True Crime Corner: Marie Noe
On this edition of True Crime Corner, I thought we could take a look into murdering mom Marie Noe. Her nefarious history includes giving birth to ten children, one of whom was delivered stillborn, and another lived just a few hours. What happened to the other eight little ones she took home from the hospital?
Marie and her husband Arthur Noe made their home in Pennsylvania. Arthur was looking forward to starting a family, and the couple had their first child in 1949, a son they named Richard. Soon after he was born, the twenty year old new mother suffered from temporary blindness. Physicians couldn’t find anything wrong with the seemingly healthy young woman. They diagnosed her condition as hysterical blindness, a malady brought on by a reaction to stress. They didn’t realize the extent of the stress the first time mother was experiencing with her newborn at home. She grew increasingly frustrated with trying to care for him. Arthur Noe found his son unresponsive when Richard was approximately a month old. His death was attributed to natural causes, and Marie again lost her vision.
Her eyesight was restored, and the couple welcomed their second child, Elizabeth. Their daughter lived for a few months before passing away.
Marie Noe intended to have her tubes tied after the loss of the children. She asked her priest for advice on the matter, who discouraged her plan. He told the troubled mother that to do so would go against the church, and so she didn’t go through with the procedure.
As a result, Marie Noe bore six more children who survived long enough to come home from the hospital. The common denominator in all of the deaths was the fact that their mother was home alone with them. At the time, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) was often the reason suggested for mysterious child deaths.
The medical examiner was suspicious of Noe. When her ninth child was born, staff members kept the baby needlessly in the hospital for months, as they were certain the same fate awaited this child if she were allowed to go home with her parents. Little Catherine Noe went home after a few months, although the hospital staff were concerned about the mother’s interactions with the child that they had witnessed.
Catherine lived a little over a year before she died. The hospital staff felt that Marie Noe had a hand in her children’s deaths, but they were unable to prove their suspicions.
Several children died before investigators took an official look at the parents. They were unable to find any evidence of their involvement and nothing was ever done. People felt sorry for the couple, and just believed them to be unlucky when it came to expanding their family.
The hospital staff who tried to keep Catherine as safe as possible must have been shocked when Marie Noe again appeared in the maternity ward. This time she would have her last child, Arthur Jr. He was also kept in the hospital as long as possible, but the little boy suffered the same fate as the rest of his siblings once he went home. Another investigation into the Noes amounted to nothing.
The Noes’s first child died in 1949 and the last child died in 1968. Thirty years elapsed before the cases were again brought to the forefront. Marie Noe’s story was similar to another case in New York. Could all eight of the Noe children’s deaths be attributed to SIDS, or was something more sinister behind it?
Waneta Hoyt was a New York woman who smothered five biological children because she couldn’t handle their crying, but allowed her adopted child to live. She explained that she wasn’t left alone with the surviving child, as her husband was often home at the time. The loss of her children was originally blamed on SIDS.
Marie Noe, at nearly 70 years old, was arrested on August 5, 1998 and charged with murdering her eight children. She confessed to smothering four of them, but claims she couldn’t remember what happened to the other four. Arthur Noe stood by his wife, denying she could ever have hurt their children, despite his wife’s confession to the contrary. He died at their home in 2009, leaving Marie widowed after almost 61 years of marriage.
Noe accepted a plea deal and served no jail time. She admitted to killing the children (eight counts of second-degree murder), and was sentenced to 20 years of probation, and 5 years of house arrest. She was also to be available for psychological study, so experts could better understand the mind of someone capable of murdering their own children.
Noe blames her inability to be a good parent on her own mother. She claims she was overwhelmed by the responsibility, and wasn’t prepared to take care of the children. It was determined that she did not suffer from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, (as she was not seeking attention or sympathy for the crimes), but instead suffered from other psychological problems.
If you have an interest in this case, read Cradle of Death by John Glatt.