A Cumberland man found himself sentenced to 50 years in prison in Harlan Circuit Court on Thursday on multiple charges including murder and arson.
Christopher Wayne Hill, 44, of Cumberland, appeared before Circuit Court Judge Kent Hendrickson for his sentencing. Commonwealth’s Attorney Parker Boggs represented the state. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jonathan Lee was also present in court.
The case began when Kentucky State Police troopers were called to a structure fire on Aug. 16 after a report of a person being trapped inside the residence. April Dean, 26, was found unresponsive inside her residence which had became engulfed with fire. Dean’s mother, Janet Dean, was not at home at the time of the fire. KSP Arson Investigator Josh Bunch was called to the scene to conduct an investigation, as well as the State Fire Marshal.
Hill was arrested by Kentucky State Police Det. Josh Howard along with a co-defendant, Melissa Brown, 30, of Harlan on Sept. 5. The pair were arrested on charges of first-degree arson and murder, in connection with a fatal house fire on Aug. 16 at Stanfill that caused the death of April Dean, 26.
Hill was indicted in November.
According to the 14-count indictment handed down by the grand jury on Nov. 2, Hill engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to Dean, and thereby caused her death. The indictment also charged Hill with nine counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for endangering the lives of firefighters James Billings, Gary Turner, Gerald Smith, Corey Miller, David Vaughn, Travis Nelums, Carl Hensley, Adam Napier, and Ashley Hatfield, who were required to enter the burning structure in an attempt to save April Dean. The indictment also contains one count of first-degree wanton endangerment due to Robert Perkins having to enter the burning structure. The last count of the indictment charged Hill with first-degree persistent felony offender, due to Hill’s earlier convictions in Harlan Circuit Court.
The indictment states Hill was convicted of felonies in Harlan Circuit Court on two previous occasions, March 22, 2002 and May 3, 2012.
Howard and Bunch presented the evidence to the grand jury that resulted in the indictment.
Hill entered a plea of guilty on May 23 in Harlan Circuit Court.
Hendrickson, on the recommendation of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, sentenced Hill to 30 years in prison on the murder charge, 30 years in prison for arson, and five years in prison on each of 10 counts of wanton endangerment, all charges to run concurrently. Count three of the indictment, a second-degree arson charge, was dismissed. The sentence was enhanced due to the persistent felony offender, resulting in a total of 50 years in prison to serve.
Brown, the co-defendant in the case, also faces charges including murder stemming from the death of Dean. Her next scheduled court appearance is on Nov. 19, with a four day trial set to begin on Dec. 19.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde