Moms who kill: Five of the most infamous alleged mommy murders in history
Georgia law enforcement officers are continuing their search for the remains of 20-month old Quinton Simon, who was last seen inside his Savannah home earlier this month.
Investigators have since been able to identify Quinton’s mother, Leilani Simon, as their “prime suspect,” in the toddler’s Savannah disappearance. They’ve also said they had reason to believe the baby’s body was discarded in a “specific dumpster” and transported to a local landfill by “regular means.”
After days of searching a Waste Management landfill in Chatham County, police and FBI personnel have not located Quinton’s body. Despite identifying their suspect, police have not charged anyone in connection with the tragic news of Quinton’s disappearance and presumed death.
But instances in which parents cause their children’s deaths are, unfortunately, more common than expected.
Experts from Brown University’s Alpert Medical School cited the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports in 2014 to determine that filicide – a parent’s act of killing his or her child or children – occurs on average 500 times per year in the United States.
Here’s a look at some of the most infamous alleged filicide cases in history:
The case involving Melissa Towne is new, having only been reported in mid-October 2022.
Towne has been charged with capital murder for her five-year-old daughter’s stabbing and strangulation death. Texas officials said she has admitted to killing the girl, but she has not been tried or convicted of the alleged crimes.
Towne, 37, is accused of leading her daughter, Nichole, into the woods near Spring Creek Park on Sunday in the Houston neighborhood of Tomball. She allegedly ordered her daughter to her knees and slit her throat, police and officials have said.
Towne then went on to cover the girl’s head with a trash bag after she began resisting and strangled Nichole for 30 to 45 minutes – even while the child screamed, “I’ve been good,” prosecutors and investigators said.
A police affidavit obtained by The Associated Press described how Towne “stated she wanted to end (her daughter’s) life because she was an evil child and did not want to deal with her anymore.”
But after Tuesday’s court hearing, court-appointed attorney James Stafford said Towne had been admitted to a mental institution at least nine times and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, The Associated Press reported.
“There’s no doubt there’s some dark demons haunting her,” Stafford reportedly said.
On Monday, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez revealed that Towne drove to a local hospital’s emergency room, where staff discovered her daughter’s body inside the Jeep SUV “partially wrapped in plastic and mesh bags.”
“Towne admitted to killing her daughter,” he said. She was ordered held on $15 million bond.
Jennifer and Sarah Hart were found to have killed themselves and their six adopted children, who ranged in age from 12 to 19 years old, in March 2018.
According to reports from the time, Jennifer drove the couple’s SUV off a Mendocino County cliff on March 28, 2018, plunging themselves and their six kids off the 100-foot precipice.
The women were found to have had large amounts of alcohol and Benadryl, respectively, in their systems. The children also showed signs of being given large amounts of Benadryl.
The women and their kids – 19-year-old Markis, Hannah, 16, Abigail, 14, Devonte, 15, Jeremiah, 14, and 12-year-old Sierra – were all pronounced dead. Seven of their bodies were located, but Devonte Hart’s remains were never found.
Investigators determined that Sarah Hart had made several Internet searches related to medicine doses, suicide and drowning.
The women drove their children from their home in Woodland, Washington, to California in the days before the murder-suicide, investigators said. They had an alleged history of domestic assault and child neglect.
Andrea Yates confessed to killing her five kids in 2001, when investigators said she drowned them in a bathtub inside their Houston, Texas, home. A jury in 2015 found her not guilty by reason of insanity.
The woman said she had drowned each of her five kids, including her six-month-old daughter, one by one. Mary, 6-months-old, Luke, 2, Paul, 3, John, 5, and Noah, 7, did not survive.
She then called 911 and allegedly told an officer: “I just killed my kids.”
The office recalled entering the home to find two pairs of wet footprints, which he said he believed meant that one of the kids had gotten away from the tub before Yates was able to catch them, according to reports.
A different officer reportedly described how after the killings, “she seemed normal to me.”
Yates’ attorneys argued that the mom was experiencing severe post-partum depression, and her ex-husband described her as a “loving mother who just fell to this disease,” The Associated Press reported.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Resnick testified at a previous trial for Yates that she was delusional and believed she had destroyed her children and that they would later become criminals.
Susan Smith was convicted in 1995 of drowning her two sons – and then concocting a story about how a Black man had stolen her car with her young sons inside.
On Oct. 25, 1994, the 23-year-old mother of two allegedly told her then-husband that the carjacker had kidnapped Michael and Alex, ages 3 and 14-months-old, respectively.
According to reports at the time, she told police a gunman had commandeered her vehicle while she had been at a stop light, and had then abducted the boys. She kept up the lie for weeks, but her story became inconsistent.
She reportedly failed a polygraph test and confessed in early November to drowning the boys. Investigators ultimately determined that Smith had rolled her vehicle into the John D. Long Lake with her sons still strapped into their car seats.
Smith was convicted of two counts of murder in 1995 and was sentenced to life in prison.
Tinning, from Upstate New York, was convicted in 1987 of killing her four-month-old daughter. But she was suspected of killing several of her eight children who had died, The Associated Press reported at the time.
Many of Tinning’s nine children were found to have died under suspicious circumstances from 1972 to 1985, the outlet reported. She was convicted of smothering four-month-old Tami Lynne in 1985 and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. She initially denied killing children before changing course.
“After the deaths of my other children … I just lost it,” Tinning told the parole board, according to the Albany Times Union. She said she “became a damaged, worthless piece of person and when my daughter was young, in my state of mind at that time, I just believed that she was going to die also. So I just did it.”
Three of Tinning’s children had died in 1972 over the course of two months. Of those three children, an eight-month-old girl was reportedly found to have died from acute meningitis, and Tinning claimed the two- and four-year-old kids had died from seizures. The four-year-old was found to have suffered from cardiac arrest.
A fourth child died at two weeks old, allegedly from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, the AP reported.
The fifth, a five-month-old, died in 1975 from acute pulmonary edema. A three-month-old girl then reportedly died from SIDS, and a boy who was the same age died in 1980, though the cause was reportedly undetermined.
A three-year-old boy, whom the couple were allegedly planning to adopt, reportedly died from bronchial pneumonia in 1981.
Tinning later confessed to smothering three of her children, but she was only ever convicted in the death of Tami Lynne, the AP reported.
Tinning, now 80, was released on parole in August 2018. She served 30 years in a New York State prison, records show.
Fox News’ Louis Casiano contributed to this report.