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Police: Suspect told wife of Manor robbery

| Thursday, April 11, 2013, 12:41 a.m.
Joseph P. Hiller

MANOR — The Ford City man accused of robbing a Kwik Fill convenience store along Route 422 at gunpoint on April 3 was apprehended the following day after his wife turned him into police. The gun was also later determined to be a fake.

According to district court documents, police alleged that Joseph Paul Hiller, 34, wore a black ski mask and a hooded sweatshirt turned inside-out when he entered the store around 8:50 p.m. April 3. Video surveillance footage from inside the Kwik Fill obtained by state police revealed the culprit was also wearing white tennis shoes with distinctive black, square patches on the back.

Hiller allegedly demanded money from the store clerk and displayed what appeared to be a handgun before making off with $193 from the cash register. The robber was last seen driving east on Route 422, police said.

The following evening, Hiller's wife, Mary Hiller, went to the Ford City police station to reveal that Hiller had admitted to her that he robbed the Kwik Fill, court papers say. Mary Hiller told state police her husband is “a heavy drinker and has a substance abuse problem with crack cocaine,” according to the criminal complaint. It also states she said Hiller told her he robbed the store because he needed money to buy crack.

Following the interview, Ford City police were dispatched to an emergency call regarding a suicide attempt at Hiller's home along Sixth Avenue. The affidavit says that when state and Ford City police arrived, they discovered Hiller sitting on his couch with a cut wrist. While Ford City police tended to his injuries, Hiller directed a state trooper to the knife he used to cut himself in the next room. The trooper then reportedly saw “in plain sight” a pair of white shoes with black patches matching those seen in the Kwik Fill surveillance footage, documents say.

Police say that a search of Hiller's house uncovered a hooded Penn State sweatshirt that, when turned inside-out, seemed to match the one the robber wore in the footage. No gun was found during the initial search, but Hiller was involuntarily committed to the psychiatric ward at ACMH Hospital for evaluation, according to investigators.

On the afternoon of April 5, Mary Hiller again contacted state police to report that, while visiting her husband in the hospital earlier that day, Hiller revealed to her that the gun he used in the robbery wasn't real and that he hid it under a shed behind their house, police said. District Judge Gary DeComo provided state police with another warrant, and a search under the shed uncovered a plastic airsoft gun along with a black ski mask and black knit cap.

State police again reviewed the Kwik Fill surveillance footage and verified the plastic gun appeared to be the same one used in the robbery, according to a continuation of the criminal complaint.

DeComo placed Hiller in Armstrong County Jail on April 8 on charges of robbery, receiving stolen property, theft by unlawful taking and simple assault in lieu of $100,000 bond. A preliminary hearing has been set for April 16.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 ortkaran@tribweb.com.

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