Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Black Widows: Veiled in Their Own Web of Darkness

Black Widow's Greatest Sin

Black Widows, the variety that wears women's clothing, are very much alive today, and they kill. Their lives may not be as melodramatic as Mary Ann Cotton's, as glamorous as Marie Besnard's, or as stern as Blanche Taylor Moore's. Many will never get caught.

While this article has taken a sometimes-wry look at the Black Widow throughout history, and the approach has occasionally been tongue-in-cheek, there is indeed a very serious side to the woman who kills obsessively for profit. These are the women who also kill their children.

A report on Women Offenders issued by the Bureau of Justice in 1999 gives startling and sickening results about child murder, data gathered from the Bureau's years of investigation. The report informs us that between 1976 and 1997, parents and stepparents murdered 11,000 children. Interpreted, that figure means that almost 525 innocent youngsters were slain per year for the past 21 years. Mothers and stepmothers were directly responsible for half of these murders. More so, the majority of the homicides perpetrated by mothers occurred during their child's infancy.

Motive was not exclusively for-profit. Instigators were also anger or bewilderment, driven here and there by alcohol or drugs. Methods varied, suffocation taking a large part.

The Black Widow in the year 2000 has changed little. She still manipulates. She still smiles in your face and adds ant poison to your coffee. She still smothers and poisons. As well, her modus operandi becomes more technical, compliments of Waneta Hoyt who taught her peers the advantages of using SIDS and other hard-to-diagnose illnesses as a shield.

"Medical experts now believe that between one and 20 percent of the 7,000 to 8,000 babies who are annually diagnosed as having died of SIDS may have actually died of other causes," write authors Michael and C.L. Kelleher. "Sadly, many of these infants may die at the hands of their mothers."

Considering that the most basic beast of the wilderness fights to the death to protect its helpless young from predators, there is the saddest comment of all on the human animal who is that predator.

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