Marie Noe, now 81 years old, admitted in 1998 to smothering eight of her babies over a 19-year period. In an extensive and well-researched piece of journalism, Daily News reporter Barbara Laker recounts the murderous tale after recently interviewing the woman who got away with infanticide for 48 years.
Between 1949 and 1968, Noe and her husband Arthur lost 10 of their children, all 14 months or younger. Two died of apparent natural causes, the rest died at the hands of their mother.
Laker uncovered Noe’s 12-hour interview with police in March 1998, where the then 71-year-old woman gave details of her crimes:
"He was always crying. He couldn't tell me what was bothering him. He just kept crying. . . . There was a pillow under his face . . . I took my hand and pressed his face down into the pillow until he stopped movin," Noe said of the murder of her first born, Richard, who was only a month old.
She killed again two years later, giving police these details of her daughter Elizabeth’s demise:
"She was in the bassinet. I put her on her back, and then I took a pillow from the bed and put the pillow over her face and suffocated her. She was fussing. Elizabeth was a lot stronger than Richard was, and she was fighting when the pillow was over her face. I held the pillow over her face until she stopped moving."
What makes a mother kill her own children? Noe didn’t give insight to this terrible question.
Noe’s lack of introspection with the Daily News reporter shows that the white-haired murderess hasn’t changed much in the past nine years.
Sentenced to five years house arrest and 20 years probation, with the justification that she must be studied by experts so that society can understand--and perhaps prevent--women killing their own children, there had been no headway with the psychological investigation in 2001--more than two years after her conviction.
In June of 2001 NBC Philadelphia and a judge demanded to know why experts had not yet begun to dissect the murderess’ brain.
“One of Marie’s doctors said…Marie is extremely complicated and very difficult to evaluate,” Karen Hepp reported for NBC Philadelphia June 5, 2001. “She doesn’t give candid answers all the time, she has some mental limitations, they’ve even found some irregularities in her brainwaves when they’ve done testing.”
Her lack of openness about what she had done continued for Laker.
But when she has decided to “think of what happened” over the past nine years, psychologists have learned some things about the woman who killed her young.
One doctor said that she had been neglected by her parents and physically, psychologically, and possibly sexually abused as a child. She also had a history of promiscuity and heavy drinking.
"[S]he felt she never belonged and did not know what to do as a mother," said the report Laker uncovered.
Among her reasons for killing her children when she wasn’t claiming amnesia about it: She had a blood transfusion as child with a prisoner’s blood; she was “wicked;” and she was her husband’s blood cousin.
Noe was not arrested and charged for her children’s murders until a reporter for Philadelphia magazine, Stephen Fried, investigated the bizarre deaths of her children and brought it to the attention of homicide detectives.
"The Lord needed angels," Noe’s husband, who always believed his wife was innocent, told Fried, "so we got a ton of them up there."