Amber Hilberling, a Tulsa woman whose high-profile murder case drew national attention, was found dead of a suspected suicide in her prison cell Monday, officials have confirmed.
The Frontier confirmed through the Department of Corrections early Tuesday that Hilberling was found in her cell at 5:33 p.m. Monday. Hilberling, 25, was a prisoner at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, a women’s prison, in McLoud.
Several of Hilberling’s family and friends have written posts on social media indicating she died in prison, where she was serving a 25-year sentence in her husband’s death.
Hilberling was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013 for pushing her husband, Josh Hilberling, out of a high-rise window in the downtown Tulsa apartment they shared. Josh Hilberling fell 17 floors to his death.
Hilberling maintained she acted in self-defense during an argument but a jury sided with prosecutors, who said she shoved him out of the window in a fit of anger.
Her case drew national media attention and she was featured on shows including two episodes of Dr. Phil.
“Fly baby girl. Fly baby girl to the angels. Away from the pain on this earth,” states a post on the Facebook page of her mother, Rhonda Whitlock. The post was written about 10 p.m. Monday.
“I hate what this world did to you. Go rest in the arms of Jesus. #RIP Amber Hilberling. The media, the haters, the Hilberling’s got their wish. Hope they are happy. I will never stop fighting for the truth. And a change in the injustice system. You are with Josh now and we will take care of your baby. -Forever love, momma.”
About midnight, Whitlock posted a photo of a Facebook message, apparently from a relative of Hilberling’s late husband. The message states: “Ding dong, the witch is dead!”
“A lot of my friends will disagree bc they don’t live our life. This has got to stop. Period,” Whitlock’s post states. “Expose the hate and stop the cycle. This IS why she is dead. Cyberbullying. It’s a crime and I frankly don’t care who I offend…..take a stance. Have the balls to take a stance on righteousness.”
Friends were also posting about Hilberling, who turned 25 in prison on Oct. 1. She has been held at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud for more than three years.
“Please keep a family who is very special to me in your prayers tonight,” states a post from a friend on Whitlock’s Facebook page. “Her and her family have been through a nightmare and it only got worse today. Please pray for guidance, strength, and insight from God through this difficult time for them. They need all the prayers they can get. I love you guys,Rhonda. Amber will be missed and was deeply loved by so many. None of them deserved the hand they were given. They are all such beautiful people inside and out and deserved the world.”
On a Facebook page titled “Support Amber Hilberling,” a post asked people to refrain from making unkind remarks.
A Facebook page called “In Loving Memory of Joshua Hilberling” also commented on the death in a post.
Prosecutors filed a sentencing memorandum noting that Amber Hilberling repeatedly admitted that she pushed her husband to his death on June 7, 2011. They say that although Hilberling did not have a criminal past, she “was certainly on notice that she and Josh had a volatile relationship and that she became angry and acted out violently toward Joshua.”
In asking for leniency, Hilberling’s attorneys asked the judge to take into consideration that the Hilberlings brought “a baby into the world when they were really still babies themselves.”
The attorneys also pointed out that the Hilberlings’ son Levi, then almost 18 months old, would be in his twenties by the time his mother was released from prison should she serve the full 25-year sentence.
The couple had a tumultuous marriage by any measure. Hilberling alleged during the trial and following her conviction that her husband, a 6-foot, 5-inch, 220-pound, former military man had been abusive during their time together. Joshua Hilberling, prior to his death, had also alleged abuse, having filed a protective order against his wife less than two months before his death, alleging she had thrown a lamp at him.
After her conviction, a video was released of Amber Hilberling speaking to her grandmother hours after Hilberling had pushed her husband out of the couple’s 17th-floor apartment.
Hilberling, sobbing, lamented what happened, saying that while she didn’t intend to kill her husband, she didn’t “deserve to live.”
“I don’t deserve to be a mom,” Hilberling, seven-months pregnant at the time, said. “Josh deserved to be a dad. Josh isn’t even a person anymore.”
Amber Hilberling was also profiled on the MSNBC television series “Lock Up,” when it did a series of episodes focused on the Tulsa Jail. Hilberling was shown befriending other inmates, some of whom took on a motherly role toward her, before she was transported from the jail to prison.
Prior to her high-profile trial, Hilberling rejected a plea agreement that would have seen her plead no-contest to the charge against her, in which she would have received a five-year prison sentence.
Instead, she took the case to trial and received a much stiffer penalty. Her defense attorney, Jasen Corns, had no experience conducting criminal defense when he took her case, but Hilberling told Dr. Phil she trusted him and knew him as a family friend. Years after Hilberling’s conviction, Corns surrendered his law license after he was accused of bilking an elderly client out of $1.4 million in gifts — including a home worth more than $500,000.
Hilberling told Dr. Phil that her parents asked her numerous times to fire Corns during her lengthy criminal proceedings. But, she said, she never did because she “didn’t have the heart to do that.”
Tulsa attorney Clark Brewster handled Hilberling’s appeal at the behest of her parents, he told The Frontier on Tuesday.
“I met with Amber and reviewed all of the evidence and testimony and felt a grave injustice occurred,” he said. “I agreed to represent her at no cost and we pursued an Appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Appellate Court affirmed the conviction by deferring to the jury verdict. Based on the facts and law I believe this conviction to be a grave injustice.
“Amber’s death in prison is truly heartbreaking.”