In the spring of 1998, my magazine story "Cradle to Grave" led Philadelphia police to reopen the 30-year-old investigation into the deaths of all 10 children born to Marie Noe—deaths that had previously been attributed to "crib death" or SIDS. The day after the story came out, Mrs. Noe confessed to homicide detectives that she had smothered her babies. The 70-year-old woman later pleaded guilty to multiple counts of murder, in what experts believe is the largest case of maternal infanticide ever.

In an unusual plea bargain, Marie Noe was sentenced to 20 years probation, the first five under house arrest, and she agreed to cooperate with an unprecedented psychiatric analysis to determine why she committed her crimes. The sentence was the subject of intense national debate in June of 1999 when it was handed down and, two years later, the debate began again when it was revealed that little progress had been made with her analysis.

I originally learned of Marie Noe in the book, The Death of Innocents, by Rick Firstman and Jamie Talan. This important book focuses primarily on another case of SIDS later prosecuted as a murder, but it also offers the most comprehensive (and readable) analysis available of the entire science of SIDS and infanticide.

 

 

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Listen to a 7/99 radio interview with Marie Noe's lawyer, Munchausen expert Dr. Marc Feldman and myself from WHYY's Radio Times WHYY’s Radio Times in Real Audio

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Fred Harvey