Mothers who kill their own children are despicable by any measure, but when they kill over and over again, as Waneta Hoyt did, there’s no forgiving them.
Waneta Hoyt was an American serial killer, convicted of killing five of her biological children over a six year period between 1965 and 1971. However, Hoyt wasn’t arrested until decades later, in 1994. She avoided interest for so long by convincing health professionals that all of her children had succumbed to SIDS, and taking pity instead of guilt.
Waneta’s Early Life
There isn’t much in Waneta’s past to indicate why she turned into a child-murdering monster. She was from a large family, the sixth of eight children. Her father was a labourer, her mother a seamstress. In the ninth grade, young Waneta met a boy named Tim Hoyt on the bus. Two years later, aged just 17, she dropped out of high school and married him. Just nine months later she gave birth to a son, Eric.
Yet 48 days later, the boy was dead, and Waneta’s murder spree had begun.
Waneta Hoyt’s Children
Waneta and her husband Tim had five biological children, none of whom lived past 28 months. Eric, born October 17th 1964 died on January 26th 1965 was the first. He was followed by James, born May 31st 1966 and died September 26th 1968, Julie, born July 19th 1968 and died September 5th the same year, Molly, born March 18th 1970 and died June 5th the same year, and Noah, born May 9th 1971 and died July 28th the same year. A few years after the deaths of their children, Waneta and Tim added to their family one more time, through adoption. The boy, named Jay, survived into adulthood.
In all five cases, the deaths were attributed to SIDS, a condition that at the time was not widely accepted. One of her children became the first to be placed on a special monitor at home. The child still died, something explained by Waneta as a machine malfunction. Waneta’s family was considered so unusual that they were the subject of a 1972 medical report on SIDS written by paediatrician Alfred Steinschneider. In his report he linked SIDS to sleep apnoea, and drew links to a potential genetic predisposition to the condition, thanks in part to the Hoyt family. He argued that as all five of the Hoyt’s biological children had died, while their adopted son had survived, genetics had to play a part.
The community of Newark Valley had no inclination that Waneta might have been a murderer. The couple were considered to be quiet and stoic, despite their unimaginable loss. Each memorial day Waneta would drive to the small cemetery where her five babies were buried, and the community would feel sorry for them. It wasn’t until many years later that they would realise Waneta had been the cause of her children’s untimely deaths.