This Day In History: August 5

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On August 5, 1998, Marie Noe, age 70, is arrested at her Philadelphia home and charged in the smothering deaths of eight of her children, who died between 1949 and 1968.

Each of the eight infants was reportedly healthy at birth, but later died when home alone with Noe. At the time, the deaths were attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Noe and her husband Arthur had two other children who died from natural causes–one was stillborn and the other passed away at the hospital shortly after birth. Suspicion swirled around Marie Noe as the death toll mounted, but police lacked evidence to charge her with any crime. In the 1990s, a magazine article put the case back in the spotlight. In August 1998, Noe confessed to killing four of her children but claimed she couldn’t remember what happened to the other four. None of the children had lived beyond 14 months. Arthur Noe was not charged in the murders of his children. In June 1999, Noe was given 20 years probation and ordered to spend five years under house arrest.

In a case with eerie parallels to Noe’s, Mary Beth Tinning’s nine healthy children died suddenly and mysteriously between 1972 and 1985. None made it to the age of five. The children all died while home alone with Tinning, of Schenectady, New York, who claimed she found them unconscious. In 1987, Tinning was convicted of smothering her 3-month-old infant daughter Tami Lynne to death two years earlier. She was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

Other infamous instances of infanticide in the United States include Susan Smith of South Carolina, who in 1994 drove a car with her two young sons into a lake. Smith, who initially blamed the boys’ disappearance on a carjacker, was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In another case, Andrea Yates drowned her five young children in a bathtub in June 2001. After being convicted of first-degree murder, Yates’ conviction was overturned and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was committed to a state mental health facility in Texas.