Monday, September 19, 2011

Cynthia McDonald, Child Care Provider & Serial Killer Who Starved Babies to Death - 1887

FULL TEXT: Rochester, N. Y.. — For some time it has been known that a “baby farm” was being conducted in the western part of the city, but so quietly that only a few days ago was the exact locality discovered. The house was then watched. It was learned yesterday that a child had died suddenly at the place, which la kept by a woman named Cynthia McDonald, and at 10 o’clock this morning a city coroner, with officers, made a raid upon the house, which was searched.

A sickening sight was presented. Instead of one dead child two tiny corpses were found, while two other little forms were discovered in another room apparently with just the breath of life in them. The Coroner immediately sent for a physician, who examined the bodies of the dead children and found that there was absolutely not an ounce of flesh on the bones of the little ones. The limbs were hardly as thick as a man’s thumb. The stomachs appeared, from external examination, to be empty, while the faces had a pinched expression. A search about the place revealed a little milk in bottles and some solid food. No marks of violence could be found on the bodies of the living children, but their condition was pitiable.

One child, a boy, whose age is given as two and a half years by his mother, lay on the bed just alive, suffering from a loathsome disease which had nearly covered his body. The little victim could only moan in his agony and was merely skin and bones. The other child living was a baby girl who, if she had been as fat as infants usually are at her age, would have been a pretty child, but like the other children, her arms and legs were shrunken, her cheeks were drawn in and hollow, and from her appearance she seemed to be in the last stages of famine. The doctor said that if the living children were left in the same condition only a few hours would elapse before death ended their sufferings. In the house besides Mrs. McDonald was a woman named Hawkins, who is the mother of two of the children—the diseased boy and the little girl who had died.

The Coroner arrested Mrs. McDonald. She was taken to Police Headquarters and there held, the Coroner charging her with murder in the second degree. Mrs. McDonald is a small woman about fifty years of age, with a shrewd, determined face. She was calm and manifested not the slightest trace of emotion at the attest. When speaking about the affair she appeared us unconcerned as though she had no interest in it.

This afternoon a post-mortem was held on the bodies of the dead imams. Not a truce of food could be found in their stomachs, and in the opinion of medical experts they died of starvation. An examination was made of some of the milk and it was found to be so old that a bad smell came from it. The McDonald woman, it seems from investigation, has conducted a kind of lying-in hospital and secret baby farm at the place for several years. The women who visited her were most of them unmarried, and bought to conceal their distance by leaving their offspring. Officers who are investigating learn that three infants died at the place one day in July and were quietly buried. It is supposed that several have been secretly buried in the yard around the house. The woman has sometimes had ten children in her care.

[“Were Babies Starved To Death ? Arrest of Mrs. McDonald of Rochester – Two Children Dead and Two Dying.” The Evening World (N.Y.), Sep. 26, 1887, p. 2]


For more cases of “Baby Farmers,” professional child care providers who murdered children see The Forgotten Serial Killers.


For more cases of this category, see: Female Serial Killers of 19th Century America (as of January 20, 2014, the collection contains 61 cases)


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