true crime

Jill survived a brutal attack from her husband. Then he broke into her hospital room.

On October 28, 1998, Jill Cahill was murdered by her own husband.

The talented landscape artist was just 41 years old.

Jill, a mum of two, had finally gained the courage to leave her abusive husband James “Jeff” Cahill. The couple had separated but were still living in the same house in Skaneateles, Upstate New York.

Jill was in the process of filing for divorce and was becoming increasingly fearful of her estranged husband. At one point, she actually told her sister, Debra Jaeger, that if Jeff killed her, she could have all of her stuff.

According to The New York Times, on the night of April 21, 1998, the couple began arguing.

Jeff took an aluminium baseball bat and viciously beat Jill, while their daughter, Mary, and son, Timothy, looked on. Jill asked the children to please call the police, while Jeff screamed at them to go back to bed.

Once the attack was over, Jeff called his family and a family friend who was a doctor.

The doctor took one look at the scene and immediately called the police. When the police turned up, Jill was lying on the ground, covered in blood. She was still breathing but there was a noticeable indent in her left temple.

Somehow Jill survived the prolonged, violent attack. She was taken to Upstate University Hospital. It was estimated she was hit in the skull at least four times. Her eye sockets were fractured and one of her arms was broken. The doctors had to do emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from her brain.

She spent the next six months slipping in and out of a coma while recovering from her injuries in hospital. The couple’s children had to move in with their maternal grandparents.

While being questioned by the police, Jeff alleged that Jill had started the argument and had attacked him with a knife. He said he only beat his wife to defend himself. Later, he admitted he cut himself with a knife to make it look like he was defending himself.

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He was charged for the assault but was set free on a $100,000 bail.

Despite the charges against him, Jeff was determined to end his estranged wife’s life.

According to The Syracuse Post Standard, the father-of-two obtained potassium cyanide from a laboratory in Berkeley, California for $30, by using a fake letterhead for General Super Plating, an electroplating company in DeWitt. He had the package shipped overnight via UPS.

On the night of October 27, 1998, the 38-year-old dressed up as a hospital janitor and sneaked into Jill’s hospital room.

Moments later, a nurse noticed that Jill was struggling to breathe and that there was a strange smell in the room. When she touched the sheets, she felt a burning sensation on her hands.

Jill struggled to hold onto life for hours, but sadly died the next morning.

An autopsy found the young mum died of potassium cyanide poisoning. Through their investigation, police concluded that Jeff had forced the cyanide down Jill’s throat.

Jeff was sentenced to 25 years to life for second-degree murder and 12 to 25 years for first degree assault. He will be eligible for parole in 2036.

After her death, Jill’s sister Debra passionately advocated on her behalf. She said Jill would still be alive had Jeff been denied bail.

In 2004, Jilly’s Law was introduced in the state of New York. Under the law, judges now have the ability to deny bail if they believe the perpetrator could be a further threat to the victim.

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