For 19 years, Marie Noe was the most pitied woman in America after every single one of her 10 babies had died.
Between April 1949 and January 1968, Marie and her husband Arthur were the focus of intense national sympathy, with many people believing they were victims of the worst luck imaginable.
Two of their tragic children died in hospital – one was stillborn, the other at just six hours old.
But the other eight died in the Noe home in Philadelphia while under the care of their mum.
Despite leaving hospital in good health, none of these eight Noe babies lived past 14 months, with their mysterious premature deaths attributed to sudden infant death syndrome – a relatively new medical phenomena in the 1950s and ‘60s.
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But in reality, she had smothered each and every one with a pillow.
Richard, Elizabeth, Jacqueline, Arthur, Constance, Mary, Catherine and little Arthur had all died at their hands of their mother.
Baby number six, Letitia, was stillborn, the official cause of death recorded as ‘umbilical cord knot’, and baby eight, Theresa, died from a bleeding disorder.
The death of one baby after another might have raised suspicions among doctors, detectives and coroners, but there was simply no proof that it was anything other than cot death.
Thirty years passed and it wasn’t until the late 1990s when Stephen Fried, a reporter from Philadelphia Magazine, looked in to the Noes’ story.
Fried tracked the couple – now in their early 70s – and persuaded them to speak to him for his article.
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Marie told him that no one could prove that she had harmed her babies, none were bruised or marked.
She said: "Just one of them stupid things that happens. We just weren't meant to have children, I guess."
Arthur added: “The Lord needed angels, so we got a ton of them up there."
Fried gave his finished report – which was originally inspired by a theory that a lot of historic baby murders had been covered up as cot death – to the police, who reopened the long dormant Noe case.
In March 1998 they interviewed Marie for 12 hours, and it was then, three decades after she murdered her tenth and final child that Marie Noe admitted to killing seven others – although she could only recall details of the deaths of the first three and the fifth.
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Speaking of how she killed Richard, her first child in April 1949, she said: “He was always crying. He couldn't tell me what was bothering him. He just kept crying. . . . There was a pillow under his face . . . I took my hand and pressed his face down into the pillow until he stopped moving."
Two years later, she killed her second child, Elizabeth in a similar way.
Marie recalled: "She was in the bassinet. I put her on her back, and then I took a pillow from the bed and put the pillow over her face and suffocated her. She was fussing. Elizabeth was a lot stronger than Richard was, and she was fighting when the pillow was over her face. I held the pillow over her face until she stopped moving."
It was noted that when she spoke to the police she referred to each baby as “it” rather than their name.
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Marie, who had a below average IQ of 78, also said that she had always hoped that she would be caught and stopped. She said, "I knew what I was doing was very wrong."
She was unable to tell them why she wanted to hurt her children, the OAP simply shrugged, “All I can figure is that I'm ungodly sick."
Marie would have been around 40 when she gave birth to her tenth child, but it is unlikely that age is the reason that she stopped the horrific cycle of giving birth and murdering her baby.
Due to complications and uterine damage when she delivered her final child, she was forced to undergo a hysterectomy putting an end to her 'breeding' days.
It wasn’t until August 1999 that Marie was arrested at home, police removing boxes of baby photos and keepsakes as they took her in to custody charged with eight counts of murder.
Despite admitting to infanticide, her loyal husband Art refused to believe it.
He even defended her on a talk radio show, saying: "She's my friend, my companion. The most beautiful woman in the world for me. I'll fight to the death to show she never harmed them."
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Marie pled guilty to eight counts of second-degree murder, and was sentenced to 20 years of probation. For the first five years she was under electronically monitored house arrest and underwent psychiatric treatment so scientists could try to understand why some women are driven to kill their children.
They never managed to work out Marie’s motives, but it is believed that she was deeply damaged from years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse during her childhood.
A report by the court psychiatrist concluded that she suffered from mixed personality disorder, including avoidant, dependent, narcissistic, histrionic, borderline paranoid and anti-social traits.
By 2001, psychiatrists and psychologists ruled out neurological problems, Munchausen syndrome by proxy and multiple personality disorder.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Marie told psychiatrists about episodes of what she described as "blindness" after the loss of three of her children, comparing them to “space trips”.
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Marie gave various reasons for killing her children that included being transfused as a child with a prisoner's blood, being a blood cousin of her husband or being "a wicked person."
One psychologist described her as "a psychologically complex and primitive woman" who was subjected to severe childhood physical and psychological abuse, parental neglect, possible childhood sexual abuse and a history of promiscuity.
She died in a nursing home in May 2016.
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