Donna Hylton was a prominent speaker at the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 in Washington D.C. despite her horrid crimes. Hylton served 27 years on charges of second degree murder and two counts of first degree murder for the March 1986 kidnapping and killing of 62 year old Thomas Vigliarole.
Hylton had been an accessory to the gruesome torture of Vigliarole; his ordeal lasting more than 15 days. Reports indicate the the victim had been starved, beaten, raped, and burned.
A 1995 article in Psychology Today details the events surrounding his death. In one account a friend of Hylton, Selma Price, tells a detective that she sat on and beat the man several times. Price, known in this case as the “Fat Lady” because she weighed nearly 500 lbs. The detective investigating the murder, Detective Spurling, reported that due to the size of Price, her actions of sitting on the victim would have been torture in its own right.
Hylton and her accomplices had orchestrated the kidnapping by preparing a room to hold their victim captive. In the room a closet had been cut, a pot placed inside to make a makeshift toilet, and all of the windows were boarded up.
On March 8 the women posing as prostitutes for Vigliarole dragged and drove him from Elmhurst, Queens to Selma Price’s apartment in Harlem. There, they would commence torturing the 62 year old real estate broker.
A friend of Hylton involved in the murder raped the victim with a 3 foot metal bar. Rita, as she is named in Detective Spurling’s recollection of the events, described how she shoved the bar into the victim’s rectum. When detectives pressed her as to why, she simply stated “He was a homo anyway”. Authorities asked how she knew Vigliarole was homosexual, and to this she stated “when I stuck the bar up his rectum he wiggled”.
Hylton and her friends had asked for a ransom of $400,00 after police believed the victim had been dead. Hylton’s cut would have been around $9,000, which she planned to use to foster her modeling career. Hylton was the one responsible for delivering the ransom demand to a friend of Vigliarole. The friend was able to get a partial license plate number from the car Hylton used and police later traced the vehicle.
In April 1986, the suspects were arrested and interrogated for hours under suspicion of involvement. Detective Spurling described the interrogation as a “never-ending circle of lies”. Ultimately, the police had a signed confession from Hylton and everyone else in the crime save for Selma Price.
In his interview with Hylton, Spurling stated how intelligent Hylton seemed to be yet how unremorseful she felt. “I couldn’t believe this girl who was so intelligent and nice-looking could be so unemotional about what she was telling me she and her friends had done. They’d squeezed the victim’s testicles with a pair of pliers, beat him, burned him. Actually, I thought the judge’s sentence was lenient. Once a jailbird, always a jailbird,” said Spurling.
Jill Nielmark, the author of the Psychology Today article shared with us her impressions of her interview with Hylton in prison. Notably, she recalled -on the second day after Hylton claimed she had not know the victim was dead- that Hylton slipped up.
“But there was another moment, on our second day together, when she slipped verbally, and said in an almost irritable way, “He [the victim] was going to die anyway, so . . .” and then she caught herself. I just looked at her. All her previous protestations that when arrested she’d had no idea Vigliarole was dead were clearly lies.”
During her speech at the Women’s March, Hylton boasted about her 27 years in prison. However, she did not offer the crowd any details surrounding her crime. She went on to talk about how her experience of being a former female inmate and how that marginalized her and other women.
Hylton stated in her address to the march, “We have always been in this moment. We have always had this problem. It’s not about Trump. It’s not about any one male person. It has been a mindset, a mentality and a behavior that’s been perpetrated forever against women. … If you’re a black or brown woman, you know it’s been happening. The majority of prisons and jails are crowded with black and brown women, because of the dehumanization. We are criminalized for our color. We are criminalized and sexualized.”
Her full speech to the marchers can be heard here.