Investigative work takes many forms: The story of one investigation

August 30, 2016

With decades of investigative experience in both the U.S. military (US Air Force Office of Special Investigations – OSI) and commercial investigations (Pinkerton and Orion Support Inc.), not only have I become much more inquisitive, but also much more alert to situations that may not be what they seem on first inspection. A few years ago, I met a fellow pool player from an area near my hometown in the U.S. named Arlen Dean Hill, on the pool tables here in the Philippines.

I must admit, playing pool is something I picked up at the age of 12 years in Du Quoin, IL, only a few miles from where “Minnesota Fats,” the famous U.S. pool player of the ‘50s and ‘60s hails from. I would often be in our local pool hall where he played, when not traveling to New York, Chicago and other major U.S. cities to play in tournaments or for money. While Arlen Hill is a generation younger than Minnesota Fats and myself, he was aware of his presence in our area as well. So pool brought us closer than we would have been otherwise.

When I first met Hill, who introduced himself with an alias, Paul Reynolds. After getting to know him better, he mentioned that he was trying to get a passport for his daughter under another name. In the end, I found out that he was the father of a 4-year-old girl, who he has no parental rights to custody, but who he kidnapped three years earlier in our mutual home area in So. Illinois. After he departed the Philippines, I later determined that he moved on to New Zealand, where with my investigative assistance, U.S. Marshalls were able to apprehend him and return the little girl to her natural mother. Hill was eventually indicted on felony charges of applying for and obtaining false U.S. passports and for international parental kidnapping.

Here’s how a news article described how Arlen Hill and I met, as reported in the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

I was quoted as saying: “It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t just had that last cup of coffee with my sister and brother-in-law two days before my return from home leave in So. Illinois. . . . And it wouldn’t have happened if Arlen hadn’t apparently been a little homesick that first night we met on the pool tables of Manila and said too much.”

The rest of the article reads: “Williams said the two hit it off while playing pool in Manila. Hill – a Pinckneyville, Ill., native – used an alias, but acknowledged knowing some of Williams’ relatives after both men realized they were from neighboring towns.

“At that time, he didn’t know what I did and what I used to do,”Williams said, “and I think he was homesick. He finally met somebody from his home area who was a goose hunter and fellow pool player. . . . He probably shared more than he should have with me.”

The two played pool some 20 times over the next 10 or so months. During those games, Hill told Williams he had a little girl. He said that her mother was a Filipina woman he’d met while working on a golf course in Mexico, Williams recalled. Hill told Williams that after the woman and their daughter left Mexico for the Philippines, the woman took off, leaving the girl with Hill.

Over time, though, Hill’s story changed. Among the details Williams said Hill shared shortly before he left Manila: that he was trying to get a passport for his daughter, whose name authorities say he changed to Lena Reynolds; and that the girl’s mother had returned and that he planned to leave the two in Manila while he returned to Mexico.

“In hindsight, he told me that just to throw me off,” Williams said.

It almost worked – until Williams’ brother-in-law, Lonnie James, realized that day in May over coffee just who Paul Reynolds really was. The realization led Williams to Perry County sheriff’s detectives, who contacted federal authorities.

In the end, I was able to help authorities back in the US, by tracking Hill’s movements from Manila down to New Zealand, and pointed the U.S. Marshall’s Service in the right direction. The daughter was reunited with her mother and case solved. I might add that I also had the pleasure of meeting that little girl and her mother over Christmas dinner in So. Illinois a few months later.

A chance meeting and investigation leads to a family reunion
In this photo, Jeff Williams is shown (far left) with Taylor Hill, now reunited with her mother, Julie.

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