Monday, September 19, 2011

Dr. Bessie Atherton & Alice Marie Cramer, Accused Serial Baby Killers - 1926


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 2): Peoria, Ill., May 19 – With the returning of three indictments against Dr. Harry H. Whitten and Dr. Bessie Atherton, physician and chiropractor respectively, authorities believe they have completed the case against Mrs. Alice Marie Cramer, now held in the Peoria county jail as the alleged proprietor of a “baby mill.”


Mrs. Cramer was arrested after the body of a baby had been found in a deserted house in West Peoria. Further search revealed that at least one other baby had died under what appeared to be suspicious circumstances. After her arrest and questioning Mrs. Cramer made a confession in which she implicated the two others against whom indictments   have now been returned.

It is believed that babies of unwed women were taken to the “baby market” where, they were disposed of after, however, insurance had been taken out on them. Mrs. Cramer has admitted insuring one baby in three different companies, two of which made payment after the death of the infant. The other company refused to pay inasmuch as it considered the child’s death suspicious.

The vital organs of one of the bodies found in the West Peoria house have been sent to Chicago for analysis, to determine whether it had or had not been poisoned.

State’s Attorney Henry Pratt, in charge of the case, issued a statement in which he said: “Whether the babies died of poison, willful neglect or neglect through ignorance is one point which will be cleared up, but in any event the placing of children with a woman  like Mrs. Cramer who is plainly unfit to care for them, and placing them without regard to the provisions of the law, will be stopped.”

Dr. Whitten and Bessie Atherton deny any connection with attention given prospective mothers at the baby farm.


[“Doctor and Woman Chiropractor Indicted in “Baby Farm” Probe,” (By Central Press), Logansport Morning Press (In.), May 20, 1926, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): Peoria, Ill., Sept. 3,—(AP) — Five warrants were sworn out here today for two Peoria doctors and three women, bringing out the “baby farm” case that was discovered here several months ago and which died down because, as some claimed, witnesses were “gotten to” before they had an opportunity to tell .their stories said to involve some of the city's most prominent families.

[Untitled, syndicated (AP), Joplin News Herald (Mo.), Sep. 3, 1926, p. 5]

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[Cramer photo source: “Ran Baby Farm?” syndicated, The Emporia Gazette (Ka.), May 19, 1926, p. 3]

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

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