Sunday, August 4, 2013

Eunice Brillhart, Serial Baby-Killing Mom - 1953


NOTE TO RESEARCHERS: There is more to come on this case, including an additional photo, the husband's position,  plus names of victims and dates of their deaths.

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FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 4): Alderson, W. Va., July 20 – international interest was raised today over the court martial of the British born wife of an American army sergeant who is imprisoned in the federal reformatory for women here.

In London the British foreign office said it had asked Washington for a transcript of the trial at which Mrs. Eunice Brillhart, 28, was convicted a year ago of the murder of three of her four children. she was sentenced to life imprisonment.

She is the wife of Sgt. Robert Brillhart, 25, a military policeman of Columbus, O., who is now stationed at Fort Knox, Ky.

~ All Have Head Injuries ~

Mrs. Brillhart formerly was a member of the British women’s auxiliary air force and was stationed at Aden, near the small African state of Eritrea, where Sgt. Brillhart was on duty. They were married in 1951 at Asmara, Eritrea, in a church maintained by the United States garrison there.

The couple assertedly had four children in three years. Three of the babies died in their first weeks. It was charged that all of the babies had head injuries. The fourth child, now 4, is living with Brillhart’s parents in Columbus.

In Washington, army sources said Mrs. Brillhart was charged with killing her three babies by dropping them head first on the floor in their home. Sharon died on Nov. 16, 1952, Kathryn on Nov. 15, 1953, and Patricia on Dec. 7, 1953.

~ Army Investigates Deaths ~

The first child’s death was regarded as an accident, it was said, but army authorities investigated when the two other children were killed in the same manner a year later.

The American army court martial was held at Asmara. Mrs. Brillhart’s sentence began July 23, 1954, and last Sept. 3 she was sent to the Alderson reformatory, the only federal prison for women in the United States.

Miss Nina Kinsella, warden at the reformatory, said Mrs. Brillhart is not a mental patient. She said the reformatory does not have a mental ward and that a woman found insane would be sent to some other institution.

London newspapers said that an appeal filed on behalf of Mrs. Brillhart had been turned down. The London mirror said that a petition for review of the case was rejected by the United States Court of Military Appeals and that Mrs. Brillhart’s British parents appealed to the newspaper for help after two pleas to President Eisenhower failed.

A foreign office spokesman said, however, that the department was satisfied  Mrs. Brillhart received a fair trial. He said a British consul was present at the court martial and reported the proceedings fully to London.

The spokesman said the department’s request for a transcript of the case had been made to speed return of a trial record which the foreign office sent to the United States to aid the defense in preparing an appeal.

[“British Wife of GI In U.S. Prison As Baby Killer – London Reveals Court Martial in 3 Slayings,” Chicago Daily Tribune (Il.), Jul. 21, 1955, part 1, p. 13]

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FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 4): Washington, July 11, 1957 – After considering what it called extenuating circumstances, the Army today ordered the release from prison of a British woman serving a life sentence for murdering three of her children [on different occasions] while abroad with her American soldier husband.

The Army’s announcement said the woman, Mrs. Eunice M. Brillhart of Rochdale, England, also would be deported after she is released July 22, but Joseph M. Swing, immigration commissioner, said deportation proceedings are not contemplated “at this time.”

Swing, a retired Army general, said the Immigration Service will study all aspects of the case before making any decision as to the woman’s future in this country.

He added that when Mrs. Brillhart is discharged from the women’s federal reformatory at Alderson, W. Va., she will be at liberty. Pending a decision on her status, he said, he was prepared to honor any request by her husband, Sgt. Robert W. Brillhart stationed at Sandra Base, New Mexico, that she was paroled in his custody.

Earlier, Swing said Mrs. Brilliant may rejoin her husband or go to Colombus, Ohio, where her fourth child is being cared for by Sgt. Brillhart’s parents.

Sgt. Brillhart was not immediately available for comment at Sandia.

The Army’s action in remitting the remaining portion of Mrs. Brillhart’s life sentence came after a review of the case following a June 10 decision by the Supreme Court declaring military courts cannot try civilians for capital crimes committed overseas.

Doubt was expressed by some Pentagon attorneys whether the Supreme Court ruling had any direct affect on the Brillhart case. But the Army, after British Embassy inquiries, reopened Mrs. Brillhart’s 1954 court-martial conviction and sentence.

Mrs. Brillhart was found guilty by an Army court-martial of the murder of her three children “by dropping them on their heads” over the period between November 1952 through December 1953. Mrs. Brillharts were living in Asmara, Eretrea, now a part of Ethiopia, at the time.

[“Army Orders Woman-Slayer Be Released,” syndicated (AP), Meriden Record (Ct.), Jul. 12, 1957, p. 3]

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FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 4): Alderson, W. W. Va.., July 22 – Freed, a British war bride who slew three of her four children at a lonely African military outpost left prison today to resume her married life.

Her freedom smile dying, Mrs. Eunice (Sally) Brillhart said, “I don’t think the past will be brought up … I want to forget the past.”

But the smile returned to full bloom when she described her tall GI husband’s willingness to take her back as “the most wonderful thing that ever happened.”

The good looking, brown-haired woman hung to the arm of Sgt. Robert W. Brillhart while answering questions at the gate of the federal reformatory for women.

The couple walked through the gate at 9 a. m. into warm sunlight bathing the rolling, southern West Virginia farm country. It was a mid-summer day nearly three years ago when Mrs. Brillhart entered the prison to begin a life sentence.

An Army court had convicted her of killing her children by dropping them on their heads while the family was stationed as Asmara, Eritrea, now part of Ethiopia.

[“Woman Who Murdered 3 Tots Freed,” syndicated (AP), The Spartansburg Herald (S.C.), Jul. 23, 1957, 1]

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

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6 comments:

  1. I was the first born daughter of this couple

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  2. So, would you shed more light on the matter?

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  3. Apparently she died on or near March 30, 1958 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, reportedly due to cancer according to her husband. It was in the Chicago Tribune at the time.

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  4. Again, what is it you want to know? I'm the first born surviving daughter Diane. My father was haunted by this until the day he died as am I still. Who is Britt M?

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  5. @ Britt M. @ Monica G - what is your interest? I changed my moniker from Just a kid at heart to Koala Sez but I am, indeed, the only surviving daughter.

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