The Tragic Death Of Julia Roberts' Half-Sister Nancy Motes

Note: The article discusses addiction issues and suicide.

Julia Roberts' family is no stranger to fame. Both of her older siblings, Eric Roberts and Lisa Roberts Gillan, are also actors. And while younger film fans might not be as familiar with Eric as they are with Julia, he actually had a stellar career in his early days, earning one Oscar and three Golden Globe nominations. Similarly, Emma Roberts — Julia's niece and Eric's daughter — also went on to prove the acting chops run in the Roberts' veins. 

But Eric and Lisa aren't Julia's only siblings. Her mother Betty Sue Bredemus divorced her father when she was young and went on to marry Michael Motes the following year. Bredemus and Motes welcomed a daughter, Nancy Motes, amid a reported unhealthy environment, according to a 2013 Mirror investigation. Sources told the outlet that Julia "feared and despised" Michael, while Bredemus considered the marriage to him "the biggest mistake I ever made." Bredemus divorced Michael in 1983 when Julia, Lisa, and Nancy were still young. Even Eric, who was older and out of the house by then, disliked his mother's second husband. "It was common knowledge where we grew up that Motes was a freak," he said in a 1998 interview.

In light of the difficult circumstances, Bredemus did the best she could. Julia has always admired her resilience. "My mom worked a full-time job and raised three girls pretty much on her own," she told People in 2017. While Lisa and Julia went on to find success, Nancy wasn't as lucky.

Nancy Motes died from a drug overdose

In February 2014, Nancy Motes' fiancé found her unresponsive in the bathtub of the Los Angeles home of a family for whom she was pet-sitting, the New York Daily News reported. Authorities found both non-prescription and prescription drugs at the scene, leading them to suspect they had played a part in Motes' death. It was later determined Motes suffered a drug overdose before drowning, The U.S. Sun noted. However, Motes left a handwritten note that suggested her death may have been a suicide, according to the Daily Mail.

In the letter, Motes indicated she felt abandoned by her family and gave insight into her mental state at the time of her death. "My mother and so-called 'siblings' get nothing except the memory that they are the ones that drove me into the deepest depression I've ever been in," she wrote in the note published by the Daily Mail. Motes appeared to feel particular resentment toward Julia Roberts, whom she had accused of body-shaming her, Page Six reported.

Motes went so far as to claim Roberts discouraged her from pursuing an acting career because of her weight. "Julia did not want to see me go down that path. Mostly because I was overweight," Motes told the New York Daily News. Just weeks before she died, Motes had taken to X, then Twitter, to blast her sister. "Just so you all know 'America's Sweetheart' is a B***H," she tweeted, the Daily Mail reported in February 2014.

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Julia Roberts also had a strained relationship with Eric Roberts

Nancy Motes wasn't the only family member with whom Julia Roberts had issues. Julia and Eric Roberts' relationship was strained for years. The Roberts siblings are said to have severed ties in 1993 when Julia offered financial help to Eric's ex-partner Kelly Cunningham amid their custody battle over Emma Roberts, News & Record reported. However, Eric denies he and Julia were ever feuding or that they had a falling out. "Julia and I have always been fine," he said on the "Behind The Velvet Rope With David Yontef" podcast in 2022.

Instead, Eric believes his behavior pushed his loved ones away. Like his half-sister Motes, Eric also dealt with substance abuse, which he cited as the main reason behind his estrangement from Julia. "I was exhausting to be around," he told Vanity Fair in 2018. "Complainy, blamey, unable to enjoy enjoyment. Everyone in my world needed a break sometimes, and that must have included Julia." 

The drugs affected nearly every aspect of Eric's life — and almost ended it in a 1988 car accident, when he was driving while high on cocaine. "I was in a coma. My speech was very retarded. I had to learn how to walk again and talk again. It was really hard," he said. Eric and Julia mended their relationship when she welcomed her twins, Phinnaeus and Hazel, in 2004. "I was ushered into their room and was immediately awash in brotherly and uncle-ly love," he said. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).