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VALPARAISO -- The woman convicted of convincing her teen-age sons to kill her

husband and mother-in-law will not be freed from prison as she had hoped.

Hilma "Marie" Witte, 51, had her petition for sentence modification denied in

both Porter County and LaPorte County.

Porter Superior Court Judge Thomas Webber noted that Witte had received

favorable reports from the prison system, where she has earned a bachelor of

arts degree. But he placed a lot of weight on what prosecutors had to say --

that her release would not be in the best interest of justice.

Webber made his decision this week. Two weeks earlier, LaPorte Superior Court

Senior Judge Donald D. Martin also denied Witte's request.

Each judge was required to decide because one of the murders was tried in

Porter County and the other in LaPorte County.

Witte, who has served about 14 years in prison, will have to continue serving

two terms for murder for her roles in the 1981 shooting death of Paul Witte in

Beverly Shores and the 1984 crossbow murder of Elaine Witte near Michigan City.

Elaine Witte's body was dismembered and never located.

Hilma Witte is not due to be released from Indiana Women's Prison in

Indianapolis for another 29 years.

Dan Berning, who prosecuted Witte in Porter County, said the murder in LaPorte

County was one of the most gruesome in memory. And the shooting in Porter

County was orchestrated only after her efforts to poison her husband failed.

Berning, who left the Prosecutor's Office to enter private law practice, called

the judges' decision to deny Witte's sentence modification an "appropriate

ruling."

William Herrbach, the LaPorte deputy prosecutor who tried the case against

Witte, said she doesn't deserve to ever be released because of the murders, and

because she ruined her sons' lives through her ability to manipulate them. Her

sons, who each committed one of the murders, also were imprisoned.

Herrbach called Witte "the coldest lady I could ever recall during a trial."

Witte's petition for sentence modification stated, "She has, through therapy,

counseling, groups, education, time and self-introspection overcome the issues

in her life which brought her to prison."

In prison, she has tutored other inmates and has earned a bachelor of arts

degree. She has also taken part in groups for domestic violence, anger

management, incest survivors, assertiveness and more.

She stated in her petition, "There is no excuse for resorting to violence

regardless of the circumstances" and that she "deeply regrets those actions."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Ken Kosky can be reached at kkosky@howpubs.com or (219) 462-5151, Ext. 354.

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