Aging Mom Admits, 'I Killed That Baby'
Janice Summerfield, 77, says she smothered her infant boy in 1961
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2014 3:10 PM CST

(Newser) – A 77-year-old Michigan mom has confessed to killing her baby boy 53 years ago, prompting a murder investigation and raising eyebrows about other deaths in the family, the Battle Creek Enquirer reports. Janice Summerfield, 77, apparently confessed to her daughter and a police detective before telling a reporter that she "killed that baby," referring to 8-month-old William Summerfield III, whose cause of death in 1961 was officially aspiration of regurgitated formula (the Detroit Free Press has the death certificate). "My mind wasn't right," she says. "I didn't know what I was doing." Janice was struggling to raise three small children while her truck-driver husband was mostly absent, says daughter Paula Gastian. Janice then allegedly smothered the boy and blamed his little brother for doing it. A pair of infant twin-sisters died in 1969 and 1970, and Janice blamed Gastian for one of them.

"She was good at blaming other people," says Gastian. "She blamed me that morning and I was 10 years old. I blamed myself for years." So did the brother, Phil, who has attempted suicide, been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and says he couldn't get close to his ex-wife or children. Both siblings say they endured a childhood of physical abuse under both parents; Janice took drugs, Gastian says, and the father received a prison sentence in September after entering a plea for child sex abuse. Gastian then confronted her mother and got a confession: "I was completely blown away," she says, but "I don't want her to go to prison." Janice, who initially accused doctors of making her confess in a dark room, is taking responsibility for William's death: "All these years I had forgotten," she says. "I am going to die. I hate myself so much. I am ready to die."