Most mothers would sacrifice themselves before they let something horrible happen to their child. For many moms, it’s unthinkable that they would cause any harm to their child. But these mothers prove that this is sometimes not the case. The women featured on this list are examples of mothers who have brutally killed their children in cold blood. From pre-meditated murders to mental breakdowns, these women did the unthinkable when they took the lives of their own children.
Though most of these women were found not guilty by reason of insanity, it does little to mitigate their horrible actions. Countless lives of innocent children were cut short due to the irresponsible actions of these women. What makes it worse is that many family members and sometimes even the authorities were aware of the unstable condition these moms were in, yet they did little to prevent this heinous murders. And, in some particularly tragic cases, these mothers had children who died under questionable circumstances and then later gave birth to, and were allowed to raise other children, whose lives often ended in similar circumstances.
These tragic killings are reminders that not every mother is in the right state of mind to raise a child. If you suspect that a mother might not be putting the wellbeing of her child first, then it is better to speak out than risk the alternative. Had someone reported these mothers and their irrational behaviors before the murders took place, perhaps some of the lives lost could have been saved. With the being said, it’s sometimes impossible to predict these sorts of events before they happen, which makes these murders even more terrifying and shocking.
15 Dora Luz Buenrostro
Authorities stumbled upon a particularly gruesome murder in 1994 when they discovered that Dora Luz Buenrostro had stabbed three of her young children to death. Buenrostro, who was living in Jacinto, California at the time, was convicted of killing Susana, 9, Vicente, 8, and Deidra, 4. All three of the children had been stabbed in the neck. The body of the youngest child was found over 10 miles away, and was still strapped into the car seat of her abandoned car.
It has been noted that Buenrostro showed a surprising lack of remorse while testifying during her penalty hearings. She admitted that she committed the murders to hurt and frame her husband, Alex Buenrostro. After her conviction, Buenrostro lashed out at police, prosecturers, and even her own attorneys. She has since denied killing her children, and instead insists it was her now ex-husband.
14 Susan Smith
It was 1994 when Susan Smith lied to police, telling them a black man had stolen her car with her two sons inside, 3-year old Michael and 14-month old Alex. She kept up the lie for nine days, and during that time appeared on national TV making dramatic appeals for the safe return of her children.
Authorities eventually discovered Smith had strapped her children into their car seats and pushed the car into the lake, effectively drowning them. She confessed to her crime, and explained she wanted to be in a relationship with a local wealthy man, who did not want a family. Smith was later diagnosed with dependent personality disorder and major depression, and it was revealed she had suffered sexual abuse as a child at the hand of her stepfather. She was sentenced to life in prison, but will be eligible for parole in 2024 after serving a minimum of 30 years.
13 Frances Newton
In April 1987, 21-year old Frances Newton shockingly killed all the members of her family. Authorities quickly discovered she had used her boyfriend’s gun to kill her husband as well as her son and daughter, 7-year old Alton and 21-month old Farrah. Three weeks before the murders, Newton had taken out life insurance policies on her husband and children, each worth $50,000. It was also discovered that she hid the murder weapon in a paper bag in a relative’s home.
Newton initially claimed that a drug dealer had killed her three family members. She even presented evidence that her husband was a dealer and had been in debt to her supplier. In 1988, Newton was convicted of all three of the murders and sentenced to death. Newton claimed that she was innocent up until her execution by lethal injection in 2005. She has been the subject of various movies and TV show episodes discussing the tragic murders.
12 China Arnold
In 2005, China Arnold killed her 3-week old daughter, Paris, by stuffing her in a microwave and burning her to death. Arnold lived in Dayton, Ohio with her other children and boyfriend, Terrell Talley. She had been arguing with Talley over the paternity of the infant, and was allegedly intoxicated at the time. The child was in the microwave for two minutes, and died the next day in hospital when her internal temperature became critical.
This wasn’t the first time Arnold had been in trouble with the law. In 2000 she was convicted on abduction charges and in 2002 she was convicted for forgery. Arnold was originally arrested and then released due to lack of evidence. She was re-arrested in November 2006 and received a life sentence with no chance of parole for the murder of her infant daughter.
11 Brenda Drayton
Brenda Drayton was known to authorities for her mental health problems when she strangled her two-year old daughter, Lyah, to death in 2004. Drayton admitted she believed her child was “the Devil’s Baby” and had hid the child’s body in a kitchen cabinet. She had been hospitalized the year before for thinking there were snakes in her body, and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Before the toddler’s death, Drayton’s mother had reported her daughter was falling ill again. Drayton was hospitalized shortly and then released, only to murder her daughter a short time afterwards.
Even more heartbreaking, Drayton had been in a similar situation decades before. After giving birth to her son Micah in 1994, the infant died of dehydration and malnutrition only six weeks later. It took professionals three years to diagnosis and hospitalize Drayton after the incident. Hopefully this woman never becomes a mother again.
10 Robin Lee Row
In 1991, Robin Lee Row set fire to the home where her estranged husband, 10-year old son, and 8-year old daughter were living. She reportedly turned off the smoke alarm, and spread a liquid accelerant throughout the home before setting it on fire, killing everyone inside. Row had been living with friends at the time of the murders, and quickly became the primary suspect in the case. Before the murders, Row had taken out life insurance policies on her husband and children that was worth over a quarter of a million dollars. She was also embezzling money from her workplace.
An eerily similar incident happened in 1980, when Lee’s other son died while sleeping after his blanket caught fire from a portable heater. She collected $28,000 from a life insurance policy after his death. Though they thought the death was accidental at the time, many have speculated it was also a murder. Row was arrested for the 1991 murders, and eventually found guilty in 1993. She became Idaho’s first woman on death row.
9 Jeanette Michelle Hawes
In a strange series of events, Jeanette Michelle Hawes had taken her two young children to a local gas station convenience store in early 2007. When she took the children to use the restroom, she proceeded to stab 3-year old Shakayla and 1-year old Jordan to death. Doctors determined the mother had been experiencing a mental breakdown, and she was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Hawes requested that she be moved from hospital supervision to a less-strict group home in 2011, but her request was denied. The judge expressed concern over her mental stability, and reasoned it is in her and the public’s best interest if she remains in a supervised environment where they can ensure she is taking the medication she needs. Hawes has been institutionalized since the murder of her children, and her mental health has been strictly monitored by professionals who claim she is on the road to recovery.
8 Kenisha Berry
Two dumpster divers uncovered a gruesome scene when they discovered the body of a 4-year old boy, named Malachi, in a dumpster in 1998. They initially thought the body, which was covered in a plastic garbage bag, was a child’s doll. Investigators discovered the boy was the son of 29-year old daycare worker Kenisha Berry. She reportedly duct taped his mouth shut and stuffed him in the garbage bag while he was still alive. He later died of suffocation.
Berry was finally convicted in February 2004 of her son’s murder and received a life sentence (originally the death sentence). A 2007 Court of Criminal Appeal threw out the death sentence convicting Berry of killing her son in 1998 and instead charged her to life in prison. At the same time, she was also facing charges for child abandonment related to a 2003 incident, after an 83-year old man discovered her young infant daughter, Parris, on the side of the road.
7 Deena Schlosser
In November 2004, Deena Schlosser cut the arms off of her 11-month old daughter, Margaret, with a kitchen knife, and killed her. Police arrived at the Plano, Texas home to find Schlosser soaked in blood and holding the murder weapon while singing Christian hymns. They had been responding to a 911 call made by concerned daycare workers, who had spoken with Schlosser earlier that same day. Hours after arresting her, police officers report Schlosser was repeatedly saying “Thank you Jesus, Thank you Lord.”
Schlosser had been under investigation by Child Protective Services, after trying to commit suicide the day after Margaret was born. Psychiatrists believe she may have been suffering from postpartum psychosis. Smith was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and was committed to North Texas State Hospital. There she became the roommate of fellow child-killer, Andrea Yates, who had drowned her 5 children in a bathtub.
6 Andrea Yates
Authorities found a disturbing scene at the Houston, Texas home of Andrea Yates in June 2001. The mother had drowned all 5 of her children, who were ages 7, 5, 3, 2, and 6 months at the time, in the bathtub of her home. She later told police and psychiatrists that Satan told her to kill her children so she could save them from eternity in hell.
It was later determined that Yates had been suffering from severe postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis when she committed the murders. The district attorney originally asked for the death sentence during her 2002 trial. She was eventually sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years, yet the verdict was later overturned when it was appealed. Yates was retried in 2006, but found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was finally committed to a psychiatric facility after the trial.
5 Susan Eubanks
In 1999, 33-year old Susan Eubanks shot and killed her four sons in an execution style murder in their San Marcos, California home. The boys, who had been aged 14, 7, 6, and 4, were each shot in the head. Eubanks then turned the gun on herself in an act of suicide, and shot herself in the stomach, though she survived her injuries. The only other person home during the murders was Eubank’s 5-year old nephew, who was found unharmed.
Eubanks blamed her alcoholic parents and lack of mental health treatment for her actions. Before the murders, Eubanks had been day drinking along with her boyfriend and had also ingested valium. The couple then began to fight, and police were called, who helped the boyfriend collect his things before leaving. After the incident, Eubanks’ defense argued that she lost her mind and then killed her son. Eubanks had previously threatened to harm herself and her children before the incident.
4 Shaquan Duley
Shaquan Duley murdered her two young sons, 18 month old Ja’van and two years old Devean, in August 2010. After suffocating the children with her bare hands in their motel rooms, she then strapped their bodies into their car seats and rolled her car into a river. Duley was unemployed and reportedly suffering from mental illnesses at the time.
In 2012, Duley was charged to a minimum of 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to the murder charges. The judge at the trial said, “'The sentence I hand down today does not reflect in any way this court minimizing the horror of what you did to your children, your family and this community.” During the trial, Duley apologized for her actions and said she was happy God let her keep the memories she has of her sons. She said, “In spite of whatever I’ve gone through, I still have hope and joy in my heart that one day I will see them again.”
3 Diane Downs
Back in 1983, an Oregon mother, named Diane Downs, and her three children arrived at a hospital emergency room. She was suffering from a gunshot wound to her arm, while her children’s clothing was soaked in blood. One of her children later died from a gunshot wound. Downs claimed that a “bushy-haired stranger” had carjacked the family and assaulted them.
However, as investigators looked further into the case, it became clear Downs had been the one to assault her children. Downs was convicted in 1984 of the murder of her daughter, and also the attempted murder of her other two children. She was sentenced to life in prison. Downs later tried to escape from prison in 1987 but was quickly recaptured. She was denied parole in 2008, and once again in 2010. Over the years, Downs has been the subject of various books and made-for-TV movies surrounding her heartbreaking crime.
2 Debra Jenner-Tyler
In 1987, 3-year old Abby Lynn Tyler was stabbed over 70 times by her mother, Debra Jenner-Tyler. The mother used a kitchen knife and metal toy airplane to brutally kill her child. After the crime, Jenner-Tyler told authorities that she “had been working a lot” and was “under a lot of stress.” She also added that her daughter had been acting “very finicky.”
Jenner-Tyler was originally sentenced to life in prison in 1987. The sentence was reduced to 100 years in prison in 2003 and she was eligible for parole in early 2003, though it was denied on several occasions. During one of her parole hearings, Mark Marshall, a Parole Board Members, said, "We were uncomfortable with the remorse she expressed. We were uncomfortable with the length of time she's served in relation to the crime that she's committed." While Jenner-Tyler eventually admitted to her crime, some believed she only did so in order to better her chances at receiving parole.
1 Christina Miracle
In 2004, a bizarre religious ceremony gone wrong led to the death of Christina Miracle’s six-year son, Brandon. The ominously named woman supposedly thought was resurrecting her dead brother while also baptizing her son. The boy had reportedly been beaten before being suffocated to death. It was later determined that Miracle was suffering from a mental illness that caused her to have delusions, which led to the boy’s death.
During her trial, Miracle pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, even though the judge eventually determined her competent enough to stand trial. Miracle reportedly began acting irrationally in 2003. Family members testified that she was became paranoid, and were worried someone was poisoning the water. She had been diagnosed and given medication for depression before the murder, but stopped taking it because of its side effects. Miracle went on to receive psychiatric care post-trial, and has reportedly been improving after being put on medications.
Sources: Dora Buenrostro, Susan Smith, Frances Newton, China Arnold, Brenda Drayton, Robin Lee Row, Jeanette Michelle Hawes, Kenisha Berry, Deena Schlosser, Andrea Yates, Susan Eubanks, Shaquan Duley, Diane Downs, Debra Jenner-Tyler, Christina Miracle