An elderly Michigan woman won’t face any charges despite reportedly confessing to killing her baby over 50 years ago. WZZM News 13 reports that 78-year-old Janice Summerfield admitted to smothering her infant son, William Summerfield, but that’s not the only disturbing detail in this story. Is this matronly old woman’s past littered with helpless victims, or did she claim only one?
The elderly woman confessed to detective Steve Hinkley after first confessing to her 55-year-old daughter, Paula Gastion. The admission may be a bit of a shock to people first hearing about this, but to Gastion, it was not that surprising. That’s because she had already suspected her mother of being responsible for the deaths of her young siblings — two twin girls who died eight months apart in 1969 and 1970, and another young boy who passed away the same year as baby William.
Janice Summerfield has not only openly confessed to suffocating her son to death on May 29, 1961, but she has openly commented about it to the media. The Battle Creek Enquirer was able to get a comment from the confessed killer, who seemed contrite.
“I killed that baby. My mind wasn’t right. I killed that baby. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
She admitted to suffocating the baby to death, but denies taking any part in the deaths of her two twin daughters and her baby who died just days after birth — and just two months after she killed William.
As suspicious as all the details are in this case — and even with Janice’s outright confession — she will not face any charges for now. Also, authorities have not expressed any desire to excavate the graves of the other children that have passed away in her care. Nonetheless, the statute of limitations for homicide never expires, and this case does remain open. Meanwhile, Janice Summerfield continues to reside in an assisted living facility instead of a jail cell.
This case shares similarities with the Marybeth Tinning story. Tinning was convicted of the suffocation murder of her ninth child and is serving life in prison for the crime. Even though she was only ever tried for one murder, authorities believe she may have killed as many as nine of her children — all of them dead by the same causes.
Do you think prosecutors in Michigan should charge this elderly woman with murder? Or is it simply too late for justice to be served?
[Photo: Family photo via Inside]