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Before FBI Special Agent Ken Hillman and dozens of his criminal cases came under state and federal scrutiny, the agent called another officer and confessed his tumultuous, romantic relationship with a millionaire's wife.
"Look, I'm going to tell you what's going on," former Ringgold Police Sgt. Tom Evans remembers Hillman saying.
Hillman told Evans that a complaint had been made to the FBI of him sleeping with Angela Russell, estranged wife of local businessman Emerson Russell. Hillman then admitted he let Russell ride along on undercover operations at least twice and put the handcuffs on potential suspects, breaking multiple FBI policies.
Now things were coming to a head, the agent told Evans: "[She got] unstable, clingy, so now she's kind of mad she's not on the team anymore."
Hillman's confession came out in an internal police investigation. Evans told his supervisors about what he said was a drunken conversation before he was fired Feb. 15.
The Times Free Press obtained audio recordings from interviews with Evans and the Russells through an open records request.
The recordings also reveal that Hillman, agent in charge of the Northwest Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, rented an apartment from Angela Russell without telling the FBI and used it to hold video chats with potential suspects. He told Evans the FBI didn't allow off-site, secret locations for such chats.
The FBI won't talk about Hillman's investigation except to confirm they are looking into the allegations. Hillman hasn't returned calls seeking comment.
But a national FBI expert said if Hillman was sleeping with a woman that he had done business with, and was allowing her to become an informant in criminal investigations, that's an egregious offense.
"That's an incredible no-no," said James Wedick, an FBI veteran with nearly 35 years experience in the agency. "What you have is a triple storm there."
Hillman and Russell were first questioned Oct. 24 when Evans stopped the allegedly drunk couple and Russell's 25-year-old daughter, Kathryn, who were trying to leave a nightspot in Ringgold.
In recorded interviews with police, Kathryn Russell said Hillman met the women after her mother texted to say how much she missed the federal agent.
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Kathryn Russell said her mother and Hillman kissed for 30 minutes in the parking lot before the group went inside the Acoustic Cafe. She said the couple drank Long Island iced teas and danced. When the three tried to leave, a bartender called police.
Instead of arresting anyone, Evans, who had recently joined the FBI task force and reported to Hillman, drove the three to Kathryn Russell's condo in East Brainerd, leaving the state without radioing his supervisors.
The night took a worse turn when Emerson Russell showed up at the condo. Hillman escaped the house and walked down the street.
In Emerson Russell's interview, he describes what took place when Angela Russell got into his car.
He said, "Your boyfriend was walking down the street. You can't lie to me."
She responded, "Where is he?" and reached for the door handle to jump out of the moving car.
Emerson Russell said he left his wife with Hillman at a gas station, saying, "Don't come back."
In January he filed for divorce, citing adultery.
Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.
Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...