Thursday, September 22, 2011

Virginia B. Jaspers, Baby Sitter Serial Killer - 1956


FULL TEXT: New Haven, Conn. – Police said Monday that a 200 pound pediatric nurse had admitted shaking to death three infants because they got on her nerves or refused to take their formulas.

“It was all uncontrollable,” Virginia B. Jaspers, 33, told Coroner James J. Corrigan. “I didn’t know why I did it. Children sometimes get on my nerves.”

Her lawyer said she would have her examined by a psychiatrist.

Miss Jaspers admitted breaking the leg of another infant and inflicting a head injury on a fifth, the coroner said.

Miss Jaspers was taken into custody Monday as the result of the death last Thursday of the 11 day old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Allen Kapsinow of New Haven.

Police Chief Francis V. McManus quoted Miss Jaspers as saying she shook the infant violently because it refused its formula.

~ Other Cases Listed ~

McManus said the case developed after Dr. Sterling Taylor. Acting medical examiner, reported that the Kaspsinow child had suffered head and body injuries.

Police said Miss Jaspers also admitted:

Causing the death in 1948 of the 7 week old son of Mr. and Mrs. Allen Hubbard of Guilford, Conn.

Causing the death of the infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Willard Malkin is a concert soprano whose stage name is Joan Bainerd.

Inflicting a head injury on the 8 week old son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Seidel of New Haven.

Breaking the leg of the 3 month old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Schaffer of Woodbridge, Conn., in 1955.

~ Stayed with Parents ~

A private pediatric nurse for seven years, Miss Jaspers boarded often with parents of the children and was not connected with a hospital. She completed an 18 month pediatrics course at St. Agnes home in West Hartford, a home for children maintained by the Hartford Catholic archdiocese.

Her father, William Jaspers, is a former state senator and New Haven county treasurer. He also is an assistant personnel manager of the New Haven railroad.

[“Nurse Admits Shaking Three Babies to Death – They Refused to Take Formulas and Got On Her Nerves, She Explains To Police,” syndicated (AP), The Milwaukee Journal (Wi.), Aug. 28, 1956, p. 1]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 2): In peaceful, suburban East Haven, Connecticut, Virginia Belle Jaspers was regarded as the town freak. Small boys called her “The Giantess” and wondered if there was a more enormous woman in all the world. Less imaginative villagers stifled chuckles when she rode to the Old Stone Church on Sundays, perched comically on a dwarfed, straining bicycle.

“The Giantess” was six feet tall and weighed 220 pounds. Nature had dealt her a cruel blow in almost every respect, tremendous hands and feet, a lumpy face, a stumpy neck, weak eyes that squinted cat-like through thick glasses and an awkward gait on elephantine legs.

It would have been difficult for this creature to have moved inconspicuously through any city. In East Haven it was impossible. The Jaspers family was constantly in the public eye. Her father, William Jaspers, a former state Senator and an executive of the New Haven Railroad, was one of the most prominent men in town. And her younger sister, Betty, long had been the toast of East Haven’s and shapely enough to win a string of beauty contests.

But if her place in an otherwise popular and attractive family had any serious effect on Virginia’s outlook on life, it did not show on the surface. For more than half her 33 years she had endured the stares, the muffled laughter and the children’s cruel taunts without a sign of bitterness.

At Holcombe’s Drug Store she would chat pleasantly with her neighbors and indulge her childlike passion for double-dip ice cream sodas and large frappes. Before leaving she would proudly display an assortment of baby pictures. She called them “my babies” and she had a story to tell about each one. Actually, they were infants she had shortly after her work as a practical pediatric nurse.

“Babies are so she’d say. “I love them all.”

Her only interest in life seemed to be “her babies.” She had no boy friends, virtually no social life. When she’d return home between cases, she’d go shopping for greeting cards or gifts for the infants who had been in her care. She seldom forgot a birthday and at Christmas she’d spend more than her $63 weekly salary on toys. At other times she visited her former employers and brought them enlargements of the snapshots she had taken of their babies. It seemed that as long as East Haven and vicinity continued to produce offspring! “The Giantess” would be well satisfied with the world.

In the early hours of August 23, 1956, however, a chain of events began that was to alter this pleasant portrait.

At 3: 15 a.m. in the New Haven home of Mr. and Mrs. Allen Kapsinow their 11-day-old daughter Abbe awoke and cried. Nurse Jaspers, on sleep-in duty, responded. Changing the baby’s diaper, she sensed the child was burning with fever. A thermometer confirmed her suspicions and she immediately aroused the parents. The baby’s pediatrician was summoned. He rushed her to the hospital. Two hours later little Abbe died at the Grace-New Haven Hospital, victim of a cerebral hemorrhage. Nurse Jaspers, who had kept an anxious vigil at the hospital, tried to comfort and assist the distraught parents before packing her bags and checking out of the case.

Enter two alert doctors at the New Haven hospital. One, a young and inquisitive resident in pediatrics, had performed two spinal taps prior to the infant’s death to determine the cause of the hemorrhaging. His findings were illuminating. Blood was detected in the normally clear spinal indication of mishap or, possibly, violence. A post-mortem supported the theory. The membrane covering the brain and spinal cord had been ruptured either by a blow on the head, a fall, or manhandling.

By a remarkable coincidence, the report of the Kapsinow baby’s death came to the attention of a New Haven pediatrician (author’s note: the doctors have requested that their names be withheld) who had been assigned to supervise the hospital’s pediatrics section that month, and the suspicion of mishap to a baby in the big nurse’s charge struck a familiar and frightening chord.

This doctor quickly recalled his 1948 case of 13-day-old Cynthia Hubbard, who also had died of a cerebral hemorrhage. “Death from natural causes” had closed the case, but there was a suspicion that the baby might have been dropped or thrown. Miss Jaspers had been the infant’s nurse. In 1951 he had learned of another sudden death on a Jaspers case. Jennifer Malkan, two months old, had died of asphyxiation while her mother, soprano soloist Joan Brainerd, was away and Nurse Jaspers had been in attendance. And only the year before, the doctor remembered, he had been summoned to aid Bruce Schaeffer, three weeks old, whose leg had been mysteriously broken while under the Jaspers woman’s care.


For eight years the doctor had been powerless to act. “There are awkward nurses and competent nurses, and the line between ineptness and actual intent is very difficult to the doctor explained in describing his helpless position.

The strong evidence in the Kapsinow case now permitted him to proceed. The wheels turned swiftly.

In the two days that followed the death of Abbe Kapsinow, New Haven detectives, contacting the agency through which the nurse operated, checked out the cases Miss Jaspers had handled over a 12-year period. The results were staggering. Suspicion of cruelty and mistreatment was everywhere.

On August 27 Virginia Jaspers was summoned to the New Haven police headquarters for questioning. En route to New Haven, her puzzled father asked her, “Is there anything you want to tell me?”

She shrugged her large shoulders in bewilderment.

“I don’t know why they’d want to talk to she replied.

At headquarters, Chief of Police Francis V. McManus and his men confronted her with a compilation of the unusually large number of casualties among the infants who had been entrusted to her care. How did she account for this? It was strange, the nurse admitted, but she couldn’t explain it. Steadfastly she denied ever hurting any baby. These were anxious moments for the police, who had to entertain the remote possibility that this hulk of a woman simply was clumsy.

Suddenly Nurse Jaspers broke down and sobbed.

“I lied to you, Dad, I lied to she’cried. “I knew why they wanted me all the time...”

Thereupon she began a three-and-a-half-hour recitation of the incredible brutality she had inflicted upon.the helpless infants she had professed to love. At one point the police interrupted the confession to send out for a 24-inch baby doll with which the nurse might demonstrate her acts of cruelty.

Wrapping her powerful hands around the doll’s upper arms and back, her thumbs pressing into its chest, the nurse calmly showed how she had violently shaken Abbe Kapsinow several hours before her death. The infant had been crying rather long. The nurse became angry. She picked Abbe up, gave her several savage shakes and then threw her back into the crib drop of about a foot. The baby struggled for her breath, sobbed a little and then went to sleep. When Abbe awoke later in the night, she was near death from a brain injury.

Cynthia Hubbard had received the same punishment for crying too much, the nurse revealed. And she, too, died but a few hours after the shaking, suffering a damaged brain. Jennifer Malkan had been guilty of being too slow in getting up her last “bubble” after her evening bottle.

“I had been holding her up to my shoulder, ‘burping’ the nurse told police. “She was fussing something awful. Finally I took her down, held her in front of me and shook her a few times. Her head bobbed back and forth and her eyes went funny.

The nurse demonstrated each step with the doll. Realistically, the doll’s eyes rolled in its head. The hardened police officers cringed. Senator Jaspers turned away.

The Jaspers woman paused for a moment in her recitation, and a detective studied her carefully as she unconsciously patted the doll gently.

“Why did you do these terrible he asked. She wiped her eyes.“I don’t know why I did she replied.

“It was all uncontrollable. Sometimes children get on my nerves.” “Then why didn’t you look for other work?”

“I’ve always loved the nurse answered, matter-of-factly. “I’ve always wanted children of my own.”

After admitting responsibility for three deaths, the nurse cleared up mystery of Marvin Schaeffer’s leg. She confessed to shaking him, and then slamming him back into his carriage. She explained that both Schaeffer and the family doctor suspected foul play, but had not challenged her vow of innocence.

“I’ll bet you never had a case like this she said, as she looked at the stunned officers around the table. A flood of tears came again, land then she added, “And everyone thinks I’m so patient with children...”

Another injured infant, five-week-old Robert Seidel, paid a penalty for sleeping quietly, strangely enough, she said. When Nurse Jaspers brought him into the house from his carriage, was snoozing peacefully. “Come in now, wake up, it’s time for lunch told him.

Little Robert had ignored the call. The nurse increased her volume. He still slept. Suddenly she had raised her gigantic fist and given him a couple of hard punches on the side of the head, above the ear. This time he woke up screaming.

When the baby’s mother returned home and noticed the lump on Robert’s head, she had pounced on the nurse for an explanation. The nurse claimed the baby had knocked into her moulder while being “burped.” The mother wasn’t satisfied. Insulted, Nurse Jaspers had packed and left. After the nurse finished her statement to the police. Senator Jaspers, low a broken man, moved to her side.

“Have you told them everything?”

Virginia nodded, ashamed to look up.

“I’ll do all I can to held her, before a matron led her off be booked and jailed.

When the nurse’s tale of horror broke in the nation’s newspapers, the New Haven police were hit by a barage of additional complaints against the Jaspers woman some of them distant points from hitherto unsuspecting people whose youngsters had been cared for by Virginia and had apparently suffered injuries during such care.

Virginia denied every item.

Not all of Nurse Jaspers’ former employers agreed that she had turned the nursery into a chamber of horrors. Many came forward to sing her praises, calling her competent, kindly and easy-going. One of these, strangely enough, was Mrs. Allen Hubbard, whose Cynthia had died at the nurse’s hands.

“I have to admit that at the time she handled the baby Mrs. Hubbard tells. “We even had her for our second baby.

“True, she was heavy-handed but I thought nothing serious about it. Poor thing, she seemed to think she would never have a child of her own and lavished all her attention on ours. She tried to pretend she was happy, but I’m sure she wasn’t.”

Senator Jaspers, reluctant to face his friends, stayed away from his office for days. Mrs. Jaspers retreated from her shopping haunts and was missing from her community work. And the Jaspers’ neighbors “pondered the revelation of the Jekyll-Hyde character of a girl who had grown up in their midst.

“It seems incredible that Virginia could harm a one East Haven resident remarked. “Why from the time she was just a little tot she was always hanging around the mothers who had new babies, asking them if she could wheel the carriage up the street. And then she couldn’t grow up fast enough so she could take on jobs as a baby-sitter.”

No one in East Haven, it seemed, was familiar with the terrible temper that had sent three babies to their deaths. This was strange, for these same people had seen Virginia move through the most critical and heart- breaking years of her she encountered embarrassment and personal disaster daily.

Until she was 14, the Jaspers girl had been average in size and habits. She liked sports and had many companions. Then, at an age when girls start noticing boys and boys only pretend they don’t see them, Virginia underwent a tragic change. She began to grow immense. Her skin became scaly and erupted. Her arms and legs seemed to swell. The boys gave her nicknames “The Horse,” “The Ox,” and “The Four-Eyed Monster.” Her girl friends withdrew from her. But no one recalls Virginia Jaspers ever complaining or answering back.

The Jaspers took Virginia to many doctors. Nothing seemed to help her. By the time she was 16, she had reached her full, mammoth size.

After graduating from high school in 1942, she enrolled in an 18-month course in child care at the St. Agnes Home in West Hartford, Connecticut. The training did not qualify her for a nurse’s license but merely equipped her as a practical nurse for infants.

Miss Jaspers began taking cases late in 1943, after her graduation from the nursing home. Her practice after several suspicious pediatricians banded together and removed her name from their lists. Reservations for her services often had to be made many weeks in advance.

At St. Agnes Home, an official revealed that Virginia had been one of their hardest working and most agreeable students. She would rise early every morning to play the organ for Mass, he recalled, even though she was not a Catholic herself.

Held in bail after her arrest, Miss Jaspers cried continually for her first 24 hours in jail. Again and again she told Jailer Phil Mancini: “They ought to put me in the electric chair.”

Thereafter, she settled down and her bear-like appetite returned. She had regular visits from her family and her church pastor, and she spent much of her time reading religious books.

Three psychiatrists examined the nurse. She admitted sensitivity over her inordinate size and told how she had retreated to her own world during her teens. When the doctors asked her about the babies, she tried to be calm, but broke down often. After shaking the infants, she said, she was shocked by her own actions and felt a strange feeling within. She knew she had done wrong immediately.

The psychiatrists agreed that her criminal acts were committed in a fit of temper. They judged her sane.

On October 2, the New Haven coroner found Nurse Jaspers responsible for the deaths of the Kapsinow and Malkan babies and ordered her charged with two counts of manslaughter. Hubbard infant’s death was not eluded because of the statute of limitations. Miss Jaspers pleaded innocent.

When the case came to trial in New Haven’s Superior Court on October 24, the nurse was permitted to change her plea to guilty. And on November 14, Judge William J. Shea sentenced her to 10 to 22 years in prison for the crimes. She sobbed heavily as she trudged from the courtroom.

At the Connecticut State Prison for Women at Niantic, where there are no babies, Virginia Jaspers is learning typing and shorthand. With time credited for good behavior she will be eligible for release in seven years, at which time she will be 40. Perhaps by then, East Haven’s “Giantess” will have found the answer to the question she has asked of everyone:

“How will I ever be able to face people.”

[John M. Ross, “The Truth The Baby-Killing Nurse,” The American Weekly (San Antonio Light, syndicated), Mar. 3, 1957, pp. 12-15]

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For similar cases see: Baby-Sitter Serial Killers

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For more cases, see Sicko Nurses

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