The Western Star

Horror in Hiltown

Triple murder in a quiet Philadelph­ia suburb sent shock waves through the community

- Max Haines

Eric Motis lived on Key Drive in Hilltown Township, located about 30 miles from Philadelph­ia. His good friend, 16-year-old Doug Hoopes, lived on the same street. The boys saw each other almost every day. At 19 years of age, Eric was three years older than his buddy.

During that summer of 1990, if you strolled down Key Drive, you couldn’t help but be impressed. The houses were large, luxury homes. The grounds were well manicured. This was privileged suburban living. All the families on Key Drive were doing well financiall­y.

Doug’s father, Howard, died of cancer in 1987. His mother, Louise, worked as a secretary at a hospital in nearby Sellersvil­le. She had been left with enough financial security to ensure that she and her two boys, Doug and 14-year-old Dan, could stay on and live a comfortabl­e life in their home. All was as it should be at 25 Key Dr.

Down the way at the Motis residence, something was going drasticall­y wrong with Eric. He had always been an “A” student. He dressed meticulous­ly, was wellbehave­d and shunned drugs. Everyone agreed that the slight, 135pound teenager was a bright young man with a brilliant future. He talked of becoming a chemical engineer. Yet, in his senior year, for no apparent reason, Eric’s personalit­y abruptly changed. He no longer respected his teachers. He stole his family’s GMC truck, as well as a .25 calibre automatic and a .357 Magnum and took off.Two weeks later, Eric was apprehende­d as he tried to siphon gasoline out of a parked car. He was charged with unauthoriz­ed use of a vehicle, theft of two weapons and attempted theft of gasoline. He spent a week in jail before his family bailed him out. Eric left town and failed to appear on his court date. Authoritie­s and his family were at a loss as to why he had suddenly turned bad. There was more to come.

On Oct. 15, 1990, attractive 42year-old Louise Hoopes failed to show up at her office in the Grand View Hospital in Sellersvil­le. Her superior tried to reach her by phone, but received no answer. Louise had never missed a day’s work without calling. Mildly alarmed, he called a neighbour and asked her to look in on Louise and the boys.

It was 9:45 on a Monday morning when the unsuspecti­ng neighbour walked over to the Hoopes’ residence. She noticed the garage door was open and the family vehicle, a Chevy Lumina, was not in its usual parking space. After calling out for Louise and receiving no response, the neighbour gingerly made her way upstairs. In the master bedroom, she found Louise under a blanket on the bed. Removing the blanket, she was stunned to see that Louise’s head had been horribly crushed and her neck viciously cut. There was blood everywhere. Louise’s black panties lay on the floor.

Police arrived at the scene. In an adjoining bedroom they found the body of Dan Hoopes inside a sleeping bag on the floor. His skull was badly beaten as well. In a third bedroom, police found Doug Hoopes’ body under a blanket on his bed. Like his mother and brother, he had been savagely clubbed to death.

Slaughtere­d while they slept

Detectives quickly theorized that the Hoopes family had been slaughtere­d while they slept. Whoever had committed the murders had most likely driven away in the family’s 1990 silver Lumina. Louise had been raped at the time of or immediatel­y after death.

Louise’s male friends were questioned. All were exonerated of any complicity in the crimes. A houseto-house survey revealed the existence of Eric Motis, who had a less than savoury reputation. Eric was missing from the area and there was some evidence that he, together with two buddies, had taken off for Florida well before the murders.

Despite the distances involved, Eric became a prime suspect. A 1982 Pontiac had been stolen along Route 309 back on Sept. 24, when Eric had gone missing. The Pontiac was recovered on the day of the triple murders near Key Drive. Was it possible that Eric had driven to Florida in the Pontiac, returned to Hilltown, ditched the Pontiac and took off again in the missing Lumina?

Friends of the Hoopes family assisted police in making an inventory of items they felt had been stolen. Among the missing objects were a TV set, a stereo system and a diamond necklace.

Eric’s friends were questioned. All co-operated with police. They confirmed that Eric had indeed returned to the area. He had told his friends he intended to buy a Lumina, which he would finance with money he had received as birthday presents. Once the deal was completed, he planned to go back to Florida. That was good enough for the Pennsylvan­ia police. They flew to Miami.

Taken into custody

As luck would have it, the officers spotted Eric’s two friends walking along Collins Avenue. They identified themselves and told the teenagers the reason why they were in Miami. Once again, Eric’s friends were totally open with the police. Yes, Eric was driving a 1990 silver Lumina with Pennsylvan­ia plates. They gave the officers Eric’s address. He was taken into custody without incident.

Meanwhile, Eric’s friends told officers that Eric had driven back to Pennsylvan­ia since arriving in Florida. He left with a Pontiac and returned with the Lumina. On one occasion, he opened the trunk of the Lumina and showed them a TV and a stereo. He also displayed a pair of bloodstain­ed gloves, a small sledgehamm­er and a knife. Eric had told them that these were the weapons he had used to kill an entire family. He went on to say that his victims were the Hoopes family.

Eric had described the murders to his friends. He told them that he knew the garage was always open and so had no trouble gaining entrance. Doug had once shown him where the family kept the house key. He entered the house at 3:30 a.m. and made his way to the master bedroom, where he held a pillow over Louise’s face. But Louise fought hard. She managed to get the pillow off her face and scream. Eric brought the sledgehamm­er down on Louise’s head seven times. When she continued to breathe, he slit her throat.

Eric made his way to Dan’s room and clubbed him to death with the sledgehamm­er while the 14-yearold slept in his sleeping bag. Only his friend Doug remained alive in the house. The noise of the first two killings had awakened Doug. He sat up and rubbed sleep from his eyes. Eric watched and waited until Doug lay back in bed. Then he crawled on his hands and knees to the side of the bed and commenced to club Doug. Doug managed to grab his adversary’s arm, but soon the blows took their toll. He released his grip and fell back, dead. As Eric passed the master bedroom, he heard laboured breathing. Unbelievab­ly, Louise was still alive. Eric entered the room and raped the hapless woman as she died.

When asked how his murder spree had felt, Eric had told his friends, “I enjoyed every minute of it.” A search of Eric’s apartment uncovered most of the stolen goods taken from the Hoopes’ home.

On March 11, 1991, Eric stood trial for triple murder. He pleaded guilty to all three murders. Because he had no previous criminal record, the presiding judge chose to spare his life. Eric Motis was sentenced to three consecutiv­e life terms.

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