Sunday, December 11, 2016

“Indianapolis Babysitter” - Suspected Serial Killer – 1961

Three cases of midwestern babysitters suspected of murdering multiple children were reported in 1961. Two resulted in convictions (Mary Madigan, Des Moines, series of three killings; Lucille Adams, Milwaukee, double murder), the Indianapolis case did not, apparently, result in a prosecution due to the difficulty in proving cause of death, yet indications were that the unnamed woman had killed three children, perhaps more and had attempted to kill another on three separate occasions. Lucille Adams stated she was inspired to murder the two boys in her charge after hearing about the Mary Madigan case on the radio. Each of the three babysitters was identified as mentally retarded.

The Indianapolis case prompted the publication of an article giving advice on how to protect one’s children from female serial killer babysitters.


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 5): Indianapolis – Marion County Prosecutor Philip L. Bayt said today that he will present several witnesses to the grand jury Tuesday in connection with the mysterious deaths of three babies, all of whom were cared for by the same sitter. Bayt said the babysitter identified by the parents of the three babies is a 23-year-old woman. "I just learned of these findings late yesterday," Bayt said. "We plan to talk to the woman today. But I understand that she has denied to the police that she was responsible for the deaths although she did say she put her land over one baby's mouth to keep it from crying."

Leighton George, chief investigator for the Marion County coroner, Dr. Dennis Nicholas, reprted that 3-months-old Patricia Vincent, son of an Indianapolis policeman and his wife, “probably” died of suffocation.

The baby was found dead in his crib Monday morning when Patrolman Walter Vincent, Indianapolis awakened. Vincent said he questioned the sitter at length, then called the coroner’s office.

Nicholas said the investigation so far has shown that two other babies left in the woman’s care died under similar circumstances. They were John Arthur Lowe, Jr., 3 months, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Lowe, and David Terhune, 9 months, son of Mr. and Mrs. George L. Terhune, both of Indianapolis.

The Lowe infant died in April, and the Terhune baby in June.

[“Woman Is Quizzed in 3 Deaths,” The Linton Daily Citizen (In.), Sep. 15, 1961, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 5): The father of a 23-year-old baby sitter was ordered yesterday to stop placing “harassing” telephone calls to families employed his daughter, as a full-scale to families who employed his daughter, as a full-scale investigation started into the deaths of three infant boys who died while left in her care.

Meanwhile, the Marion County Coroner’s office attempted to piece together an accounting of three “missing” months in her baby sitting employment.

CHIEF CORONER’S investigator Leighton George mad a public appeal for help in a search to locate families who might have been hired the women during the latter part of June and in July and August.

In addition to this order to the sitter’s father, Prosecutor Phillip L. Bayt, dispatched subpenas is parents of the three babies for testimony before a County Grand Jury probe which begins Tuesday.

He also called in the father and daughter for an interrogation Monday at the prosecutor’s office.

THE FATHER appeared in the prosecutor’s office yesterday afternoon in an attempt to clear his daughter of any suspicion in the deaths of the infants who died in April, June and last Monday morning.

He arrived in Bayt was trying to locate him for an explanation of telephone harassment complaints from parents of two of the dead children and a third family whose child narrowly escaped death last spring.

According to Bayt, the father readily admitted making calls to all three homes yesterday but vigorously denied being unpleasant with any of the parties.

The father declared he felt entirely within his rights to make the calls because he was naturally concerned about his daughter and wanted to know why those families had any reason to be suspicious of her.

Investigator George notified the prosecutor’s office of complaints to the coroner’s office from the family of Patrolman and Mrs. Walter Vincent, 4901 West 37th Street, who awoke early Monday to find their son, Patrick Vincent, dead.

A MEMBER of the family told George – the sitter’s father had called twice yesterday.

Mrs. George L. Terhune, 850 Bethel Avenue, notified George that she also had been called by the father.

Her baby, 9-month-old David Terhune, died June 6, according to George, when the sitter was watching the Terhune children while Terhune was at work and his wife was away from the home.

According to George, Mrs. Terhune reported that the father telephoned her, too, but that she hung up when he said:

“YOU HAVEN’T got a thing on my girl.”

The mother related that he called back and added that:

“I’m not through with you yet.”

Mrs. Terhune said she called up the coroner’s office immediately after she hung up the phone the second time.

The coroner’s office said that a similar complaint about another phone call came from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph E. Kelly, 2902 South Oakland Avenue.

The couple’s son, Robert Michael Kelly, 11 months old, narrowly escaped death three times while left in the sitter’s care and each time the woman attributed the child’s unconscious state to a gas leak, according to investigators.

In each instance Citizen’s Gas and Coke Utility crewmen could find no leak.

BAYT SAID that the father had agreed not to place any more calls to any of these persons or others who have been ordered to testify before the grand jury. The prosecutor warned that persons who attempt to impede witnesses are liable for criminal prosecution.

The father told Bayt his daughter should be praised instead of criticized for promptness in summoning aid to the babies before their deaths. He said that he believed that it was merely circumstantial circumstances which has made her suspect in connection with their deaths.

HOWEVER, Dr. Dennis Nicholas, Marion County coroner, vigorously maintained that there was “too much incidence” in the infant deaths, the first of which occurred last April.

The child was John Arthur Lowe Jr., 3 months old, son of Mr. and Mrs. John A. Lowe, formerly of 1540 Lee Street.

Although the deaths of the Lowe child and that of the Terhune baby showed no positive evidence for foul play, an investigation became a certainty after pathological studies of the Vincent child revealed he probably died of suffocation.

In her statement to the coroner’s office, the unmarried sitter denied any connection with the deaths but did admit she had placed her hand over the Vincent baby’s mouth to muffle its screams during the night of oits death.

SHE APPARENTLY has been widely recommended as a baby sitter throughout her near South Side neighborhood and by officials of a church she attended, according to investigators.

The plump 23-year-old brunette has been regularly employed as a sitter since her late teens, they reported in her statement she advised that:

“I took up baby sitting because I love children, I like to play with them.”

The coroner described the sitter as somewhat “feebleminded,” with an intelligence quotient (IQ) of only 52. She complied with Nicholas’ request that she takes a psychiatric tests at Marion County Hospital last Thursday, but the results will not be known until Monday.

INVESTIGATORS believe that information about the possible death of a fourth child may have been started by the girl herself as a ruse to gain confidence and sympathy from the dead infants’ parents.

The rumored fourth child might have been a figment of her imagination, according to George, who said he told the Terhune family that a child of hers died in a similar manner to the Terhune baby. She urged the Terhunes not to tell anybody about her being with the child because it might get her in trouble.

Investigators said they were thrown off the track by not knowing until recently that the Terhunes had employed any baby sitter to watch the child, they said.

No charges have been filed against the woman pending the grand jusy investigation.

[“Bayt Tells Sitter’s Dad: Stop Harassing Parents,” The Indianapolis Star (In.), Sep. 16, 1961, pp. 1, 14]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 5):

~ Check Sitter’s Training, Stability, Attitude

FULL TEXT: How can you be sure your children are safe with a baby sitter?

The question has burned in the minds of Indianapolis parents since the mysterious deaths of three male infants while they were in the care of a 23-year-old woman described by the coroner’s office as “mentally retarded.”

FOR AVERAGE parents, who hire a babysitter when they have an infrequent “night out,” a basic set of rules was set down yesterday by two of the state’s top mental health officials.

For families which aren’t of baby sitting “co-ops” or don’t subscribe to agencies, the following suggestions were presented by Dr. Stewart T. Ginsberg, state commissioner of mental health, and Dr. Gordon Barrows, consultant psychologist on Dr. Ginsberg’s staff:

1 – Before entrusting your child to the care of make sure the person is emotionally stable.

2 – Know the educational background of the sitter, including courses taken in child care, first aid and others covering possible emergencies.

3 – Check the sitter’s reputation. From other parents who have hired her, asked about her promptness, alertness, “stick-to-it-iveness,” presence of mind and other traits indicating how she might act if an emergency arose.

4 – Talk to the sitter personally and observe her attitudes and responses. These may give you a clearer idea than most other sources of her capabilities.

No baby-sitter should be hired, Dr. Ginsberg emphasized, if there is any question of mental retardation.

THE MENTAL health chief said that in several cities baby-sitting courses are offered by the Young Women’s Christian Association and that some schools, including Indiana Central College here, have lists of students available for duty.

“Sitter problems” are being solved by some church and school organizations which provide “tot-tending services” free or at a nominal charge.

[“Mental Health Chief Gives Tips For Parents – Check Sitter’s Training, Stability, Attitude,” The Indianapolis Star (In.), Sep. 17, 1961,  Sec. 2, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 5):

~ Other Sitter Deaths Feared

The possibility that more than three infants may have died while being cared for by a 23-year-old Indianapolis woman baby sitter is being investigated by the Marion County coroner’s office, Chief Investigator Leighton George said last night.

George said the young woman told the family of Patrolman Walter Vincent, whose 3-month-old son was found dead in his crib last Monday morning, that she had just returned from Chicago before she was employed by the Vincents.

Prosecutor Phillip L. Bayt said his investigation of the three Indianapolis infant deaths is also is continuing and that the woman and her father are coming to his office tomorrow morning.

THE FATHER was admonished by Bayt Friday for harassing telephone calls he made to families who employed his daughter.

“There could be more than three,” Investigator George said. “They may not all be in Indianapolis. From what she has told me, she may have done some baby-sitting while she was in Chicago.

Bayt said the grand jury will hear “quite a few witnesses” in the case including doctors, parents of the dead children and investigators.

Disclosure of the death of Patrick Vincent, along with John Arthur Lowe Jr. and David Terhune while they were in the care of the woman was the third similar case in the Midwest this summer.

A BABY SITTER at Milwaukee [Lucille Adams] recently admitted suffocating two of her charges and a sitter in Dubuque, Ia. [Mary Madigan], was accused of causing the deaths of three children in her care.

The Indianapolis woman, a plump brunette described by the coroner’s office as “somewhat feebleminded,” has been employed regularly as a baby since her late teens, George reported.

The investigator said disinterment of the infants who died earlier would be useless as symptoms of suffocation and pneumonia are so similar.

No charges have been filed against the woman pending a county grand jury investigation.

[“Other Sitter Deaths Feared,” The Indianapolis Star (In.), Sep. 17, 1961,  Sec. 2, p. 1]


FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 5): Indianapolis – Marion County Prosecutor Phillip Bayt said Tuesday he was able to present only two of a probable 15 witnesses to a grand jury probing the deaths of three infants cared for by the same babysitter.

Bayt said that because of an already crowded schedule for the Marion County grand jury, which regularly sits on Tuesday and Thursdays, he was able only to present the coroner, Dr. Dennis Nicholas, and a police detective who questioned the 23-year-old babysitter.

Bayt said that the parents of the three infants have been subpeaed to appear Sept. 25 before the grand jury. They include patrolman and Mrs. Walter Vincent, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Lowe, and Mr. and Mrs. George L. Terhune, all of Indianapolis.

Their infant sons, ranging in age from three to nine months, died while in the care of the young woman. The babysitter has not been arrested and has denied any responsibility for the deaths, claiming the babies were already ill when she was called.

However a grand jury probe was sought by Dr. Nicholas who said “three is too much coincidence.”

Suffocation was given as cause of death for the Vincent baby, and pneumonia had been listed for the other two.

[“Grand Jury Hears Two Witnesses in Baby Deaths,” The Anderson Herald (In.), Sep. 20, 1961, p. 10]


For similar cases see: Baby-Sitter Serial Killers


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