On May 11, 2020 Laureena Hill lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.
William (Bill) Mullins Johnson is an Innocence Canada exoneree, Laureena Hill was his mother, advocate and champion. It was Laureena, who, armed with dogged determination and the belief in Bill’s innocence, embarked on the fight of her life to prove that Bill did not kill his niece, Laureena’s granddaughter, Valin.
Despite being ostracized by her community, family and friends, Laureena refused to believe that Bill had committed such an unspeakable crime and did everything in her power to expose his wrongful conviction.
Laureena was Bill’s voice and despite being diagnosed with cancer, refused to let anything stop her from her mission of unlocking the truth that would set Bill free.
During the 12 years that Bill spent in prison, he had only one visitor: Laureena. She would regularly make the 9 hour drive from Sault Ste. Marie to Kingston, where Bill was imprisoned. On those visits and during many phone calls and letters she would encourage Bill not to give up hope but to battle through his despair and fear because somehow the truth would prevail. There was nothing that could stop her from helping her son.
On September 21, 2005 it was Laureena who stood by Bill's side when he was released from prison and while surrounded by media spoke proudly, emotionally and candidly about his experience. Whether she knew it then or not, Laureena became an inspiration to everyone who attended that press conference but for Laureena it was simply what mothers are supposed to do. For this reason and many others, Laureena was celebrated and deeply respected among all those who tirelessly advocate for the wrongly convicted, especially the wrongly convicted and their families.
Bill chose to live in Toronto after his release so Laureena left Sault Ste. Marie to be by his side and help him reintegrate into society. She was his rock, his anchor and the person he could count on, a person who loved him unconditionally and had never doubted his innocence for a moment.
In 2012, Innocence Canada presented Laureena with an award in recognition of her courage, dedication and sacrifice helping Bill to clear his name. Laureena will always remain Bill’s “shining light in his darkest hours.”
It is with deep sorrow that Innocence Canada expresses our condolences to Bill and to all those who loved, respected and admired Laureena Hill, a truly courageous, gracious and inspirational woman.