and see. Karma`s a bitch and so are you!

  57. I hope the daughter’s can find some happiness, somehow xo.

  58. Same thing happened in my family. My grandmother dies of cancer; and grandfather marries an evil woman who poisions him slowly to death and in the meantime steals his assets and money.

    • Gail, your family needs to see legal advice immediately and not let this evil woman take everything. I believe she could receive a child’s portion but no more; especially if this house and belongings were your grandmother’s also. Whatever you do, do it quickly and get your aunts, uncles, and cousins together to fight what belongs to all of you. I can’t stand people like this and how Anna NIchole Smith tried to take half of the Marshall’s estate knowing he was 90 when she married him.She could be held criminally liable as well as civilly liable.

  59. Gail keep in mind there are time limits on civil suits so yall at least find out what you can do legally before time runs out!!

  60. I just saw the movie and was disappointed to find out it was a true story. I hope Donna didn’t wind up with anything after the daughters’ lawsuit. Does any know what her status is?

  61. Yvonne, Donna was aquitted of first degree murder and had the estate for about 8 years threatening her stepdaughters with trespassing if they came onto the property. The daughters kept on fighting finally getting their rightful home back and Donna was OUT! Hallelluyah! but the daughters settled with Donna getting some of the money from the estate but Donna had to pay almost 1 million in restitution to the Somerville daughters. Justice was partially done but not completely done. Thanks be to God the girls got their family home back!

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