Published March 22, 2011
When a burly ex-convict forced his way into a posh Florida home last week, he had no idea what awaited him -- a 25-year-old beauty queen with a pink .38-caliber handgun.
Meghan Brown, a former Florida pageant queen, shot and killed 42-year-old Albert Franklin Hill during a home invasion March 12 at the 2,732-square-foot house she shares with her fiance in Tierra Verde, Fla.
Hill barged into the home at around 3 a.m. after Brown responded to a knock at the front door, according to a police report. He allegedly grabbed the 110-pound Brown around her nose and mouth and dragged her to an upstairs bedroom.
The woman’s fiance, Robert Planthaber, said in an interview that he was quickly awakened by the altercation and ran to Brown’s side.
"I attacked him and took a severe beating to the head," Planthaber told FoxNews.com. "But I got him off of her long enough for her to scramble to the room where she keeps her pink .38 special.”
Brown, who reigned as the 2009 Miss Tierra Verde, snatched her gun from a nearby bedroom and shot the suspect several times – hitting him in the chest, groin, thigh and back, her fiance said. Hill was pronounced dead at the scene.
Panthaber, a 42-year-old arborist, said he believes he and his fiancee were targeted because of their wealth. He claimed a pizza delivery man and possible accomplice staked out the home for three months before Hill attempted to burglarize it.
“We live in a very prominent area and my fiancee wears a $60,000 engagement ring,” he said. “The pizza man knew we had money because sometimes we needed change for a $100 bill when he came to deliver pizza.”
Hill had a criminal record stretching back nearly three decades -- including arrests for burglary, battery, drug possession and grand theft. He reportedly served a 13-year prison term in 1987 and was released in September after serving a fourth term behind bars.
Detectives with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Robbery/Homicide Unit are still investigating the crime but believe the motive was robbery, according to local press reports. They say they haven’t yet determined the relationship, if any, Hill had with the couple. A police report said the ex-convict demanded money before the altercation between Hill and Panthaber ensued.
Panthaber, meanwhile, said he and his fiancee are lucky to be alive. He said he purchased the pink handgun for Brown last Christmas and that the two had gone to target practice together.
“She was not a good shot at the range,” he quipped.