#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean ~
American Monster, Season 3, Episode 7, “The Last Valentine”
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – February 14, 2001
On Valentine’s Day in 2001, a frantic 911 call came in to the Oklahoma City Police Department.
Affluent OKC gynecologist, John Hamilton, was calling to report that he’d found his wife, Susan, dead on the bathroom floor:
John Hamilton: Please, please, send police, please send an ambulance, please.
Operator: What’s the problem?
John Hamilton: My wife’s, my wife, my wife I think my wife is dead. Please, please.
Operator: Sir, sir.
John Hamilton: Please, please.
He told the operator he was trying CPR.
John Hamilton: Listen, I’m a doctor, I’ve been trying CPR. Please send somebody quick.
EMSA: OK. Is she not breathing?
John Hamilton: No, she’s not breathing, I don’t get a pulse. Please, hurry.
EMSA: OK, you’re doing CPR?
John Hamilton: Yes, I’m trying. Yeah, I’m going to hang up so I can continue. Please.
EMSA: Alright. We’ll be right there.
John Hamilton: OK.
John and Susan married in 1987 and everyone who knew them felt they were a perfectly happy couple. Susan worked for Dr. Hamilton a few days a week, running his clinic. Seemingly the only dark cloud over their happiness was the conflict concerning the abortions Dr. Hamilton performed. Pro-Life advocates held several protests at his clinic and the couple received numerous threats.
February 14th, 2001, would have been their fifteenth Valentine’s Day together. But, it was also the day Dr. Hamilton returned home from his second surgery of the morning to find his wife dead—lying in a pool of blood. She’d been bludgeoned and strangled.
Investigators explored various theories—
~Robbery – The couple was wealthy and would certainly draw the attention of robbers.
~ Revenge for the abortions the doctor performed – Just the week before Susan was murdered, a wanted poster had been left for Dr. Hamilton that read, “A reward in heaven will be bestowed on anyone contributing to bringing this murderer to justice.” And both John and Susan had received threatening phone calls that week.
~ And, of course, the spouse – The morning of the murder, John went home after an early morning surgery to exchange cards with his wife. The hospital paged him at 9 a.m. to get back for another surgery. By 9:30, he was scrubbing up for the operation — a complicated removal of a tumor. The procedure came off without a hitch, and later none of the other doctors reported anything at all unusual in his behavior.
By 10:45, he was on his way home again, which is when he says he discovered Susan in a pool of blood. The timeline was extremely tight for the doctor to even be considered as a suspect. He’d have to have committed the violent murder in that narrow window between his two surgeries. His former medical partner, for one, doesn’t think that was possible. She didn’t believe he could do a surgery, go commit a violent crime, then come back and do another surgery, so calmly and without a hitch.
But investigators weren’t so sure, especially after finding a few clues that indicated the doctor might have been the killer. A card from his wife was found inside his Jaguar that read: “Obviously, I bought this before last Monday, so I guess now it doesn’t seem as appropriate. I do still love you though. Have a good day. Susan”
As is turns out, Susan suspected John of having an affair with a stripper—who was one of his patients–after finding numerous calls he’d made to the woman. But John explained to his wife that the woman had been having severe issues and had threatened suicide. He was only trying to help her.
In addition to the not so romantic card, investigators were suspicious of John because there were no bloody footprints leading away from the crime scene, and Susan’s blood and tissue were found in his Jaguar—which he explained away by saying he’d gotten in the car to move it while waiting on the ambulance after realizing they would need the parking space. However, his hands were shaking too badly to start the car.
The doctor’s strange behavior didn’t help ease their suspicions. Hamilton had told the 911 operator he was performing CPR. But when the first responder arrived on the scene, he thought there was something odd about the way the doctor was performing chest compressions. He had one hand on her chest and one hand on her abdomen, rather than interlocking his hands with the palm in the center of the chest. There were no signs that the doctor had attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
When investigators placed John in the back of a police cruiser, his behavior became more bizarre. He scraped his knuckles on the mesh screen in the police car and banged his head into it. Police took him to the station where they confiscated his clothing for evidence and placed him in an interview room. They kept him there for hours and taped him on the surveillance camera. Hamilton seemed to be checking out his shoulder area. Police wondered if he was checking for injuries and if his actions in the cruiser were so he’d have an excuse for any abrasions they might find. On the show, they played a video of Dr. Hamilton in the interview room. He was definitely acting strange.
And as the detectives looked more closely into the doctor’s timeline that morning, they saw a hole — not a big one but maybe enough time to kill and get back. They’d learned that second surgery, originally scheduled for 9 am, hadn’t actually gotten underway until 9:40 because Hamilton was late. The surgical team was about to get started when they realized the doctor was not there. They had the patient under anesthesia, but no doctor, which is pretty much unheard of.
That same afternoon, police arrested Doctor Hamilton for his wife’s murder, and he was thrown in jail immediately and denied bail. As they worked to build their case against him, the prosecution was amazed at the support the doctor had. A crowd lined up to attend the proceedings — loyal patients, former employees, and fellow physicians — all standing behind the doctor.
But the prosecution contended he was guilty. The case they presented was that the doctor knew Susan was considering divorce. They argued and he snapped. He choked her and grabbed a nearby object and beat her to death. He now had to cover up his frenzy by going back to perform his second surgery as though nothing had happened. He had to have left the house by 9:20 to make it back to the hospital by 9:30, when he was seen scrubbing up for surgery. Susan, as it turns out, should also have left by 9:20, because she had a 9:30 meeting at a friend’s house ten minutes away. However, it appears she never had much of a chance to get ready — when she was discovered, she was still undressed, her hair still wet. Which means if he didn’t do it, whoever did had to have come in immediately upon his departure.
Nothing had been stolen, but a friend of Susan’s found expensive jewelry hidden in Susan’s underwear drawer, leading the prosecution to believe John had hidden it there to make her attack look like a robbery. Maybe he planned to go back and remove it, but he was arrested before he could do that.
The final nail in his coffin, though, was the blood spatter. Defense attorneys called a blood stain expert to testify that most of the spatter on John’s clothes and shoes could be explained by his attempts to perform CPR. Before he left the stand, prosecutor Wes Lane asked if there was any information about the spatter they were missing. After a brief hesitation, he stated: In my examination, I found additional blood that was not talked about anywhere, on the inside of the right cuff.
He went on to say that the only way he could see that it could have gotten there was when he was beating her with that blunt instrument that was driving the blood up inside his shirt. And this was a witness the defense had called—and paid.
Dr. Hamilton was sentenced to, and is serving, a life sentence without the possibility of parole. As a side note, he was also ordered to pay $11,104 for the cost of his stay in the Oklahoma County jail. It was the first such order in Oklahoma County. Talk about adding insult to injury. 😊
While I am usually one to think everyone is guilty, and it certainly looks as though this guy is guilty, one question nags at me. Logistically, I don’t understand how the doctor had on bloody clothes at the time he called 911 and emergency personnel and police arrived. Apparently the morning played out something like this…
7:00 a.m. – Dr. Hamilton leaves the house to head to the hospital where he performs a surgery. He is, I assume, wearing street clothes although he changes into scrubs at the hospital.
Appx 8:40 a.m.– In those same clothes, Dr. Hamilton returns home to exchange cards with his wife (he lives very close to the hospital) and it is then that he kills her. He attempts to clean up the mess. I would assume he changed out of bloody clothes. At around 9:20, he heads to the hospital to perform another surgery, wearing fresh clothes. Because, I am going to guess that he doesn’t arrive at the hospital for his next surgery wearing blood-soaked clothes, so yes, he changed. We’ll call the first outfit of the day, Outfit 1, which he was wearing when he killed his wife. The clothes he changed into will be called Outfit 2.
Appx 10:45 – Dr. Hamilton returns home wearing Outfit 2. He finds his wife on the floor, which he knew she would be because he killed her there. He performs CPR, so that it looks like he tried to revive her. He calls 911. He’s still wearing Outfit 2. Emergency personnel arrive, she’s dead. He’s covered in blood, in Outfit 2, because of trying to perform CPR.
Police investigate, they take Outfit 2 and it ends up being the blood evidence that hangs him, because of the spatter found inside his sleeve, of what I assume is Outfit 2. If all he did in Outfit 2 was pretend to do CPR, how did it get the spatter that eventually convicted him? I can understand that they would find that in Outfit 1, his ‘killing clothes’ -which I assume were never found – I find it unlikely that, at some point, he would change back into Outfit 1 after returning home in Outfit 2.
Am I making sense? What am I missing?
[I love true crime shows, and I watch them every night. (Since I write suspense, thriller, and mystery, it’s not a waste of time…it’s research, right? 🙂 ) I love Investigation Discovery and watch many of the various shows, although some are a little too cheesy. However, there are plenty of shows that are done well enough to feed my fascination with murder. Each week, I’ll blog about some of the recent episodes I’ve seen and I’d love to know your thoughts.]