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Vt. neighbors: Man in N.H. hotel stabbing had temper

Catherine Houghton was attacked in a hotel lobby.

Catherine Houghton was attacked in a hotel lobby.

WEST DANVILLE, Vt. — Some residents of the small ­Vermont hometown of a man charged with stabbing a 70-year-old woman to death at a New Hampshire hotel said Wednesday that the suspect was known for his short fuse.

Prosecutors say Rodney Hill, 37, of West Danville repeatedly stabbed her Monday night in the lobby of the Hampton Inn in Littleton in a random attack.

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Catherine Houghton of ­Novato, Calif., died at a hospital. She was a 1960 graduate of White Mountain School in nearby Bethlehem and a member of the school’s board of trustees. School officials said she was in town for board meetings Sunday and Monday and remained an extra day to ­rehearse with the school’s a cappella choir.

What motivated the attack is unknown. Prosecutors said Hill and Houghton were strangers who happened to be at the same hotel.

Jeff Downs, owner of Joe’s Pond Country Store, said that Hill was a frequent customer and that it did not take much to set him off.

Downs said Hill was in early Sunday and was making such a ruckus that Downs came downstairs from his office to see what was going on. He said waitress Evelyn Daly told him, ‘‘Oh, it’s just Rodney going off.’’

But Downs said that same waitress was so distraught Wednesday that she had to go home. Downs said she told him before leaving, ‘‘It could have happened to any of us.’’

Downs said Hill was often loud and opinionated, but he never felt threatened by him. But Downs also said he was ­always happy to see him leave.

Katharine Pastula, who also works at the country store, said Hill could get riled up, but he was always friendly to her.

Hill graduated from ­Danville High School in 1993 and lives with his wife, Amy, and three children. Amy Hill has not returned a message seeking comment. The driveway at the end of the family’s home is posted with a ‘‘No ­Trespassing’’ sign.

Hill was arraigned on two second-degree murder charges Tuesday and is being held without bond. He is due back in court Feb. 5.

Public defender Martha Hornick, who represented Hill during his brief court appearance, did not immediately ­return calls seeking comment.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said Wednesday that Houghton’s ­autopsy has been completed, but results will not be released until Thursday.

Houghton’s is the first killing since 1999 in Littleton, a community of 4,000 just west of the White Mountains National Forest in northwest New Hampshire, near the Vermont line.

Houghton held master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University, served in the Peace Corps in Nepal, and worked as an international officer for Bank of America before joining the global business arm of the US Commerce Department, ­often working under the auspices of the US Foreign Service at embassies worldwide.

‘‘Every indication I’ve been given is, frankly, that this is a random, senseless attack,’’ said Timothy Breen, the head of White Mountain School.

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