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Woman Charged in Crossbow Death Appears in Shooting Case

June 3, 1985 GMT

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) _ A woman who allegedly coerced one son into killing a relative with a crossbow and another son into shooting her husband appeared in court Monday to answer the second of two murder charges.

Hilma Marie Witte, 37, of Trail Lake, Ind., is charged in the 1981 shooting death of Paul J. Witte. She is also charged with attempted murder in an alleged attempt to poison him earlier.

Prosecutors contend Mrs. Witte plotted both slayings and coerced her sons into committing the crimes. Investigators say the motive in both cases was money.


In court documents, authorities allege Mrs. Witte talked to sons John and Eric Witte about killing their father and tried to decide which boy would be better suited to pull the trigger.

Mrs. Witte’s mother, Margaret O’Donnell, was present during the alleged discussion and recounted the conversation for police interrogators:

″Something to the effect that Butch was younger and it wouldn’t be as hard on him, and that Eric, being older, would have more nerve than Butch, along those lines.″

John D. ″Butch″ Witte was 11 when his father died. Eric was 14.

John Witte told investigators he watched his brother aim a .38-caliber revolver at their sleeping father and shoot him in the head at the family’s Beverly Shores home. The shooting was originally reported as an accident.

″I turned around and I saw this ... flare in, you know, coming out of the gun, and I saw my dad’s leg move straight up and kinda like gasping for air noise coming out,″ John Witte told police during a Nov. 14 interrogation. Transcripts of statements from Mrs. O’Donnell and John Witte have been filed with the court.

No plea was entered during Monday’s hearing, which Judge Bruce W. Douglas ordered continued to June 10.

Prosecutor Daniel R. Berning said he would move to have Eric Witte, who is also charged with murder, tried in adult court.

Attempted murder charges filed against Mrs. Witte and Mrs. O’Donnell allege the two had tried to poison Paul Witte by spiking his food with Valium, a tranquilizer. Mrs. O’Donnell has pleaded innocent to the charge.

On Friday, Mrs. Witte pleaded innocent in LaPorte Superior Court to charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the crossbow killing of her stepmother-in-law, Elaine Witte, 74.


Chief Deputy Prosecutor William Herbach has filed for the death penalty against Mrs. Witte in that case.

John Witte, 16, has pleaded guilty in LaPorte County to voluntary manslaughter for firing the crossbow arrow that killed his grandmother. Prosecutors have asked for the maximum 20-year sentence.

Eric Witte faces a charge of assisting a criminal for allegedly helping dispose of his grandmother’s body and forging her signature to Social Security checks. He and his mother were convicted of cashing Elaine Witte’s Social Security checks.