Man allegedly killed by own grandson remembered for active life

Those who knew the victim, Maurice Sill, say he led a profoundly active life.
Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 10:43 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A man allegedly confessed to police in California that he murdered his 94-year-old grandfather in Huntington more than two years ago.

The grandson, Seth Ellis Donald, has been charged with first-degree murder and will be in court in Cabell County for his preliminary hearing Thursday.

Those who knew the victim, Maurice Sill, say he led a profoundly active life.

“He was such an interesting person,” Ron Smith, a friend of the victim, said. “The world’s most interesting guy, as the beer commercial once described, is kind of who he was.”

Sill was a Marshall University sociology professor, a pilot, and a missionary who travelled overseas.

“He was fascinated by so many different things,” Woodlands Retirement Community CEO Jeff Harkins said.

The New York native moved to Huntington and later bought a farm in Wayne County. He also founded the Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Wayne.

“He was so interested in Appalachia from a sociological standpoint,” Smith, who also works at the retirement community, said.

On June 6, 2019, EMTs and Huntington Police were called to Woodlands after Sill died while taking a walk in wooded area on the property with his grandson.

Until this week, Harkins thought he died of natural causes.

“I was in shock,” Harkins said. “We were totally taken off guard. We had no idea.”

According to the criminal complaint, Sill’s grandson, who is from California, went to police in Beverly Hills in July of 2020, more than a year after the death, and admitted to killing his grandfather.

“It’s shocking, no doubt, and particularly the person that’s admitted to this,” Smith said.

Sill and his wife Nadya had donated their farmland for the Russian Orthodox Church’s Holy Cross Monastery, which has become home to dozens of monks.

“That is probably the legacy they’d like to be remembered for,” Smith said, “how they were able to grow this small piece of property in West Virginia and turn it into a religious sanctuary.”

Smith says the family can take solace knowing Sill was spiritually prepared to move on.

“He’s in peace now, and the family can get over the trauma of this outrageous event, and they can maybe take some peace that Moe is now resting in peace,” he said.

Authorities have not said anything yet about a motive.

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