Police say man video recorded grandfather’s murder

Police say Seth Donald told his grandfather he was going to kill him because resources were being wasted on him.
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 3:02 PM EDT
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UPDATE 8/5/21 @ 9 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A sergeant gave disturbing testimony Thursday in the preliminary hearing of the grandson who police say confessed to killing his own grandfather more than two years ago.

While on the witness stand, Sgt. Jason Davis with the Huntington Police Department said on June 6, 2019, Seth Donald called 911, saying his grandfather, 94-year-old Maurice Sill, had collapsed from a medical episode while the two were on a bench Donald had brought to a wooded area at the Woodlands Retirement Community in Huntington.

Donald initially told police he brought the bench from the facility so the two could observe nature together.

EMTs and police went to the scene, but foul play was not suspected.

“Based on the story Mr. Donald provided, and the injuries that were consistent with the injuries Mr. Donald explained, the medical examiner, with his medical history in mind and his age, decided not to respond, and they released the victim to continue with the funeral process,” Davis said.

Donald went back to his home in California and could have lived the rest of his life a free man, but police say he had no intention of keeping what he’d done a secret for long.

In January of 2020, half a year after the death, Huntington police first heard about another possible disturbing layer to the case.

“A friend of the family or family member said Mr. Sill’s death may have been questionable,” Davis said.

Davis says then the pandemic began, slowing the investigation.

In July of 2020, Huntington police learned Donald had turned himself in to police in Beverly Hills, California, and confessed to murdering his grandfather. Police say he even made a video recording of the crime.

“They talk about life and various things,” Davis said. “At one point, Donald tells Sill he made the decision to end his life today. Mr. Sill did not agree with that, told him it was in God’s hands. Mr. Donald told him it was in his hands.”

The motive is not one police typically encounter.

“Mr. Donald told him we were wasting resources on him and people like him who had no future in this world,” Davis testified.

The sergeant says then, the iPad Donald was recording with fell to the ground.

“You hear the victim say multiple times ‘Help, help, help, no, you’re killing me, stop,’ things like that,” Davis said. “Mr. Donald is struggling saying ‘Let it come, it’s OK Grandpa, it’s time, I’m sorry.’”

Davis says the video shows Donald and his grandfather rolling toward the camera.

“You can see a hand going over Mr. Sill’s face with what looks like a rag of some sort being covered over his mouth, and you can see the struggle continue at that point,” Davis said.

Donald told police he did not initially confess to the crime because he first wanted to get his presentation ready, a presentation that consisted of the video of the crime, as well as a video of Donald talking about why he did it. He sent those videos to friends and family.

“He waited until that was complete before he turned himself in,” Davis said.

Donald’s case is being sent to the grand jury. He’s being held in the Western Regional Jail without bond.

Those who knew Sill describe him as an extremely kind man who led an active life. He was a Marshall sociology professor, pilot, and did missionary work overseas.


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Chilling details about a man’s death were released Thursday during a murder hearing in Cabell County.

During testimony at the hearing of Seth Ellis Donald, who is charged with first degree murder in the death of his grandfather Maurice Sill, Sgt. Jason Davis with the Huntington Police Department said on June 6, 2019, Donald used an iPad to record a conversation with his grandfather. In the recording, Donald is heard telling Sill he is going to kill him because resources were being wasted on him.

Sgt. Davis testified in court that after the conversation the iPad fell to the ground and a struggle between the two can be heard, with Sill telling his grandson to stop - that he was killing him.

Prior to the incident, Donald had gone on a walk with his grandfather in a wooded area at the Woodlands Retirement Community.

Davis testified about 9 minutes after the struggle began, the video recording shows the grandson’s hand going over Sill’s face. Several minutes later, Davis says Donald pointed the camera to his grandfather’s body lying on the ground.

Davis says Donald left the scene and called 911, claiming his grandfather fell during a medical episode. Donald told Beverly Hills police more than a year later he didn’t confess to the crime initially because he wanted to get his presentation ready.

The hearing ended with the judge finding probable cause. The case is being sent to the grand jury.

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