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Hammock Man Who’d Attacked 2 Ex-Roommates With Rifle and Hammer Sentenced to 10 Years

| October 25, 2016

Paul Hillman today, moments after his sentencing. (© FlaglerLive)

Paul Hillman today, moments after his sentencing. (© FlaglerLive)

Paul Hillman, the 44-year-old man accused of attacking his former roommates with a rifle and a hammer 15 months ago in their Hammock home—he reduced a 64-year-old man to a bloody pulp and knocked down a 55-year-old half-blind woman—was sentenced to 10 years in prison this afternoon in Flagler County Circuit Court.

Hillman had faced an attempted first-degree murder charge, along with several other charges that could have resulted in life terms. He pleaded instead to aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and armed burglary. The prosecution sought a 20-year sentence.

Circuit Judge Matthew Foxman had agreed with Richard Price, Hillman’s attorney: “This is an un-diagnosed mental illness,” a reference to strong indications during today’s hearing, through evidence that included a doctor’s conclusion, that pointed to schizophrenia. “If you track his age and see the onset of when schizophrenia is diagnosed, it’s right where he’s at,” Foxman said. “Having said that, you were violent, you were violent with people in a vulnerable state, and I can’t have it. I can’t have it.”

The only mitigating factor to the sentence was the 481 days, well over a year, in credit for time Hillman has already served at the county jail, albeit with trouble there, too: he was twice charged with misdemeanor offenses for fighting other inmates.

The Hammock incident dates back to July 30, 2015.

Hillman had for less than two months been living with George Carnarus, 64, and Linda Warrell, 55, at 9 Shady Lane South. He was without a job, needed a place to stay, so Carnarus let him stay on his couch, apparently in his room—and washed his clothes, provided for him and at one point gave him $10. Hillman then got a job trimming trees and got enough money to move into a room of his own, not far off. But two days after that, he burst into his former roommates’ house one evening and, according to both of them in their depositions, attacked them.

“He said we were the devil,” Warrell said, then specifying that “George was the devil.” She couldn’t understand why he’d turned violent. “He acted so crazy.” And he “just wailed at him,” at Carnarus, knocking him out, though not before Carnarus had a chance to call police. She said Hillman struck her with the butt of the gun he carried, telling her to shut up.

As Carnarus described it, “he came in the house, pointed a gun at me, a rifle, and said I was evil and needed to die. And I thought he was kidding, so I said, Oh, get that out of my face, and I, like, pushed the gun away, and that’s when he turned around and smacked me in the head and put a bunch of stitches up there, and a broken nose. Then he pulled my hammer, which he got off the porch, and started hitting me.”  He broke two fingers with the hammer and “beat the hell out of me.”

The Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy who drove him to the county jail after he was arrested said Hillman uttered the following statement when he was in the patrol car:  “If whoever had done this had bashed their heads in and made them vegetables, I wouldn’t be in the back of this car. Something to that effect.”

George Carnarius.

George Carnarius.

Carnarus and Warrell were not in the courtroom Tuesday, but both in their depositions contradicted Hillman’s accusation that Carnarus abused Warrell, and that he had been acting in her defense. Warrell in her deposition had twice insisted that she did not want Hillman thrown in jail. “He needs psychiatric help. Normally he’s a nice  fellow,” she said, describing him as having gone “fruitcake over something,” and that he claimed Carnarius was “in the Jewish mafia.”

“Is there anything else you want to tell me about this incident?” Price had asked her during the deposition.

“Yes. I would like to tell you that Paul shouldn’t be locked up,” Warrell, who has since moved to an assisted living facility, said. “He needs to go somewhere that can help him, not hurt him.”

It was essentially what Hillman’s father, mother and older brother told the court as each testified in turn, describing a family of middle class ease, professionalism and high accomplishments that had been as if blindsided by Hillman’s sudden turn for the strange and inexplicable. He’d call them, talk about an incident where he’d been pushed off a bike, talk about a sexual assault—that he’d been raped—without going into further details. “Then things got crazier,” his mother said in the distant English accent that spoke of hers and her husband’s origins, some four decades earlier. “He said at one point there was a lot of policemen around him, in cars. I’m not sure what caused it. I have no idea. But I do know this: what’s happened is not the son I knew.”

His older brother first described how his and Hillman’s children had grown up together—Hillman has two teenage children, though the prosecution said he hadn’t seen them in seven years—and described himself as “horrified” by what had taken place, and, looking at his sullen brother across the courtroom, said “he looks different, he looks scared.” He blamed himself for missing signs that may have warranted intervention.

Price, Hillman’s attorney, said the problem developed when Hillman discovered that Carnarus was not giving money to the landlord, and that Carnarus and Warrell were drug users (Warrell admitted to using methamphetamines with Carnarus). The night of the incident represented the culmination of Hillman actually intervening to protect Warrell, Price said in his final argument to the court. He was asking for probation or community control, not prison.

Hillman himself spoke, delivering a statement he read from a crumpled piece of paper, in a halting tone interrupted at one point as he lost his composure. He said he’d stopped by Carnarus’s house to see if Warrell was OK, and to pick up a few things. He knocked on the door and entered. “George was drunk,” he said. “He immediately threatened, ‘I’m going to shove that gun up your ass,’” referring to the rifle Hillman had picked up from the porch. (Carnarus in his deposition denied saying those words.) Hillman felt threatened, claimed Carnarus was under investigation “for beating Linda,” so he “hit him with the butt end of the rifle. It made him more angry, and I hit him again.” He said he’d never struck Warrell. Rather, she “accidentally in head-butt fashion hit the front end of the rifle. I never hit her.”

He said he still had “a lot of goodness to give to the world.”  When he spoke of his children, he cried, said this had been an isolated incident. When he was done, he was escorted back to his seat, wiping his tears with the paper from which he’d just read. There was little eye contact between him and his family, who’d stayed behind until he was ushered out of the courtroom. Hillman has 30 days to decide whether to appeal his sentence. Price said whether he does so or not is not yet known.

The case was prosecuted by Christy Opsahl, who was putting in her last hours as an assistant state prosecutor. She is going into private practice.

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1 Response for “Hammock Man Who’d Attacked 2 Ex-Roommates With Rifle and Hammer Sentenced to 10 Years”

  1. footballen says:

    That damn Shady Lane!!!!!!!! Strange things happen down there. Strange and violent things.

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