Calgary Sun

Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Killer mom spared jail

Why she took eight infants' lives to be studied

PROBATION FOR 20 YEARS... Marie Noe, left, and her husband, Arthur, leave the probation office in Philadelphia yesterday after she pleaded guilty to smothering eight of her 10 children in a case that dated back to 1949.
-- AP

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A 70-year-old woman who admitted yesterday to smothering eight of her young children decades ago will not go to jail so researchers can study her to learn more about why new mothers sometimes kill newborns.

Marie Noe pleaded guilty to killing the children between 1949 and 1968 and was sentenced to 20 years' probation, the first five of which must be served under home confinement.

Noe also must undergo mental health treatment sessions with a psychiatrist to determine the cause of her repeated infanticide.

"We are satisfied that justice will prevail," said deputy district attorney Charles F. Gallagher.

"It's important for the medical community and the legal community that she admit these murders and -- something good will come out of the analysis."

Gallagher added the light sentence also had to do with "the unusual circumstances of the case and the age of the case," and Noe's being the sole caretaker of her ailing husband, Arthur, 77.

"This is not one of those situations where we have a heart of a killer," said defence lawyer David Rudenstein.

With no evidence otherwise, doctors and investigators had reluctantly attributed the deaths of eight children, none of whom lived longer than 14 months, to sudden infant death syndrome.

The Noes had two other children. Both died of natural causes.

But police never closed the investigation and Noe was charged last August, a year after the case returned to the spotlight following the publication of The Death of Innocents, a book about SIDS.

A story in Philadelphia magazine had also brought to light suspicions of a retired Philadelphia medical examiner who investigated the final two deaths.

Noe told police last year she suffocated four of the infants and said did not recall the other four deaths, but probably was responsible.

Yesterday, Noe, walking with a cane and an electronic monitor around her waist, answered the judge with deliberate "yes" and "no" answers, but did not explain why she killed her children.

Her husband sat in the courtroom shaking his head as the names of the eight babies were read. In the past he's said: "She wouldn't harm a fly."

Copyright© 1999, Canoe Limited Partnership.