A Guide To Understanding The Tragic Death Of Julia Roberts’ Half-Sister Nancy Motes

Julia Roberts' half-sister Nancy Motes


Any time a family member of a celebrity dies, nobody really knows what to do with themselves. This person wasn’t famous themselves, so this is probably the first you’re hearing of them, but they’re related to someone who is, so there’s suddenly a whole bunch of news about them at once.

At least that’s the case for Julia Roberts‘ half-sister Nancy Motes, who died this past Sunday, February 9th. There’s a lot of weird information swirling around in this tragedy, so I’m going to lay it out in a way that’s hopefully a little clearer and easier to follow.

Julia Roberts and her half-sister Nancy Motes(via)


Nancy is Julia’s half-sister through their mother, Betty Lou Motes. She was thirty-seven years old at the time of her death, nine years younger than Julia. She was engaged to marry a man named John Dilbeck in May of this year.


An apparent overdose, although an autopsy has not yet been completed. The family released the following statement:

“It is with deep sadness that the family of Nancy Motes … confirms that she was found dead in Los Angeles yesterday of an apparent drug overdose. There is no official report from the Coroner’s office yet. The family is both shocked and devastated.”

It’s also assumed to be a suicide. More on that later.


Nancy was discovered in the bathtub of an LA residence where she was pet-sitting. She was discovered by her fiance.


As I said, it’s rumored to be a suicide, and that’s for two reasons. First of all, both illegal and prescription drugs were found within easy reach of her body, and second of all, she reportedly left a five-page suicide note detailing her reasons.


You can never really know why someone decides to take their own life, but Nancy cites a particularly fraught relationship with Julia actually, dedicating a full three pages to blaming her for driving her to do it. Nancy had struggled with both drugs and her weight, and given repeated interviews claiming that Julia tormented her about her appearance and rejected her as a sister as she became more famous.

Nancy used Twitter in particular to lash out at her sibling, referring to her as ‘America’s Sweetheart’ and calling her a bitch. All of those tweets have since been deleted, and most likely stemmed from Nancy’s desire to follow in Julia’s footsteps and become famous herself, and her subsequent frustration at being unable to do so.

Bottom line, this is a terrible tragedy, and our hearts are with everyone involved.

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      Poor woman. I know that she has been in the press for calling out Julia, but I always thought it seemed more like a cry for attention than anything else. Even if Julia Roberts was cruel to her sister, it’s more likely that she had a series of other problems going on that led to this. So sad.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Agreed. Very sad.

    • My Heart Goes Out…

      I’m sure it’s not as simple as “Julia’s a huge bitch to me,” whether that allegation is true or not. Suicide is always complicated, like you said, but she obviously had a lot of anger towards her sister is she wanted Julia to feel responsible for her death. That’s pretty heavy. Also, I’m sure drugs confuse everything. And people tend to blame others and be angry and resentful when they’re in a bad place. I don’t know if both of her parents are still alive, but if they are, my heart goes out to them. I don’t think that there is anything much worse than burying a child.

      • YouWinSome

        Both of Nancy’s parents are living. Her mother lives in California, and her father lives in Marietta, Georgia. (His name is Michael Motes.) The circumstances surrounding her death are quite surreal — to name her older half-sister as the primary cause of her decision to take her life is, indeed, heavy.