Female Killers · New York

Woman convicted of killing 5 of her children dies in prison

August 13, 1998
Bedford, New York
Waneta Hoyt dies in prison from pancreatic cancer

Hoyt was convicted of killing her five biological children between 1965 and 1971. Her longest-living child was 28-months-old when he died, but the next 4 were between 2- and 3-months-old when they died. The initial suspicion of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) seemed to be confirmed when Hoyt and her husband adopted a child who did not suffer the same fate as his adoptive siblings. Originally, it was thought the SIDS in the other children was possibly genetic.

A renewed investigation into the case noted 90% of SIDS incidents happen within the first six months a child is born, and do not occur after the child is a year old. As one of Hoyt’s children was 28-months-old at the time of his death, suspicion grew and Hoyt was questioned again in 1994.

Hoyt confessed during interrogation to smothering her children because they were crying, but later recanted; her defense attorney claimed she may not have confessed voluntarily. She was found guilty anyway and sentenced to 75 years in prison, 15 years for each child. Some believe she may have suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a condition in which a person inflicts injury, illness, or death on another in their care to gain sympathy or attention, but she was not officially diagnosed.

She died in prison of pancreatic cancer and was officially exonerated because she died before her appeal could be heard.

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