WARNING: Disruptive content. Marie Noe, who suffocated her babies, made various explanations including being transfused with the blood of a prisoner as a child, consanguinity with her husband, and simply “an evil person.”
For 19 years, Marie Noe was the most pitied woman in America after every single one of her 10 babies died.
Between April 1949 and January 1968, Marie and her husband Arthur were the focus of intense national sympathy, and many people believed they were victims of the worst possible luck.
Two of her tragic children died in the hospital – one was stillborn, the other only six hours old.
But the other eight died in the Noe House in Philadelphia while their mother was caring for them.
Although they left the hospital in good health, none of these eight Noe babies lived more than 14 months, with their mysterious premature death being attributed to cot death – a relatively new medical phenomenon in the 1950s and 60s.
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But in reality she had suffocated each and every one of them with a pillow.
Richard, Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Arthur, Constance, Mary, Catherine, and little Arthur had all died from their mother.
Baby number six, Letitia, was stillborn, the official cause of death listed as “umbilical cord knot”, and baby eight, Theresa, died of a bleeding disorder.
Baby deaths, one at a time, would have aroused suspicion among doctors, detectives, and coroners, but there was simply no evidence that it was anything other than infant death.
Thirty years passed, and it was not until the late 1990s that Stephen Fried, a reporter for Philadelphia Magazine, delved into the history of the Noes.
Fried pursued the couple – now in their early 70s – and persuaded them to speak to him for his article.
Marie told him that no one could prove that she had harmed her babies, none was injured or scarred.
She said, “Just one of those stupid things that happen. We just shouldn’t have kids, I guess.”
Arthur added, “The Lord needed angels, so we have a lot of them up there.”
Fried gave his finished report – which was originally inspired by a theory that many historical infant deaths were hushed up – to the police, who reopened the long-dormant Noe case.
In March 1998, they interviewed Marie for 12 hours, and then, three decades after she murdered her tenth and final child, Marie Noe admitted to killing seven more – although she only looked at details of the deaths of the first three and the fifth could remember.
When she killed Richard, her first child, in April 1949, she said, “He used to cry. 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 into the pillow until he stopped moving. “
Two years later, she killed her second child, Elizabeth, in a similar manner.
Marie recalled, “She was in the bassinet. I put her on her back, then I took a pillow from the bed and put the pillow over her face and suffocated her. She was worried. Elizabeth was much stronger than Richard. And she fought when the pillow was over her face. I held the pillow over her face until she stopped moving. “