Real Crime

Susan Smith and 6 Other Women Who Have Murdered Their Children

Memorial for Michael and Alex Smith, victims of Susan Smith
A memorial for Michael and Alex Smith at the boat landing of John D. Long Lake in South Carolina. The boys were killed by their mother, Susan Smith, who launched her car, with them inside of it, into the lake. Photo by Taro Yamasaki/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.
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    Susan Smith and 6 Other Women Who Have Murdered Their Children

    • Author

      Maria Ricapito

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      Susan Smith and 6 Other Women Who Have Murdered Their Children

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      March 31, 2020

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      A+E Networks

A Georgia mom recently shocked the world by allegedly stabbing to death her husband and four of her five children. Isabel Martinez, 33, has been charged with five counts of murder, five counts of malice murder and six counts of aggravated assault. (One child survived the attack.)

As of the date of this post, Martinez has yet to be convicted of any crime, but we are reminded of some famous cases of mothers convicted of killing their children.

Dominique Cottrez

In July 2010, the bodies of two newborn infants were found by owners gardening at their new house in France. Police contacted the prior residents, Dominique Cottrez and her husband Pierre-Marie Cottrez. Dominique admitted that she had given birth to them and that there were six more infants’ bodies hidden in the garage ( which she delivered from about 1989 to 2007).

She alleged that she had an incestuous relationship with her father and that she considered the killings a means of birth control. In July 2015, she was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison on eight counts of infanticide.

Megan Huntsman

The Utah mother of three said she was too addicted to methamphetamine to take care of more than the three children she already had. She admitted to suffocating or strangling at birth six babies she had between 1996 and 2006. (She said a seventh was stillborn.) She left their bodies in the family garage in plastic bags placed in boxes. Huntsman, 40, pleaded guilty to six counts of murder and, in 2015, was sentenced to six prison terms of five years to life. She will reportedly be eligible for parole in 2064 when she’s 89.

Susan Smith

In 1994, the South Carolina mother of two claimed to have been carjacked by an African-American man. Her two boys, ages three years and 14 months, were in the car. Nine days later, Smith admitted to launching her car down a ramp and into a local lake, drowning both boys, who were strapped into car seats at the time. She claims she did it because she was having an affair with a man who didn’t want children. Sentenced to life in prison, she will be eligible for parole in 2024.

Diane Downs

In 1983, Downs, 27, shot her three children at point-blank range in her car. She sped to the emergency room, where 8-year-old Cheryl was declared dead. She claimed an attempted carjacking was the cause of the wounds. The other two children, Christie, 8, and Danny, 3, were still alive. Prosecutors in Oregon used as evidence Diane’s diaries, in which she obsessed over a married man who didn’t want her kids around. Pregnant again, Diane was convicted in June 1984 when her surviving daughter was able to identify her own mother as the shooter. Diane received a sentence of life in prison plus 50 years. Between the verdict and sentencing, she gave birth to a baby girl who was put up for adoption. In 1987, Diane escaped from her Oregon prison but was quickly recaptured. She was denied parole in 2008. Her two kids who survived the attack were adopted by the lead prosecutor on the case.

Lacey Spears

Spears was 27 when she was found guilty of poisoning her 5-year-old son Garnett to death in Westchester County, New York. Prosecutors said she injected salt into her son’s feeding tube. They said she showed a pattern of repeatedly sickening her son and documenting the ailments on a mommy blog and on Facebook. In 2015, a judge sentenced Spears to 20 years to life in prison, saying he believed she was suffering from Münchausen by proxy syndrome—a mental disorder in which the caretaker of a child either makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it look like the child is injured or ill. 

Melissa Drexler                                                                                                                                              

The New Jersey 18-year-old had apparently hidden her pregnancy and was at her prom with friends when authorities concluded she delivered the baby boy in a bathroom stall. (A friend who heard noises from the stall asked if she was okay.) She was believed to have cut the cord, choked him and put his body in a plastic bag that she then threw away. Drexler pleaded guilty in 1998 to aggravated manslaughter and served just over three years of her 15-year sentence. She was released in 2001 at the age of 23.

Bonnie Liltz

The Schaumberg, Illinois woman adopted Courtney, who was severely disabled, when she was five and raised her as a single mom. Facing her own serious health problems, Liltz gave her daughter, then 28, a fatal dose of medication and then tried to commit suicide. Liltz recovered and was charged with first-degree murder. She pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, involuntary manslaughter, and in 2016 was sentence to four years in prison.



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