Eric Hanson Murdered His Family Over Money
“If you tell Dad, I will kill you,” is how Jennifer Williams, speaking in a pretrial hearing, remembered her sister Kate’s recollection of the conversation.
Now Eric Hanson, 31, is set to go to trial in DuPage County on first-degree murder charges.
In order to cover up stealing more than $80,000, through forged checks and credit cards, prosecutors allege he ( Eric Hanson) beat his sister Kate and her husband Jimmy Tsao to death in their Chicago suburban home. They say he then fatally shot his father Terrance Hanson in the back of the head and his mother Mary Hanson in the face as the couple slept in their bed 5 miles away.
The four bodies were discovered in the Tsaos’ two-story brick Aurora home on Sept. 29, 2005, about six weeks after the alleged threat.
As detectives combed the scenes for clues, there were only questions – and fear – in this quiet community that suddenly was home for a small army of news crews. Those questions only multiplied with reports that authorities had launched a manhunt for a suspect they’d only say had hopped on a flight to somewhere in the United States.
When Eric Hanson was arrested in Wisconsin a day later, police said he was on his way to Minnesota – where Williams, his last surviving immediate family member, lived.
Authorities suspect he planned to at least confront his last surviving sibling because she knew of his financial wrongdoing.
Hanson, who lived in his parents’ basement in Naperville, also faces charges of identity theft, mail fraud, armed robbery and home invasion. Jury selection began Jan. 15; once the 12 jurors and four alternates are selected, the trial could start as soon as this week and last about a month.
Eric Hanson has pleaded not guilty and maintains his innocence.
No Eye Witness or Murder Weapon
Eric Hanson’s attorney, public defender Robert Miller, has argued that authorities lack any murder weapons, a confession or eyewitness to the killings. He’s also said Hanson simply didn’t have enough time to commit the crimes – by 11 a.m. on Sept. 29, 2005, Hanson had boarded a plane to visit an ex-fiance in Los Angeles.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in October 2005, Eric Hanson maintained that he never threatened his sister and never stole any money from his family. A self-employed mortgage broker before his arrest, Hanson said he had “zero money problems” and was upset to be considered a suspect in the brutal killings.
“I’m just shocked that anyone would think that,” Hanson said. “… I loved my family.”
Yet documents filed in court in preparation for the trial indicate Eric Hanson was a constant source of family strife.
After the slayings, an uncle told police he’d once caught a teenage Hanson watching a videotape of animals being tortured and killed, and a family friend told authorities Hanson had forcibly held his daughter’s head under water. Another family friend told police Eric Hanson had threatened his sister Kate as a teen and was sent to reform school.
Crime Life Of Eric Hanson
In 1995, Eric Hanson pleaded guilty to a series of home invasions in Oakland County, Mich., north of Detroit.
He was allowed to serve his time in a five-month boot camp program for first-time offenders. But when Hanson broke terms of his probation in 1997, a judge sentenced him to 18 months in a Michigan prison.
After his release, Hanson pleaded guilty in 1999 in Illinois to retail theft at a DuPage County department store and aggravated battery involving the merchant, officials said. He was sentenced to 30 months probation and 180 days in jail.
An ex-girlfriend told police of “interventions” the Hanson family would have when they believed Eric was caught lying or treating his relatives poorly. Tsao’s brother and business partner in a computer venture said Hanson had been banned from the Tsao house because Jimmy Tsao thought he was stealing money and valuables from the couple.
Jennifer Williams told police that while her family appeared “picture perfect” to outsiders, the brother she labeled a “con man” counted on his parents to pay his bills and knew they would bail him out.
Her mother, Williams said, was especially concerned with protecting the family’s image.
But family members told police they believe Mary Hanson had discovered her son’s alleged scams when she had trouble using one of her credit cards.
Police allege Eric Hanson killed his 31-year-old sister and her 34-year-old husband late in the evening of September 28th, 2005, in their Aurora home.
They suspect he (Eric Hanson) then went back to his Naperville home and shot his 55-year-old mother and 57-year-old father in bed, wrapped their bodies in drop cloths and moved them to his sister’s home in Aurora.
After Illinois police discovered the gruesome scene in the Tsao’s Aurora home, authorities said police had arranged to meet Eric Hanson in Los Angeles at the airport for his trip back to Illinois. But Hanson boarded an earlier flight.
He was stopped near Portage, Wis., on September 30th, 2005, more than 200 miles from Jennifer Williams’ home. Prosecutors said police found Jimmy Tsao’s Rolex watch and Kate Hanson-Tsao’s diamond wedding ring in Hanson’s SUV, along with a glove that had traces of his father’s blood.
Jennifer Williams’ testimony was crucial to the prosecution’s case. After a court battle, Judge Robert Anderson ruled that her recollection of the alleged threat from Eric Hanson that Kate told her about before her death could be admitted as evidence.
Hanson’s defense attorney argued that Hanson’s right to confront a witness would be denied.
Another court battle developed over videotaped statements Eric Hanson gave to law enforcement officials in Wisconsin. The defense wanted to show the jury only excerpts in which he denied killing his family. But prosecutors said that would be unfair, since Hanson at some times, according to their court motions, “remained silent or cried with his head down at other times during the questioning.”
Anderson ruled the jury can see the videotapes, in full, if the prosecution decides to use them as evidence. In one portion shown in court, Erik Hanson is asked by police why his family was killed.
“I don’t know why,” he said calmly.
Eric Hanson was found guilty of the murders and was given death.
credit murderpedia /Tara Burghart/ Copyright 2007 The Associated Press