Victim: Raymond Fife, 12
Murderers’ ages: 17 & 18
Death: September 12, 1985
Raymond was only 12 years old when he was kidnapped, beaten, raped, sexually tortured, strangled, burned alive, and murdered. He had been attacked as he rode his bike to a friend’s house before a Boy Scout meeting.
Raymond loved baseball, animals, camping and fishing.
So many times over the past 35 years we have written heart-wrenching stories about the horrors of Raymond Fife’s death and the ongoing legal battles involving ever-recurring court appeals and delays in the execution of his convicted killer Danny Lee Hill.
Raymond Fife, of course, was the 12-year-old Warren boy brutally assaulted and murdered in September 1985 by Hill and Timothy Combs as he rode his bicycle through a wooded area to his Boy Scout meeting on Warren’s southwest side. Combs died in 2018 in prison. Hill remains imprisoned. His death sentence has not been carried out.
Sadly, it is a story that began 35 years ago today, Sept. 10, 1985, and with which all of us are familiar.
That’s why we found some relief to see Raymond’s mother, Miriam, and his four siblings gather last week, before the anniversary of his death, to recount happy memories of him, to chuckle at the boy’s mischievousness and to celebrate his life. Every departed soul deserves that, even — or perhaps, especially — when a life was as brief as Raymond’s.
Though his years were limited, Raymond did not fail to leave his mark behind.
The family last week recalled Raymond’s love of baseball, animals, camping and fishing — but perhaps, most of all, his love of practical jokes.
His sisters remembered the little snickers the boy would emit after pulling one of his practical jokes. And they recalled his attempts to avoid “cleaning his plate” at dinner by slipping food to the dog or hiding it under the microwave.
The family recalled Raymond being “ornery” and a “bit of a performer” who liked to sing like Michael Jackson.
And Miriam remembered how the fair-skinned boy would so easily sunburn even through multiple layers of T-shirts.
The anecdotes shared by the family to our reporter, Guy Vogrin, were bright and gleeful — the way a childhood should be remembered.
Indeed, we all hope closure via carrying out Danny Lee Hill’s sentence will happen soon. After three-and-a-half decades, it’s likely that no one knows more than the Fife family of the truth behind the old adage: Justice delayed is justice denied.
But even if that is not to be, we pray that the family can find some solace in recalling the way the community galvanized in support of them 35 years ago, and in knowing that support has never wavered. We hope they find some relief in the steadfast dedication and drive for justice by the prosecution team led by Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins. And we hope their memories of Raymond’s life bring tears of joy.
May God bless the Fife family with strength and peace. We know Raymond is looking down on them from heaven — possibly between his silly jokes.