A mother’s love is one of the most powerful bonds. Mothers, even within the animal kingdom, would risk life and limb when it comes to the safety of their children. Some mothers have even mustered superhuman strength when they have sensed that their child’s life was in danger. This powerful bond is the glue that holds many people together and those who live in healthy households often describe their mother as “their rock” when life shakes them up.
Perhaps it is for this reason that we find it hard to comprehend how a mother could kill her own children in cold blood. Not only are children the most vulnerable members of society, but the very people we expect to be the first in line to protect their young from danger are the same people who would take their life. Today we’ll be looking at some of the most horrific cases of killer moms within recent history.
In 2001, Andrea Yates lined up her five children and systematically drown them all in her bathtub before dialing 911. Yates immediately admitted to police that she had committed the murders. While in custody, Yates began speaking of demons and had suggested that she had killed her children in order to “save” them. It was later learned that Yates had a history of mental illness, including postpartum psychosis after the birth of her fifth child.
The case, which sent shockwaves throughout Texas and around the world, would go to trial twice. The first trial in 2002 convicted Yates of capital murder. Yates’ plea of insanity was overturned and it was determined that she was criminally responsible for the murders. She was sentenced to life in prison.
The case would go to trial again in 2006. This time, her plea of insanity stuck. Yates was determined to be criminally insane at the time of the murders of her children. She was sent to a psychiatric unit where she will remain until she is deemed fit to reenter society.
As covered in Episode 67 of Sword and Scale, Mitchelle Blair came to be known as “freezer mom” after police uncovered the bodies of two of her children in the freezer of her Detroit-area home. No one had noticed the children were missing. It wasn’t until a crew was sent to the home after Blair had been evicted and stumbled upon the gruesome scene, that anyone had suspected that the children had been killed.
Blair admitted that she had killed her two children, claiming that they had both been molesting her youngest child. In Blair’s confession, she stated matter of factly that she had killed the children and would do so again if given the opportunity. Blair’s cold nature about the matter shocked the nation. She was later sentenced to serve life in prison.
Police uncovered a house of horrors in 2014, when the estranged husband of Megan Huntsman discovered the corpses of multiple newborn babies buried in the garage the couple had once shared. Seven tiny bodies were uncovered in various boxes that had been piled in with other assorted bric-a-brac housed within the garage.
Huntsman later admitted to killing six of the seven babies at birth. She was sentenced to six terms of up to life in prison in 2014.
In what continues to be one of the most controversial cases of our time, in 2008, Casey Anthony was charged with the murder of her daughter, Caylee. At the time of Caylee’s disappearance, Anthony hid the fact that her two-year-old daughter had been missing from everyone, including her own parents.
Prior to learning that Caylee had been missing, Anthony’s mother had phoned the police to report that the car Anthony had been driving, “smelled like a dead body.” These 911 calls, in conjunction with other evidence, suggested that Casey may have killed Caylee. Unfortunately, none of the evidence presented at Anthony’s trial was solid enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Caylee’s death had been the result of a homicide. The case was overturned and Anthony was allowed to walk free, though many continue to believe that she had gotten away with murder, primarily due to Anthony’s behavior and her reactions before and since the death of her daughter.
It was May of 1983 when Diane Downs drove to the McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center with her three children. The children had all been shot by an unknown carjacker, according to Downs. Details within the story didn’t make sense and Downs’ mannerisms set off red flags to detectives tasked with the investigation.
One of Downs’ children died at the hospital, while her two other children had sustained near-fatal injuries but were able to survive. Downs’ story began to unravel and during her trial her own daughter testified that it was Downs who had shot them, allegedly to carry on an affair with a married man. Downs was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.
A female caller frantically dialed 911 on June 6, 1996, to report that her two children were dying on the floor of her home. The caller, identified as Darlie Routier, claimed that she had been asleep on the couch with her two boys when the family became the victims of a home invasion. The intruder stabbed the two boys and stabbed Routier before fleeing the home.
After carefully inspecting the evidence at the scene, the story told by Routier did not seem to add up. Routier was arrested and later convicted of the murder of her two boys. While no clear motive has ever been established, many believe that she may have had financial motivation behind the killings. There are also some who believe that Routier has been wrongly convicted. She is currently on Death Row awaiting execution.