When Jill Cahill was leaving to return home after visiting with her family for a week, she turned to her sister with a grin, and said: "If Jeff kills me, you can have all my things." A few days later, she was in a coma in a Syracuse hospital, her skull shattered by a savage beating inflicted by her 37-year-old husband. Six months later, she was dead.
Jeff and Jill Cahill seemed to have it all. Two kids, a dog, a nice house of the picket fence variety. But their relationship wasn't as happy as it seemed. Jeff and Jill had been having serious financial problems and were headed towards divorce, legally separated but living in the same house until Jill could afford to move out.
But on April 21, 1996 Jeff and Jill had a torrid argument while their kids were upstairs sleeping. In the aftermath, Jeff claimed that his wife had started stabbing him with a kitchen knife--and that was the reason for his taking a Louisville slugger straight to her head. She lay in a coma for nearly six months, and just as she started to show signs of coming out of it... she received a visitor.
On October 27th of that same year, staffers at the University Hospital in Syracuse New York, noticed a strange-looking guy lurking in the hallway wearing a wig and outdoor boots. When Jill's nurse went to check on her patient, she found her gasping for air, with bruises around her mouth, and white powder (later to be determined as cyanide) flecked across her chest...
While She Slept is Marion Collins' shocking true crime book about a man who would stop at nothing to keep his wife from testifying against him.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|File size:||265 KB|
About the Author
MARION COLLINS was born in Scottland and has lived in New York for twenty-six years. She is the author of The Palm Beach Murder and Without a Trace.
Marion Collins has written for Star magazine, The Daily News, and The New York Post, among other publications. The author of While She Slept, The Palm Beach Murder, and Without a Trace, she lives in New York.
Read an Excerpt
While She Slept
A Painful Death
Clinical technician Tyrone Hunter was on 2 North, the second-floor rehabilitation unit at the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse, that Tuesday night of October 27, 1998, working the 3:00-to-11:30 P.M. shift. He was wheeling a patient back from a trip to the radiology unit on the third floor when he saw the man coming down the corridor.
A housekeeper, Tyrone thought at first--but his hospital uniform was all wrong. He was white, aged 35 to 40 and roughly 5'8". Instead of the dark blue Dickies work pants and the regulation shirt with the hospital logo on the left breast, he was wearing light-colored chinos and a blue polo shirt banded with thin horizontal white stripes. On his feet were brown Timberland boots, instead of the sneakers employees customarily wore to keep the noise down. Tyrone wondered if the guy was new-maybe he hadn't had time to get properly kitted out, and then he noticed the mop; hospital-issue dustcovers were white, this one was a pale blue.
He looked for the hospital I.D. that would have a nameand photograph with Environmental Services printed at the bottom, and as he drew level he saw a plastic tag--but where his picture should have been there was a blank piece of paper. When he noticed Tyrone staring, the man put his head down and took off down the wall, noisily banging the mop against the baseboards.
Licensed Practical Nurse Vicki Dunning was at the nurses' station in the middle of the unit just before 10:00 P.M. She was measuring out doses for the medication cart she took around to her patients every night when she noticed the man coming towards her. As he passed by, she gave him a friendly "Hi." He glanced at her from behind horn-rimmed glasses and for a few seconds, their eyes locked. My God, she thought, what an oddball, what's with the weird hair? It was an unnatural sandy color and somehow it didn't quite fit his head. He disappeared towards the coma unit at the end of the floor. Vicki returned to checking her meds.
Suddenly Tyrone was at her side. "Did you see that guy with the white pants and blue shirt who just came through here pushing a broom?" he asked. "I got a gut feeling, I don't think he belongs here." Vicki was suddenly filled with alarm. She pointed to her right. "You go that way and I'll go the other," she told him. She ran along to the end of the floor, but the man had vanished. Doubling back, she met Tyrone at the middle. "Did you find him?" He shook his head and her unease gave way to foreboding. "Come to Jill Cahill's room with me," she said.
With Vicki at his heels, Tyrone ran into room 2206, to where Jill had been moved just the day before. The room was darkened, lit only by a sliver of light from the bathroom. She lay motionless. He got down on his knees and peered under her bed.
Cleaner John George had also spotted the intruder in the hallway and noticed that his I.D. tag lacked a photo; Nurse Marie Morley saw him sweeping near the nursing station.She said hello, he nodded in reply and before he dipped his head, she got a good look at his face. Cynthia Jones had also seen him. The mother of nine had been working as a clinical technician at the hospital for less than a year and it was her first day on the late afternoon shift, a change in schedule that tied in nicely with her early morning job as a manager at Wendy's. She was looking for a housekeeper to clean up a spill when she spotted him, but when she signaled that she needed help, he had just walked right by, heading towards room 2206. Uneasy, she went hunting for a supervisor. He had also noticed the stranger. Together they hurried towards the coma unit.
Back at the nurses' station Vicki called security, then ran to find Julie Labayewski, the registered nurse in charge. She was sitting doing paperwork when Nurse Lynne Penny came to tell her that a suspicious-looking character had been seen on the floor and everyone was looking for him. Julie jumped up and flew over to the emergency door across from the nurses' station to make sure it was locked, then followed Vicki into Jill's room. She knew that Vicki had put her to bed and had checked on her just minutes before; she had been sleeping peacefully.
Snapping on the light, Julie saw instantly that something was terribly wrong. Jill's face was blue. "I could see she was not breathing normally, she was taking very deep breaths, gasping for air," said Julie. "I wasn't even thinking that something had happened to her then. I called for extra help. Other nurses came, but her condition changed very rapidly, she went from gasping to having periods where she just wasn't breathing at all."
Tyrone was struck by the look of sheer panic on her face, and the pungent odor of bitter almonds. Even though he was coming down with a head cold, the acrid aroma hit him loud and clear.
Julie turned off Jill's feeding tube and laid her down flat.She checked Jill's vital signs, her heart and lungs. She shined her flashlight into Jill's eyes looking for some sort of reaction. She called her name and shook her, willing her to give some sort of response. "When I went into the room she was awake, she opened her eyes and looked at me. Within a minute, I was no longer getting anything. She never managed to speak."
Then she saw the white substance on the neckline of Jill's hospital gown. Small lumps of it were scattered on her chest and caught in the hollow groove of her clavicle. When Julie touched it, the sticky mix rubbed off on her hands. Beside Jill's head, she found what looked like a small white bottle cap. "Something's been given to her. We have to get her out of here," she told Vicki. "We don't know what we are breathing here." They hauled the bed out of the room and into the staff dining area next to the nurses' station. In the few seconds it took them to get her there, Jill had stopped breathing altogether. Her pulse was gone. "Hit code blue!" Julie yelled.
She started CPR. Seconds later the organized chaos of a hospital emergency sprung into top gear. The crash team, which included the duty nursing supervisor, an anesthesiologist, a respiratory therapist and the house doctor, raced along the corridor. "I started the chest compressions, then a few minutes later the respiratory therapist changed places with me. At that point they did regain a pulse and moved Jill to the E.R. about a thousand feet down the hall. It was hectic," said Julie. "There were at least ten people around her bed."
The staff that worked feverishly to resuscitate her had cared for Jill since April when she was brought into the emergency room just before dawn, having been beaten into a coma by her husband, who had whacked her repeatedly with a baseball bat until half of her head was totally caved in and her beautiful face was barely recognizable.
For the next six months, she had clung to life. She hadendured fifteen surgeries, had become emaciated, her body able to cope with only small amounts of intravenous feeding. She'd battled brain damage, insufferable pain, deadly infections, and repeated bouts of meningitis. There had been numerous scares when they thought they'd lost her and just as often, she had fought back. She was making such progress that she didn't need constant supervision anymore. And although she was still in the coma unit, barring any unforeseen setbacks, the next step was a move to a rehabilitation facility.
That day had been one of the good ones. Her family was at the hospital as they had been practically every waking minute since neurosurgeon Gerard Rodziewicz and his skilled team removed the massive blood clot on her brain. They had watched her weather every setback, struggle to relearn the most basic functions and to simply speak the names of her children, Tim and Mary. Months after the awful night they were told she would not survive, Jill could move her left leg and arm, wanted to wash her own face and swallow. It was nothing short of a miracle.
Her father and brother had gone with her to her therapy session. One of the exercises that morning had her lying face down on the floor, in front of a large mirror. Beside it were Styrofoam blocks painted with stars and moons and crescents. When she was told to pick up a star, she'd pick up a star. When she was asked for a moon, she'd reach for a moon. When she was told to hand them to David, she'd hand them to David. Everyone was delighted.
Later, back in her room, propped up on her pillow, she'd downed a few mouthfuls of ice cream and in a halting whisper, managed to say a few words to them. Jill's sister Debbie had brought her a Bloomingdale's catalog, and she had pointed to all the clothes she liked. Now, just a few hours later, they were all back in the E.R. There were tubes, wires and monitors attached to her everywhere, the doctors and nurses that hovered over her were garbed in white hooded hazmatsuits and cops were swarming over the building. For the rest of the night, and throughout the next day, she lay unconscious, her heart beating, kept alive by a respirator, her brain showing no sign of activity. As soon as doctors realized they were dealing with cyanide, they had pumped her full of antidote. But this time, the lionhearted Jill had no defenses left. The deadly poison had shut down her organs. Her distraught family and friends gathered at her bedside to say goodbye.
At 6.45 P.M. on Wednesday, October 28, with all hope of a recovery dashed forever, Jill Cahill was taken off life support. She was 41 years old. Her 38-year-old Ivy League-educated husband, whose vicious assault had put her in the hospital back on April 21, was the prime suspect.
Copyright © 2005 by Marion Collins.