David Atwell was in the process of making his final rounds for the evening when the young man hailed for him. Kendall Hill got into the taxi and told Atwell to take him to Harford County. This would be the last customer the Baltimore taxi driver would have. The two men shared whiskey that Atwell had in the cab. One can only speculate if Atwell had known of Hill’s past if he would have been so trusting.
Hill’s delinquent behavior developed at the age of twelve, when his parents divorced. By the time, he turned eighteen; the troubled youth had been committed to a correctional home in New York. Just two years before murdering Atwell, Hill unsuccessfully attempted suicide. The culprit somehow survived shooting himself in the temple and again in the abdomen. Hill’s desire to end his life matched his father’s, whom just a few years prior, hung himself.
It was now 1935, two years since Hill shot himself. Hill was employed at the Perryville Veterans Hospital. His future, however, contained villainous behavior that far exceeded his dark past.
Hill was now in the backseat of a Diamond Company taxicab, headed for Havre de Grace. His plan was to rob Atwell of his money and cab.
After arriving in the sleepy city, Hill told the driver to take him to an area known as Lovers Lane. It was hear that Atwell stopped that cab. Atwell developed an understanding that this would be his final destination. Hill removed his handgun and pointed it towards the frightened driver. The lone gunman made it clear his intention was to rob his victim, reassuring him that he would be on his way shortly. Before making his escape, Hill warned Atwell that he was going to strangle him to a point of unconsciousness.
Hill had professional experience with controlling people. As an orderly at the Perryville Hospital, he was taught different choking techniques to control unruly patents.
Hill wrapped his arm around Atwell’s throat, tightening until the defenseless driver reached a state of complete vulnerability. Hill then robbed his victim of the three dollars he had in his pocket and began to tie his hands with a leather belt. Atwell’s tied up, unconsciousness body lay in the street. Hill, looking down, decided to rob the poor cab driver of more than just his possessions. Gripping his hands around Atwell’s throat, Hill choked all life from Atwell’s body.
After the heinous crime was committed, Hill dumped the lifeless body into a group of bushes and drove off.
The next stop on the murderers list was the Pink Elephant, a local bar. Sitting at the bar, Hill met up with Harry Jones. During the course of the evening, the two men conspired a plan to rob a nearby diner in Perryville. Without hesitation, they acted on their plan. The reprehensible duo knew they needed to get rid of the stolen cab. Driving at high speeds, under the cover of darkness, the men found a place in Baltimore County to abandon the cab. They spent the rest of the night in Baltimore. The next morning Jones and Hill hailed a cab, giving the driver instructions to take them north. The traditional cab driver did not find himself behind the wheel for long after the men pulled a gun and ordered the driver to pull over. The cab driver soon found himself tied up and lying on the side of the road. With a new car and additional cash, they set off to find a safe haven. Through an acquaintance, they arranged a place in Elkton that would harbor them.
By this point, the authorities began to search for Atwell. While Atwell’s wife and family worried about the whereabouts of their loved one, the duo slept in the backseat of a car. As the two men slept, a police officer approached. The officer, recognizing the men whom matched the description given by the cab driver they had held up earlier, arrested the men.
Now within custody of the authorities, Harford County issued warrant for the arrest of the murderer of Atwell. Hill eventually admitted to acting alone in the murder of Atwell. Jones was acquitted of murder, but was found guilty on other charges. At Hill’s arraignment, he pleaded not guilty by means of insanity. Hill was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
The Atwell murder is one of the most bone-chilling events to take place in our local history. Unfortunately, Kendall Hill’s troubled life led him down a road of criminal behavior and lawless activity, which ultimately resulted in the murder of David Atwell. It is unknown if David Atwell was his only victim.