Saturday, October 5, 2019

Margaret Thomsen: Why she killed the kids – 1938, New York

NOTE: Some sources give the name as "Margaret," some "Marguerite."


FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 3): For two days a 25-year-old mother sulked because her husband refused to take her to the movie, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” [sic] Then she conceived a revenge as sordid as their existence back in the scrubland of West Babylon, L. I. Yesterday she took her two babies, one at a time, and smothered them to death.

In the lifeless arms of her 3-year-old daughter she cradled a celluloid doll. She forced a nursing bottle into the chubby fists of her five-months-old boy.

She sloshed down the mud road to the home of a relative, and borrowed a nickel on the pretext that she wanted to call a doctor because the children were ill. Then she telephoned State Police barracks at Belmont State Park three miles away.

~ Grins at Troopers. ~

When troopers started to question her she fixed them with a malicious grin she rasped:

“Harry wouldn’t take me to the movies. That’s why I killed those darned brats of his.”

The mother, Mrs. Marguerite Thomson, a brunette weighing less than 100 pounds, added horror to her description of the crimes by her cool, unremorseful manner of recital.

She experienced a little difficulty killing her son, Harry E. Jr., she told Troopers Edward Gaughan and William Reilly. When the boy was born five months ago she suffered a stroke, she explained, which left her with a paralyzed right hand.

~ Quilt Wouldn’t Work. ~

“I tried to smother him with a quilt,” she said, “but I found I couldn’t manage it with my bad hand. So I put him back in the cot and just held my hand over his mouth and nose.

“I held it for about fifteen minutes. Then I let go. I wanted to be sure he was dead, so I breathed into his mouth. He never moved.”

In the same way she killed her daughter, Kathleen Elizabeth.

She signed a confession and was taken at once before Justice of the Peace Charles Fisher in Babylon Town Hall. There she was held without bail for first degree murder.

[Georger Kivel & George Dixon, “Denied a Movie, Mother, 25, Kills ‘His Two Brats’,” Daily News (New York, N. Y.), Mar. 8, 1938, pp. 1 & 3.]


FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 3): Riverhead, March 8 – Margaret Thomsen, a woman of 25 with an immobile face, who smothered her two babies because her husband didn’t take her to the movies, joked with the matron who sat outside her cell today, and giggled over her own jokes.

“You shouldn’t carry on so,” said Mrs. Jacob Dreyer, the matron. “Think of your poor children.”

“I am thinking of them and I’m glad I did it. They’re in heaven now.”

Mrs. Dreyer had sat outside Mrs. Thomsen’s cell all night lest the prisoner kill herself, but she will be withdrawn today because it seemed obvious that Mrs. Thomsen planned to live. She looked forward with apparent eagerness to spending the rest of her life in prison. She was in prison once, she said, and it was the happiest period of her life.

~ One Hand Paralyzed ~

Mrs. Thomsen, her husband, Harry, and their two children, Kathleen, 3, and Harry Jr., 5 months, lived in a two-room house near Babylon. Yesterday morning Mrs. Thomsen first smothered Kathleen, then the baby, with her left hand and the quilt on her bed. She had to use her left hand because her right has been paralyzed since Harry was born. Then she telegraphed police.

“Send two policemen,” she said. “Remember, two policemen – because there are two dead children.”

Mrs. Thomsen was self-possessed, even cheerful, while police questioned her. She said she had planned to hang herself, but didn’t because she didn’t know how to tie a slip knot. She summoned Kathleen to her bedroom and told her to say her prayers. When she finished, she told her to lie down on the bad.

I told her I was going to send her to heaven,” Mrs. Thomsen said. “She smiled and seemed happy.”

~ Counts Minutes to Death ~

Mrs. Thomsen apparently counted the minutes it took Kathleen to die. Then she carried Harry in from the next room. Harry, being but five months old, couldn’t pray so she prayed for him. He died quickly, she said.

Mrs. Thomsen seemed greatly amused when police took her fingerprints. She giggled all through it. When they photographed her, she was still giggling:

“I know what that’s for. It’s for the rogues’ gallery.”

When Mrs. Thomsen was 19, police said, she sat in an automobile while a male companion held up a storekeeper. For that she served time in the New Bedford Reformatory for Women, and she told police that never in her life had she been so well fed and so well cared for. Police also said that they understood that when she was 12 she was treated in a State institution for mental cases.

Mrs. Thomsen’s husband is a laborer, also 25. He denied he had mistreated his wife, as she alleged. He said he tried to take her to the movies occasionally, but couldn’t afford to take her as often as she wanted to go as they were very poor.

[“Giggling Mother Tells of Slaying 2 Infants,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle (New York, N. Y.), Mar. 8, 1938, p. 8]


FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 3): Babylon, N. Y., March 8. – Mrs. Margaret Thomsen, young mother from the mud flats of West Babylon, accused of strangling two small children, shook her head today when asked if she was sorry her babies were dead. She replied:

"Why should I be? Those kids are better off dead.”

Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Henry said she had confessed she throttled the children, Kathleen Elizabeth, 3, and Henry Jr., 5 months old, in despair over their poverty. Hendry said she told him:

“The two kids never had fresh milk, and we never had enough food. I had better food in jail than I’ve had since I was married.”


She was held on charges of first degree murder.

The shabbily-clad mother had to borrow a nickel from an uncle, who lived nearby, to phone state police her children were dead.

The troopers found the bodies in the kitchen of the dilapidated Thomsen home.


They said the woman, bitter toward her husband, Harry E. Thomsen, told them he had gone to eat at his mother’s home while she and the children went without food. He quoted her as saying:

“Harry wouldn’t take me out. He never even took me to the movies. That’s why I killed those darned brats of his.”

Mrs. Thomsen said that, as Margarette Kain, of West New York, N. J., she had served 18 months in a reformatory before her marriage.

[“’Kids Better Off Dead,’ Says Mother, Slayer of 2,” Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph (Pa.), Mar. 8, 1938, p. 3]











SEE:  Maternal Filicide: Spousal Revenge Motive


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