Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bernice Williams, Serial Baby-Killing Single Mother - 1943

FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): Denver, Colo. – A statuesque blond career girl admitted in an emotionless monotone Friday; she gave birth to three illegitimate babies in the past three years, drowned each of them in a bathtub and hid their tiny bodies in a linen chest because, they '”were children of sin.”

Arrested after the manager of her apartment found the bodies in the basement, Bernice Williams, 23, told authorities she thought the babies should die “because I didn't want anyone else to have them and I didn't believe I could raise them.”

“I couldn't help it because they were born,” she said. “I’m just constituted that way. I'm over-sexed.”

Miss Williams, who dresses modishly and is employed by a large department store as a buyer of infants' wear, described the slayings in detail. Each birth, she said, was unattended.

“I performed what surgery was needed with a pair of scissors,” she said. "Each baby cried, but I choked off their cries with my hands so that no one could hear. Then I knelt beside the bathtub and held the baby under water 20 minutes until I was sure it had drowned."

The first child, a girl, was born in April, 1941, she said. The second, also a girl, was born in February, 1942, and the third, a boy, was born last Feb. 11. On each occasion, she said, she worked until the day before the birth and asked her employer for three days off, after which she returned to her job.

She refused to identify the fathers, but said two of the children were by the same father. She never told the fathers she was pregnant, she said.

Miss Williams said her mother and father separated a year ago, and that her mother came to live with her. During each pregnancy, she said, neither her mother nor her friends suspected that she was an expectant mother.

Each baby was born in a different apartment building, she told authorities, and each time she moved, the furniture movers handled the chest.

The bodies of the infants were discovered by Noah Layton, the apartment manager, who said he was trying to trace a disagreeable odor in the basement. He notified police and deputy coroner Gus Economy called Miss Williams from her work. When her confronted her, she said “I know what you’re here for.”

[Unwed Mother Tells How She Murdered Her Three Babies,” syndicated (United Press), The Daily Times (Beaver and Rochester, Pa.), Apr. 2, 1943, p. 8]


EXCERPT (Article 2 of 3): Police were perplexed by her calmness and said a psychiatrist may be asked to interview her. She was graduated from high school as an honor student in 1936 and was awarded a college scholarship but never went to college. Instead she left home and supported herself. Then, she said, she placed each baby in a small cardboard box and put each box in the linen chest. She knew, she said, that some day she would be discovered, so the presence of the bodies in the basement did not disturb her. She could not explain why she made no attempt to dispose of the bodies permanently.

[“Infants' Wear Clerk Has 3 Killings on Conscience,” syndicated (United Press), Waterloo Daily Courier (Io.), Apr. 2, 1943, p. 5]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): Denver, June 11. – A district court jury, after deliberating nearly 13 hours, today found 23-year-old Bernice Williams guilty of second degree murder in the drowning of one of three infants born to her out of wedlock.

The verdict was returned at 11:37 a. m. (Mountain War time) by the jury of 11 married men and a bachelor, who had deliberated since 9:46 o'clock last night.

The dark-haired Denver woman, a buyer of infants' wear for a department store, also was convicted on a second charge – concealing the birth of an illegitimate child. Conviction on a second degree murder charge in Colorado carries a sentence of from 10 years to life imprisonment, at the discretion of the sentencing judge. District Judge Joseph E. Cook did not say at once when sentence would be imposed.

The prosecution based its case on confession made by the woman to Detective Capt. James E. Childers, in which she admitted drowning her baby in a bathtub February 11 after bearing the child unattended.

In the confession she said she had similarly disposed of two infants born previously.

The bodies of three babies were found in a green wooden hope chest, adorned with a red floral design, by the manager of an apartment house in which Miss Williams resided.

When the jury announced its verdict, Defense Attorney Harry G. Saunders called for a poll of the jury. Each man affirmed the conviction of the defendant, who had maintained a stoic calm throughout the three-day trial.

Miss Williams displayed no emotion when the verdict was announced. Saunders, granted 30 days by the court in which to seek a new trial, said he could net at once say whether he would appeal or move for a new trial.

[“Bernice Williams Is Found Guilty By Denver Jury,” syndicated (AP), Corsica Daily Sun (Tx.), Jun. 11, 1948, p. 10]

Apr. 1941 – newborn girl murdered.
Feb. 1942 – newborn girl murdered.
Feb. 1, 1943 – newborn boy murdered.
Jun. 2, 1943 – arrested
Jun. 11, 1943 – Convicted
Jul. 22, 1943 – sentenced 10-15 years in state prison.








For more cases of this type, see Serial Baby-Killer Moms.


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