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Serial Killer Index Short List
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Serial Killer Index
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  JOHNSON Martha Ann 1955 USA ... ... ... 4-5
1977 1982 GA
 : ... ... ... ...

Monday-morning quarterbacks in Georgia had a field day with the case of Martha Johnson, trying to explain how the murders of four children fell through the cracks of the criminal justice system. Homicide investigators blamed their failure on the suspects change of address, noting ruefully that different jurisdictions often fail to keep in touch. Physicians dropped the ball repeatedly, misdiagnosing the cause of death in Marthas first three murders. On the fourth, detectives and a medical examiner suggested prosecution, but the Clayton County D.A. never followed through. Even Marthas husband, after noting a distinctive pattern in the deaths, could not persuade authorities to act. However the responsibility is portioned out, the bungling cost four lives. A Georgia native, born in 1955, Martha Johnson was working on her third marriage at age twenty-two. The first had produced a daughter, Jennyann Wright, born in 1971. James William Taylor, the product of Marthas second marriage, followed in 1975. Husband number three, Earl Bowen, got along well with Marthas children and fathered two of his own--Earl Wayne in 1979 and Tibitha Janel in 1980--but he did not get along so well with Martha. In fact, the couple argued bitterly, and Early repeatedly walked out to let his temper cool. They always patched things up, or so it seemed, but Martha had begun to feel the strain. Perhaps she saw the children as a stumbling block to happiness, or simply pawns to be manipulated in a deadly private game. In either case, the end result was lethal. Two-year-old James Taylor was the first to go, already dead when Martha brought him to the Clayton County hospital on September 25, 1977. He had failed to wake up that morning, she said, and doctors were unable to revive him. Despite his relatively advanced age, they blamed the boys death on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and closed the file. Earl Bowen shared his wifes apparent grief and came back home. In 1980, the couple separated again, and Martha made another emergency trip to the hospital. This time, the victim was three-month-old Tibitha, and the diagnosed cause of death was identical. Earl Bowen was openly suspicious, and experts consider two SIDS deaths in the same family improbable, but Clayton County physicians and detectives accepted Marthas plea of bad luck. Yet another quarrel and separation preceded the death of two-year-old Earl Wayne Bowen, on February 15, 1981. This time, physicians gave SIDS a break and blamed the childs death on seizure disorder of unknown etiology. Following Earls funeral, 10-year-old Jennyann told her father and a Fulton County social worker that she was afraid to stay home with her mother . Welfare workers interviewed the family but found no legal grounds for removing Jennyann to a foster home. Detectives and the county medical examiner agreed there was no evidence of homicide to build a case in court. A year and six days after little Earls death, Martha summoned police to her new home in Jonesboro, declaring that her daughter had stopped breathing. Patrolmen found the child lying face-down on her bed, beyond help by the time paramedics arrived. An autopsy blamed her death on probable asphyxia, and the medical examiner called it suspicious, noting that this 11-year-old Caucasian female is the fourth child to die following domestic arguments between the parents. Even so, the coroner declined to hold an inquest, and the district attorneys office ignored a recommendation that Martha be prosecuted. It was finally too much for Bowen, and the couple split for good. Martha was remarried to Charles Johnson, living in Locust Grove, when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution launched a new investigation of her case in December 1988. A month later, Dr. William Anderson declared that his 1977 diagnosis of SIDS for James Taylor was probably wrong. With twenty-twenty hindsight, the doctor told newsmen, I wouldnt hesitate to say theres a 90% chance that this is homicide. This time, police were listening. Martha was arrested on July 3, 1989, held without bail on a charge of murdering Jennyann. In a videotaped confession , made the same day, she admitted smothering Jennyann and James Taylor by rolling her 250-pound bulk on top of the children as they slept. In each case, Martha said, her motive was to bring Earl Bowen home. The deaths of Tibitha and little Earl, she told police, were not her fault. Clayton County prosecutors disagreed, charging Johnson with two more counts of murder in the week following her arrest. (No charge has been filed to date in the death of James Taylor, in Fulton County.) Martha changed her mind and recanted the confession before her murder trial began, on April 30, 1990, but the tape was still admitted into evidence. Charles Johnson did his best for the defense, tearfully describing Martha as a good wife and mother who could never do anything like theyre saying. Jurors disagreed, convicting her of first-degree murder on May 5, and she was sentenced to death. Georgias Supreme Court rejected Marthas appeal in March 1991. [ReadOn]

Die 22-jährige 120-Kilo-Frau, Mutter von 4 kleinen Kindern, tötete nach jedem heftigen Streit mit ihrem Mann eines der Kinder, indem sie es unter ihrer Körperfülle erstickte. Jedesmal berief sie sich auf "Plötzlichen Kindstod". [Weiterlesen]

Copyright 1995-2005 by Elisabeth Wetsch
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