Earl Hill Jr. was 73 years old when he died in January 2015 while serving a life sentence for the death of Lowell Bailey, 31, and assault, rape and shooting of Bailey’s wife, Beverly Bailey, on Nov. 25, 1967. He had been imprisoned for just over 47 years.
Hill, originally from Limestone Cove in Unicoi County, an Army private stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and apparently home on leave, was 25 years old at the time he pulled up beside a the couple at Beauty Spot. The next hours would change the couple’s lives, and Hill’s, forever.
The Baileys were in town visiting family for the Thanksgiving holiday when they decided to go to Beauty Spot to talk on CB radios, according to reports at the time. At some point that evening, a car pulled up beside them and Lowell Bailey got out of his car to see what the person was doing.
Lowell, a Washington, D.C. police officer, was shot and killed. The assailant, later identified as Hill, forced Lowell’s wife into his car, drove to another remote location where he physically and sexually assaulted her, then shot her in the abdomen and left her for dead. But Beverly Bailey didn’t die, and was able to crawl several miles to Highway 107 where a Johnson City Press reporter and photographer — called newsmen at that time — found her and took her to the Erwin hospital.
Bailey told the men, reporter Herman Robinson and photographer Gordon Vest, that four other cars had passed her and slowed down, but then kept going as she sought help. She was on the ground, up on one elbow and waving her other hand hoping someone would stop and rescue her.
As the men drove her to the hospital, Beverly Bailey told them what had happened. According to stories published at the time, it was painful for her to talk, but Bailey wanted to relay the events in case she didn’t survive.
Beverly Bailey had been in town several days with the couple’s two children, and Lowell Bailey had arrived to take them back to their Maryland home. Instead, the family had a funeral, and Lowell Bailey was buried with police honors at Evergreen Cemetery the following week.
Hill received national attention in 1977 when he and several other inmates at Brushy Mountain state prison escaped along with James Earl Ray, the killer of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Hill’s escape struck fear in the people of Unicoi County, but Hill was the first man captured after the escape and the others were soon rounded up and back in prison.
Hill was last up for parole in 2012, his third time being considered, but was denied. He was previously denied in his first year of eligibility in 1992, and was again denied in 2006. His next hearing was scheduled for 2018, but with his death three years ago, the file on Hill was closed.
Editor's Note: This article previously incorrectly named the department where Lowell Bailey worked. He was a police officer in Washington, D.C