Suspect learned of charges hours before attack

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Hours before kidnapping his niece and killing her parents, Robert Lee Hixson learned he would probably be charged with sending the girl a sexually explicit letter, authorities said.

The 13-year-old girl’s parents had twice called Pocono Mountain police about Hixson — once about the letter they found, and last month when they came home to find their daughter in Hixson’s truck, a prosecutor said.

“They were adamant about him not having any contact with her whatsoever,” Monroe County District Attorney Mark P. Pazuhanich said.

Myron L. “Butch” Bilger Jr. — whose sister is married to Hixson — and his wife, Ellen, may have been aware of Hixson’s criminal record, which includes convictions for felony child abuse and aggravated assault, and an acquittal in a 1984 rape trial, Pazuhanich said.

At about 9:20 p.m. Saturday, authorities said Hixson stormed into the couple’s Pocono Lake home and used a stolen, sawed-off shotgun to kill them both before fleeing with Hadley Bilger.

Hixson released the 13-year-old girl shortly before noon Sunday in Berks County, as police closed in, and surrendered after a four-hour standoff, authorities said.

Hixson, who lives about 70 miles away in Danville, had met with Pocono Mountain police late Saturday afternoon, Pazuhanich said. Afterward, he dropped his wife off at her parents’ home in Danville, saying he planned to go fishing.

Police believe he then took his niece to a hunting cabin during his 14 hours on the run, and they are investigating whether the girl was sexually assaulted, the prosecutor said.

Pazuhanich likely will seek the death penalty, because of the multiple deaths, and because they were allegedly done in connection with a kidnapping.

Hixson, who does not yet have a lawyer, is being held without bond pending a May 1 preliminary hearing.

According to court records in San Diego, Calif., Hixson was sentenced to 180 days in jail in 1988 after he and his then-wife, Kimberly, were convicted of felony child abuse.

In 1993, a jury convicted him of attacking Lana Slotterback, a platonic friend he had known for years, with a clawhammer. Hixson apparently became upset when she looked in his ex-wife’s closet for a dry pair of shoes, after hers got wet in the rain, former Columbia County District Attorney William Kreisher said.

Hixson was sentenced to two to four years in prison for the crime.

Hixson’s divorce from Kimberly Hawkins Hixson was finalized in 1994, court records show, and he married Dianne Bilger not long afterward. The couple, who have a son, filed for bankruptcy last year.

Prosecutors said they plan to file kidnapping charges against Hixson in the next few days.