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Police Free Two Children, Kill One Captor, Capture Other

March 19, 1989

APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (AP) _ Police stormed a townhouse early today and freed two children who had been held hostage for more than a day by a blind prison escapee and an accomplice. One of the two captors was shot dead in the attack, police said.

A special weapons and tactics team rescued Dominic Platt, 8, and his 6- year-old sister, Cameo, unharmed around 1:30 a.m. this morning, police Capt. Bruce Erickson said. They had been held since Friday afternoon.

Police threw a stun grenade into the house when one of the children came out to pick up drinks the authorities had arranged to deliver, Capt. Terry Cook said.

Police shot one of the captors when he grabbed the girl at knifepoint, Cook said. Police would not immediately identify whether inmate Larry Hill or his accomplice, Willie Johnson, had been killed, pending notification of relatives.

The other captor was taken into custody, police said.

″Basically, they said they had to be allowed to leave. If they didn’t, they were going to throw a dead child out,″ Cook said.

The children’s grandmother, Joan Platt, had pleaded to the gunmen on television Saturday night. ″Please Larry, please let them go,″ she said. ″Stop and think. They are very innocent.″

Earlier Saturday, police seized the children’s mother, Lois Platt, when she left the house at 10:30 a.m. to start a car in what police described as an escape attempt by the two men.

Platt was taken to a hospital for treatment of exhaustion and stress.

Police Chief Lloyd Rivers said he did not know whether Platt’s role in the incident was willing or unwilling, but said she offered no resistance when officers prevented her from going back into the building because of concern over her children.

″We just plain stopped her. We didn’t let her back inside,″ Cook said. ″It was a decision we had to make. We could not allow her back in when we had a hostage out.″

Platt had corresponded with Hill in prison, but her sister-in-law, Peggy Platt, said she broke off the relationship more than 18 months ago when she discovered Hill was a convicted murderer.

Police had negotiated with the men throughout the day as SWAT officers ringed the building.

Hill, a blind inmate at Stillwater State Prison outside Minneapolis, escaped from a medical office Friday morning while he was being escorted by two guards to an appointment for a replacement glass eye.

Hill had been met at the office by Johnson, who had a handgun, officers said. The two men disarmed the guards, tied one of them up and fled, police said.

Hill, 49, was convicted of second-degree murder for strangling his girlfriend in 1982 and was serving his fifth prison stint, said Tom Dowdle, associate warden at the Stillwater prison. He has other convictions for two counts of rape, as well as robbery, criminal sexual assault, burglary and illegal handgun possession.

Police have identified his accomplice as a former Stillwater inmate, Capt. Carl Johnson said. ″I’m sure it was all prearranged,″ he said.

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