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Serial Killer Index Short List
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Serial Killer Index
serial killers by name [f] amazon
  FORNUTO Debbie ... ... USA ... ... ... 7
aka GEDZIUS Deborah Anne Booe Narbone 1972 1987 IL
BWi : ... ... ... ...
Nobody in Chicago suspected they were looking at anything more than a tragic medical mystery when Deborah Gedzius' six young children died one after another from 1972 to 1987. Pathologists had concluded that four of the children died from sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. The deaths of Gedzius' two other children remained unexplained. But the Cook County medical examiner's office decided to take a fresh look at their deaths in 1989, when police identified Deborah Gedzius as a suspect in the slaying of her estranged husband. Delos Gedzius died from a single bullet fired into his left temple as he slpet on a couch in his suburban Chicago apartment. Dr. Mary Jumbelic, an assistant medical examiner, discovered that two of Deborah Gedzius' children had undergone extensive hospital testing that showed they had no medical problems before they died. Jumbelic also learned that there had been no initial police investigation of the children's deaths. Police later determined that Deborah Gedzius was the only person around when each child died. Jumbelic issued new death certificates to show the children were victims of homicide. But when the state's attorney turned to outside experts to confirm Jumbelic's opinion, the murder investigation ran headlong into a 17-year-old SIDS study conducted by Dr. Alfred Steinschneider at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. Two outside experts told prosecutors Gedzius' children probably were homicide victims. The third, Dr. J. Bruce Beckwith, a pediatric pathologist who had defined SIDS in 1969, said it was more likely that Gedzius' children had died from a breathing disorder. Beckwith pointed prosecutors to Steinschneider's landmark paper in the October 1972 edition of the medical journal Pediatrics. The paper outlined the cases of five children in a single family who had suddenly stopped breathing and died. And if five children in the same family could die, why not six? Faced with conflicting medical opinions from the experts, prosecutors closed the case of the Gedzius children's deaths in July 1990. Beckwith now says he was wrong. He believes it's more likely Gedzius' children were killed. Beckwith changed his mind last year, after Waneta Hoyt -- the mother of the five children Steinschneider wrote about in his study -- was convicted of murder. Hoyt, who admitted that she smothered her children from 1965 to 1971, is serving 75 years to life in prison. In Chicago, prosecutors have quietly reopened their investigation into the murders of Gedzius' children. Gedzius, 40, has remarried and is living in Las Vegas. She did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. Her lawyer, Rick Halprin, said Gedzius denies killing her estranged husband or harming her children. All the children died of unknown, natural causes, he said. "My very firm belief (is) that she didn't ... kill any of these kids," Halprin said. Beckwith once thought so, too. And the study that Steinschneider performed at Upstate loomed large in his thinking. Beckwith never believed the Hoyt children's deaths fit the criteria for SIDS. Instead, he thought Steinschneider had encountered a case of recurrent apnea, involuntary pauses in breathing, affecting children from the same family. Beckwith had seen similar cases of recurrent apnea when he worked as a pediatric pathologist in Seattle during the 1960s and 1970s. "I, like he, believed the parents. They said, "I'm finding the baby blue and not breathing, and I do mouth-to-mouth, and it starts breathing,'" Beckwith said. "I was saying, these kids with familial recurrent apnea ought to be taken out of the SIDS category, they have a different disease. But I didn't go the next step to say they might be murdered." The turnaround in Beckwith's thinking is only part of the fallout from Hoyt's conviction on April 21, 1995. Hoyt's trial in Tioga County not only undercut Steinschneider's 1972 study, it challenged how a generation of researchers, parents, pediatricians, prosecutors and other law enforcement officials had viewed sudden infant deaths -- particularly multiple deaths in families. Steinschneider's research led to the widespread belief that apnea monitors, machines designed to sound an alarm when an infant stops breathing, could prevent SIDS. As Steinschneider built a career looking for a link between apnea and SIDS, other researchers sometimes found ominous connections between apnea monitors and homicidal smothering. The Post-Standard found that: ìWhile the federal government says there is no scientific proof that apnea monitors prevent SIDS, there is evidence that abusive parents have used the machines as accomplices to murder. A review of federal records on 233 reported deaths nationwide of children being treated with apnea monitors from 1982 to 1995 shows that 18 were suspected homicides. The records do not indicate if prosecutors took action. ìProsecutors in Boston have been asked to look into 14 deaths of babies in the 1970s and 1980s from four families who were part of a SIDS study at Massachusetts General Hospital. No action has been taken. ìBeckwith said he now believes the multiple infant deaths he studied in two Seattle families earlier in his career might have been homicides. The circumstances surrounding the cases were strikingly similar to the Hoyt murders, he said. The babies supposedly had apnea and were put on monitors; the infants never needed resuscitation in the hospital, only at home; the same parent was always with the children when they died. Beckwith said he has not told police about his suspicions because he neither has medical records nor recalls the families' names. ìA half-dozen police agencies from around the country have asked Dr. Linda Norton, a pathologist in Dallas who had first tipped authorities to the possibility that Hoyt killed her children, to review old cases of multiple SIDS deaths that they now suspect may be serial child murders. Steinschneider's 1972 paper has given defense attorneys ammunition and discouraged prosecutors from pursuing serial child deaths in families, Norton said. "As long as you have this bogus thing hanging out there where you've got medical literature showing that SIDS runs in some families, you get these prosecutors who don't even like to attempt to try them," Norton said. "Back in my more Pollyanna days, even though I knew that some homicides were being called SIDS, I thought it was an extraordinarily small number. And now I'm not so sure it's a terribly small percentage anymore." Nobody knows how many cases of serial infanticide were overlooked during the nearly two decades Steinschneider's ideas were widely accepted. As authorities in New York and several other states take a second look at cases involving multiple SIDS deaths in single families, they will likely have to overcome the same obstacles that Tioga County officials encountered in proving Waneta Hoyt's guilt. Finding 'Mrs. H.' First, officials had to learn the identity of "Mrs. H" -- as Steinschneider referred to Waneta Hoyt in his famous paper in Pediatrics. In 1986, Norton pointed out Steinschneider's paper to William Fitzpatrick, who was an assistant prosecutor trying another child killer in Onondaga County. When he read Steinschneider's paper documenting the deaths of five brothers and sisters in the "H" family, Fitzpatrick said he believed right away "Mrs. H" had killed her children. But Fitzpatrick left his prosecutor's job and did nothing more until he became district attorney in 1992. Fitzpatrick learned the identity of the family by unearthing medical documents at the SUNY Health Science Center, previously known as Upstate Medical Center. He found records for the two children Steinschneider had referred to as M.H. and N.H., revealing the names of Molly and Noah Hoyt. The children were from Tioga County, about 70 miles south of Syracuse. Fitzpatrick faxed a synopsis of the five Hoyt children's deaths and a copy of Steinschneider's paper to Tioga County District Attorney Robert Simpson. Simpson was reluctant. "All I had was a fellow district attorney who calls me up and says, 'You have five deaths under bizarre circumstances,'" Simpson said. With prodding from Fitzpatrick, Simpson pursued the case. Simpson gave copies of the children's medical records to two pathologists, who agreed the Hoyt children had been murdered. A tearful confession Police stopped the 47-year-old housewife on March 23, 1994, as she picked up her mail at the post office. Hours later Hoyt broke down at the state police barracks in Owego and tearfully confessed to killing her five children from 1965 to 1971. She told police she killed them because they would not stop crying. She said she smothered 3-month-old Eric with a pillow; pressed the face of 6-week-old Julie into her shoulder until Julie stopped breathing; smothered 2-year-old James with a bath towel; and used pillows to suffocate Molly and Noah.
Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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