In what seemed to be a terrible accident, 43-year-old volunteer firefighter Paul Witte was fatally shot while lying on a couch in his room. The shooter, his teenage son, said it was not intentional and that he had tripped on the rug, which made the gun go off. Investigators believed him and let him go scot-free.
Yet, just years later, another murder in the family forced the police to dig deep and reveal a shocking truth. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Evil Lives Here: Was it Worth Killing For?’ details one of the most horrifying crimes that shook Northern Indiana. Interested to know more about this crime and where the actual murderer is at present? Here is what we found out.
How Did Paul Witte Die?
Paul Witte, 43, was a volunteer firefighter who lived with his wife, Hilma Marie Witte, and their two sons, Eric and John, in their family home in Beverly Shores in Porter County, Indiana. Described as a very powerful person by his son Eric, Paul was reportedly an abusive father. Eric said that although he had good memories of his father, he also had scars from the regular physical abuse he received.
On September 1, 1981, Paul Witte was sleeping on his couch in his home. His 15-year-old son, Eric Witte, was handling Paul’s gun nearby when a shot rang off in the quiet neighborhood. When the family rushed to the room, Paul was found fatally shot in the head. His son, Eric, admitted to shooting his father. He said that he tripped over the rug while holding the gun as he approached his father to ask him a question about it. The bullet hit his father in the head. Thus, the shooting was ruled as an accident, and Eric was released, but there was more.
Who Killed Paul Witte?
In a bizarre turn of events, Paul Witte’s wife, Hilma Marie Witte, was accused and convicted of forcing her son to kill her husband. Three years after Paul’s death, his stepmother, Elaine Witte, went missing. The police were not aware of the disappearance until they caught Hilma and her sons when she attempted to forge Elaine’s signature on her social security checks.
Right after the arrest, Eric’s 14-year-old brother, John, came clean and said it was his mother who forced him to kill Elaine. He said he was a witness to Paul Witte’s death and admitted to killing his grandmother on January 8, 1984, in her home near Michigan City, Indiana. In his official statement, John said, “My mom said I could strangle her or use my crossbow, it was up to me.”
After shooting Elaine in the rib cage with his crossbow and killing her, the entire family helped dismembered Elaine’s body and chopped some of the pieces down to make the disposal easier. Elaine’s body was destroyed using various devices, including a saw, knives, a chisel, the garbage disposal, the trash compactor, a deep fat fryer, and a microwave. He further said that the larger pieces were stored in the home’s freezer for some time before being scattered in various locations in Indiana, Illinois, and California.
Eric also confessed to Paul Witte’s death and said that his mother forced him to kill his father. He said that after Paul’s death, he found out that his mother was poisoning his grandmother, and thus he joined the Navy to escape his mother’s relentless pressure to kill. After Elaine’s murder, when Eric was called back to his family, he refused to help and left to go back to San Diego, California.
Unbeknownst to him, his mother sneaked his grandmother’s dismembered body onto his car, which made him panic. He then brought the body to California and put it in a storage locker. Forced to help his family after being put in such a precarious position, Eric went AWOL (Absent Without Leave) from the Navy until he and his entire family got arrested for a forged signature.
The investigation also revealed that Hilma Witte had attempted to kill her husband with a mixture of rat poison and Valium initially. She had sprinkled this mixture into Paul Witte’s food a month before his death. The poisoning attempt proved to be unsuccessful, and thus, she brainwashed and manipulated Eric into killing his father.
Where Are Eric Witte and Hilma Marie Witte Now?
After their arrest, both brothers pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and agreed to testify against their mother. John and Eric were sentenced to 20 and 5 years in prison and were released early in 1996 due to good behavior. Even though his mother forced him to commit the crime, Eric takes full responsibility for it.
In the ID episode, he stated that he regretted the course of action he took on that fateful day and feels extremely remorseful about what happened. He said he misses his dad and the good times he had with him. He also found it hard to come to grips with the fact that he killed one of the most important figures in his life.
On the other hand, Hilma Marie Witte was found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the case of Elaine Witte. For this, she received a 90-year prison sentence. Following this, she was sentenced to a concurrent prison term of fifty years for the murder of her husband. While in jail, she earned a college degree. In 2000, Hilma’s petition for sentence modification was denied. Currently, Hilma Marie Witte is incarcerated at the Indiana Women’s Prison, and her earliest possible release can happen in 2027, according to prison records.
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