Amber Hilberling, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for pushing her husband out of a high-rise Tulsa apartment window, died after hanging herself in prison Monday.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokesman Alex Gerszewski said Hilberling, 25, was found hanging from the bunk bed in the cell of a medium-security housing unit at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud about 5:20 p.m. Monday.
Hilberling was discovered by another inmate, Gerszewski said. Correctional officers were notified, she was taken down from the restraint, and staff immediately began life-saving procedures, according to the DOC. She was pronounced dead at 5:33 p.m.
Her cause of death has been ruled asphyxial hanging, according to the state Medical Examiner’s Office. A report has not been completed, but the medical examiner ruled her manner of death as suicide. The DOC’s Office of Inspector General is conducting an investigation into what happened, and Gerszewski said a toxicology screening has been requested. DOC discipline records show Hilberling had tested positive for illegal drugs twice while incarcerated.
A Tulsa County jury convicted Hilberling in 2013 of second-degree murder for pushing her husband, Joshua Hilberling, out of a plate-glass window in the couple’s apartment on the 25th floor of the University Club Tower nearly two years earlier. He landed on top of a parking garage 17 stories below and died as a result of the fall.
Amber Hilberling was sentenced to 25 years and needed to serve just over 21 years before becoming eligible for parole. Prior to the trial, she had rejected a plea deal for a five-year sentence with an added 15 years of probation.
Hilberling, who was seven months pregnant at the time of the incident, appeared on “Dr. Phil” in February and told the host she did not intend to kill her husband, saying she pushed him during an argument.
Hilberling spoke to national media outlets multiple times following her conviction and had argued she shoved Josh Hilberling in self-defense, citing a relationship plagued by domestic abuse.
Shortly after the fatal fall, however, Hilberling called herself a “horrible person” while speaking with her grandmother in a police interrogation room and asked what kind of person would push her husband out of a window.
A sobbing and pregnant Hilberling told her grandmother that her deceased husband’s parents had been right in saying that “if we stayed together, I’m going to kill him.” Unknown to her at the time, the exchange was caught on camera and would later be used by the prosecution and defense during the closing arguments of her trial.
Two wrongful-death lawsuits have been filed against University Club Tower since 2012, the second resulting from the dismissal of the first for a deadline error.
The suits allege that the apartment window, measuring about 45½ inches tall and 51½ inches wide with a thickness of 0.09 inches, should have prevented Hilberling’s fall and sought thousands of dollars in damages.
However, an associate district judge recently ruled the initial lawsuit had been dismissed improperly and ordered it to be reinstated, nixing the second suit in the process. The original suit, filed by Amber Hilberling, is still pending.
A statement from the mother of Josh Hilberling brought up the idea that taking a plea deal could have precluded the civil lawsuit.
“Our sincere condolences go out to everyone who loved Amber,” Jeanne Hilberling said. “Had Amber accepted the generous sentence that was offered ... by the DA, she would’ve been home last year. Whether it was greed, or foolishness that caused her to not accept the deal. The deal would’ve prevented her from personally suing the apartment building owners?
“Our wish for Amber’s family is to try to remember the good times you had with Amber. Amber loved her father, Mike Fields, and her Missouri family. We are praying for peace for everyone, including Josh’s family and friends,” Jeanne Hilberling said. “Both families have lost a child. There are no winners in either of these horrible events. It is tragic for everyone.”
Neither Amber Hilberling’s family nor the attorney who represented her in the later stages of her defense returned Tulsa World’s requests for comment.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Gerszewski said no further information will be released until the investigation is complete.