Jessica Hill didn’t go to school with the intention of running a bait shop until she met her husband. That’s according to her mother Sharon Doehner, who along with the rest of Hill’s family and friends, gathered to say a final goodbye on a breezy Monday night.
Around 6 p.m., a procession of more than 20 boats motored around the inlet before anchoring along the Marshwalk.
Friends and family shared memories of Hill over their radios before tossing red and white roses into the saltwater as the sun set behind them.
Hill, 36, was well-known in the Murrells Inlet fishing community and ran Perry’s Bait and Tackle shop. Police allege her husband Eric Perry set fire to the shop and killed Hill last Friday.
Hill had first come to the Grand Strand during the summer of 2004 to make some money waiting tables, Doehner said. In 2005, the East Carolina University student abandoned her plans to become a pharmacist and began working in the bait shop.
“She said ‘Mom, I’ve decided I want to do something different now, I don’t think I want to do pharmacy school now, I want to work in a bait shop,’” said Doehner. “And I thought she said bake, b-a-k-e, but it was bait.”
She was able to use her science background at work, just not in the way her family thought.
“She was able to keep those little critters alive a lot better than most people I think,” said Doehner. “So she actually did use her education, just not the way we thought she was going to use it.”
Katie Konecki said her sister Jessica could do anything she put her mind to.
“She designed the shirts for the shop,” Konecki said. “She was always the smartest of all of us growing up, which got us in trouble a lot because she could argue her way out of anything. She was just a beautiful girl.”
Hill was also Cora Morris’ first grandchild.
“I fell in love with her when I saw her,” she said. “And she and I have always been very close.”
Morris said the murder was the most “horrible, horrible” thing to happen to the family.
“I wish he hadn’t done it and took the mother of these three,” she said. “We thought she was going to be a pharmacist. We wanted her to be a pharmacist, but she just fell in love with this place down here.”
Fire crews were called around 10 a.m. Friday to Perry’s Bait and Tackle shop in Murrells Inlet after reports of smoke pouring from the small building on U.S. 17 Business.
Authorities accused Hill’s husband Perry of setting the shop on fire, and he was seen leaving the area in a small boat.
Later that day, police tracked him down on his boat in Murrells Inlet and found Hill’s body inside. The coroner’s office said Hill died from stangulation and head trauma.
Perry has been charged with murder and arson.
Visitation: Wednesday 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Goldfinch Funeral Home.
11528 Frontage Rd., Murrells Inlet.
Service: Thursday 1 p.m. at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church.
4182 U.S. Highway 17 Bus route, Murrells Inlet.