Local News

Alleged Beating Death By N.C. Woman Prompts Probe Of Adoption

Posted July 11, 2005

— Prosecutors are investigating the legality of the adoption of a 2-year-old Russian girl by a Wake Forest woman who was charged with her beating death, officials said Saturday.

Peggy Sue Hilt, 33, was arrested and charged last week with second-degree murder in her daughter Nina's death in Manassas, Va., where she was visiting relatives.

Hilt had called emergency services July 2 to say the girl had stopped breathing. An autopsy showed Nina died from one or more blows to the abdominal area, Prince William County police said.

Hilt told investigators she had become "enraged and angered" at her adoptive daughter, The Washington Post reported in Friday's editions.

Police said Nina died as a result of one or more blows to the child's abdomen.

According to a criminal complaint, Hilt told police she "shook (Nina), dropped her on the floor, kicked her stomach, picked her up, put her in her bed, and continued to strike her with a closed right fist on her back and stomach."

Hilt is being held without bond in the Prince William County jail. She declined to be interviewed, a relative told The Post. The Hilts' older Ukranian adopted daughter is now in protective custody.

A court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 2.

Property records show the Hilts paid $368,500 for their home in September.

Hilt is listed as the president of Hiltech, her husband's computer consulting firm. Her husband, Christopher, has not been charged in Nina's death.

Neighbor Susan Jordan met Peggy Hilt within the past two weeks, when she went to get her mail and saw the woman walking with her two daughters. Jordan recalls the conversation as brief, commenting on how she had seen the children playing on a swing set.

Jordan said she was struck by how uncomfortable Hilt was to talk with a neighbor.

In a search of the home Thursday, Wake Forest police seized photographs, pieces of carpet, bedding and computer data. The investigation is continuing.

Hilt's arrest comes just weeks after Russian authorities stripped three U.S. adoption agencies of their accreditation, saying they failed to monitor the children's well-being in their adoptive families.

Earlier this year, an Illinois woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the death of her 6-year-old son, who died weeks after she and her husband adopted the boy from Russia.

In Moscow, prosecutors said they would investigate the legality of Nina's adoption from her home region of Irkutsk in Siberia and to see whether the follow-up in the U.S. complied with Russian law.

About 10,000 Russian children are adopted each year by foreign families, with about half going to the United States.

Russian nationalists often accuse foreigners of "buying" Russian children, and cases of abuse by foreign adoptive parents are widely reported in the Russian media. Russian families rarely adopt because of the social stigma.

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