Eric Witte: Mother Manipulates Boy to Commit Startling Murder

Last week’s case was the sad story of three Girl Scouts murdered on the first day of camp in Oklahoma. That case remains officially unsolved after 45 years. This week, our case comes from Indiana. There, in September 1981, 15-year-old Eric Witte killed his father. He said it was an accident, but that turned out to be untrue. The story took an even more bizarre turn from there.

Eric Witte Manipulated into Murder

Eric Witte was 15 years old in the late summer of 1981. His relationship with his father, Paul Witte, a volunteer firefighter, was complex. Although he had many good memories of his father, Paul would physically abuse the boy if he made the slightest mistake. It wasn’t difficult to convince the conflicted boy that his father had to die.

Paul Witte, killed by his son, Eric Witte
Paul Witte, killed by his son, Eric Witte

On September 1, 1981, Paul Witte was taking a nap in the family home in Beverly Shores, Indiana, just outside Michigan City. While he slept on a sofa, Eric shot his father in the head. He told police the gun accidentally went off when he tripped on a rug. Investigators at the time believed the story and ruled Paul’s death an accident.

Paul and Eric Witte
Paul and Eric Witte

Unknown to Eric, his mother, Hilma Marie Witte (she went by Marie) had been trying to kill Paul for some time. She’d been lacing his food with rat poison and Valium but had not been successful. Marie’s own mother, Margaret O’Donnell, had been helping her.

Eric Witte is Caught in a Web of Murder

One murder was apparently not enough for Marie. She soon began poisoning her mother-in-law, Elaine Witte. Eric, now eager to get away from his mother’s penchant for killing joined the Navy.

Eric Witte's U.S. Navy photo
Eric Witte’s U.S. Navy photo

Poisoning Elaine didn’t work, or at least didn’t work fast enough for Marie. She then convinced her younger son, John “Butch” Witte to do the job for her. John later told investigators, “My mom said I could strangle her or use my crossbow. It was up to me.” He then fatally shot Elaine with a medieval-style crossbow in her Michigan City home. John was 14 at the time.

Marie and John didn’t report Elaine’s death to police, Instead, they dismembered her body and disposed it in various places around Indiana. They even hid parts of the body in Eric’s car before he drove back to San Diego. When he discovered the remains, he panicked and put them in a storage locker in California.

Life Unravels for Eric Witte

People with friends can’t just disappear without those friends becoming curious. Such was the case with Elaine. When her friends started demanding to know where she was, Marie panicked. She and John drove to California to enlist Eric’s help. Eric went AWOL from the Navy to help his family figure out what to do.

Hilma Marie Witte at the time of her arrest
Hilma Marie Witte at the time of her arrest

It all started to unravel when Marie forged a signature on one of Elaine’s Social Security checks. The forgery led to her arrest. It was during the forgery investigation that Eric and John spilled the story of how their mother had manipulated them into committing two murders.


Hilma Marie Witt was convicted of murder and received a 90-year sentence. She currently resides (2022) at the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis. She is due for release in 2027.

Marie’s mother, Margaret “Marcie” O’Donnell, served six years for her role in the murders. She died after serving her time.

Eric Witte
Eric Witte

John and Eric received 20- and 5-year sentences, respectively. Both were released in 1996. Eric is now married and has a family. John died from complications of diabetes.

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23 Replies to “Eric Witte: Mother Manipulates Boy to Commit Startling Murder”

  1. Thank you for your true stories. I’m wondering about the three girls that were killed camping in Oklahoma… isn’t there any DNA evidence thadft

    1. No, there isn’t any usable DNA.

      There was NO DNA testing in 1977 when the murders occurred. As DNA technology emerged and developed, samples were sent for testing, but there was nothing conclusive. Now, the samples are too degraded for usable DNA.

  2. I just watched the episode of Snapped on the Witte matriarch, and the epilogue of the show says both brothers Eric and John are now deceased. Eric was 39, but I can’t find why. I would guess an overdose possibly. Maybe someone here knows?

    1. He was 56, but I can’t find out why either John had diabetes and he died from that at 39.

      1. Eric told me complications of Diabetes killed Butch . Snapped producers state Eric died… but if you Google the Eric Witte that died in 2022, the info does NOT match up… close but no cigar… Eric was born July 4th 1966 to Paul and Hilma Marie Witte in Michigan City Indiana. He had one sibling that preceded him in death. John David Witte was born Hans Dieder Witte on January 26th… not sure what year. .
        (maybe 1969) it’s been at least 15 years since I spoke to Eric.. but I believe Snapped investigators did not follow up and verify Eric died.

    2. Eric told me John died from complications of diabetes. Eric was born July 1966 .. this show says he passed February 2022 at age 56. .. he wouldn’t have turned 56 until July of 2022.. and it did not state his cause of death. The producers of this program told me they had reached out to him for an interview and he declined. I tried researching obits for Eric Witte and only found one that was age 54 born in April 1967 and passed in Feb 2022. He was preceded in death by his father Fred. So, not the correct Eric. Just curious if anyone has the correct info.. I lost contact with Eric many years ago shortly after John passed. We had communicated over the internet. We talked about Cliff Linedecker ‘s book Blood Money and he said too much info in the book was wrong. I read the book but did not KNOW all the facts so I’m not sure of the inaccuracies he spoke of. I do KNOW some of the background history is wrong and wondered where the heck Mr Linedecker got his information. Since I was told Eric declined the interview for this program, I’m wondering if someone who was researching got wind of his passing and just did not follow all the way through and just maybe.. just maybe they’re wrong and Eric still lives.

      1. I hope Eric is still alive and just removed anyway to find him so he could have peace. I knew Eric, he was a very bright individual and had a bright future ahead of him if his mother did not ruin his life. I designed a desert habitation plant with him once on paper and he taught me a lot about physics. I always wished he could have a chance to recover from his messed-up childhood.
        If you’re out there, Eric, God bless you, and I wish you the best!

      2. According to a page about the case on the website, Eric died in 2022 at age 56. The page does not give a cause of death.

    3. I think that’s incorrect about Eric. I looked it up online and it seems like a different Eric

    4. John died at 39 in 2008 of complications from diabetes. Eric died in in 2022 at 56. I couldn’t find out the cause.

    5. Eric died last year at 56. John died at the age of 39 due to diabetes complications. No idea how Eric died.

    6. I am Eric’s wife. There was no overdose as Eric never did drugs. He was a great man and a wonderful husband and father. Eric died at 56 in Sept. of 2022. We are forever broken with his passing. I can’t believe the woman that had the nerve to ever call herself a mother has outlived the boys she destroyed.

      1. I’m so sorry Dawn! Just saw the episode on ID Discovery and wanted to write to him. So sorry what he had to endure! I hope you can give it a place in your life and move on.

      2. Dawn .. I’m interested in contact but not on this page….. Did he ever mention Aunt Jeannie…. 256.960.9181. This number I keep and monitor for a memorial list for my class mates from Portage HS 1976.

      3. God Bless you I am sorry for your loss as I am a mother too and I have 2 sons and I couldn’t even imagine of asking or even putting my sons through such horrible acts of crimes of murder God let’s her live so that she can suffer and remember what she has done everyday that she breaths I hope she sees the faces of her boys and her victims every night and day in her dreams and thoughts. 🙏🏾

      4. So sorry for your loss Dawn! Those poor boys I feel so bad for them. You can tell how sweet Eric was. I’m upset that the “mom” outlived them.

  3. This is a sad story for the boys. Their mother messed up their lives…it breaks my heart that John died young. I was eritated that Snapped didn’t give cause of death for either boys, or their grandmother. A little satisfied Eric is still a live but very unsatisfied that their mother still lives on…she is evil and what she put them through as a mother is unspeakable!

    1. Marci O’Donnell died from Lung cancer & emphysema in West Lafayette Indiana. I heard she only served a 5 year sentence for her part of that mess..

  4. Queste storie hanno dell’incredibile; come arriva una madre a comportarsi in quel modo, non lo capisco proprio, anche se il padre , tanto buono non lo era proprio.

    [These stories are incredible; how a mother gets to behave like that, I really don’t understand, even if the father, so good, wasn’t really.]

  5. Dawn, my heart goes out to you and I’m so sad that Eric has died. I hope he knew that none of this was his fault. He was such a lovely guy with incredible soulful and sad eyes.

    I hope his evil abuser…his so-called mother…will fry in hell. She did much more damage to her boys than his father ever did…despite the physical abuse he subjected Eric to.

    I am so very sorry for your incredible loss and thank you for being the light of his life.

    Much love from Australia xx

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