Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Women Who Kill: Part Two

Murder by God's Command

Deanna Laney
Deanna Laney

No one thought there was something wrong with 39-year-old Deanna Laney on Mother's Day weekend in 2003. That's why they could not have predicted what she was about to do.

A housewife in New Chapel Hill, Texas who saw herself as a religious sister to Andrea Yates, the housewife who drowned her five children in 2001, Laney began to see "signs." Her 14-month-old son, Aaron, was playing with a spear. That was the first signal from God that she was to do something to her children.

She resisted, not certain that she understood. But the signs continued.

The case was broadcast on Court TV, and covered by newspapers, television talk shows nationwide and by Internet Web sites.

When Aaron presented Laney with a rock that day, she later reported that she believed she was supposed to pay attention. This was a symbol. Later that same day, he squeezed a frog. Then she understood. She was to kill her children, either by stoning them, strangling them or stabbing them. God had shown her three ways.

Again she told God no, but again she felt pressured to comply. "Each time it was getting worse and worse," she later said, "the way it had to be done." In other words, the more she resisted, the worse the death would be for her children. She decided that rocks would be preferable to strangulation, so she found some in preparation.

Laney knew she had to "step out in faith." She had to trust God, and she believed that God would use her brutal deed to do something great. He had done such things in the Bible. Then when Laney woke up before midnight on May 9, she knew that the time was at hand. She had already hidden a rock in Aaron's room, so she went there first.

Lifting the rock, she hit Aaron hard on the skull. He began to cry, alerting her husband, Keith. He asked what was wrong and Laney kept her back to him to prevent him from seeing what she was doing. She assured Keith that everything was okay. But it wasn't okay. Aaron was still breathing, so she put a pillow over his face until she heard him gurgle. She silently told God that He would have to finish the job.

Next Laney went after her other two sons. She took Luke, six, outside first in his underwear and smashed his skull by hitting him repeatedly with a large rock. Then she dragged him by the feet into the shadows so that Joshua, eight, would not see him. She left the stone, the size of a dinner plate, lying on top of him.

Joshua was next and Laney repeated to him what she had done with Luke, placing them together in a dark area of the yard.   

Afterward, she called 911 to report, "I killed my boys."

When the police came, they found Aaron still alive. He was taken away and it eventually became clear that both his vision and motor skills were severely impaired.

Outside, the police saw Laney standing still in blood-stained clothes. She indicated where she had left the boys and they found the bodies lying beneath large rocks. Both boys had serious head wounds. Laney was arrested, leaving her bewildered, horrified husband to wonder what had happened.

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