Sixteen months have passed since police arrested Yvonne Hiller and charged the Lawncrest woman with killing two coworkers and wounding another during a terror-filled night shift at the Kraft Foods plant in Northeast Philadelphia.
Now there are signs the case against the mentally ill 45-year-old woman may be nearing resolution.
At a pretrial meeting Thursday before Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner, defense attorney Constance Clarke said she and the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman, are “trying to negotiate a resolution of this matter. We’re closer than we’ve been in a while.”
Fairman confirmed the talks were ongoing but would not say what form the “nontrial resolution” might take. Both lawyers said the central problem was trying to come up with a solution that brings a sense of justice to the victims’ families, ensures the safety of the public and gets long-term treatment for a woman who is severely mentally ill.
Lerner, the judge who handles pretrial issues in all city homicide cases, set a status hearing for March 1.
Hiller had worked at the former Nabisco plant at Roosevelt Boulevard and Byberry Road for 15 years and the night of the shootings was in the plant’s mixing department, which makes Ritz crackers, Lorna Doone cookies and other baked goods.
Authorities say Hiller believed coworkers had targeted her for “chemical abuse” and sprayed her with deer urine. That night she got into an argument with several employees and a supervisor suspended Hiller and ordered her to leave the plant.
Hiller did but, according to police, returned with a .357 Magnum handgun she legally owned and kept under the seat of her car. Brandishing the gun at security guards, Hiller went back inside the Kraft plant, returned to the mixing room and started shooting.
Coworkers LaTonya Brown, 36, and Tanya Wilson, 47, were shot and died in a third-floor employee break room. A third worker, Bryant Dalton, 39, was wounded in the neck and shoulder and hospitalized two weeks.