Date of murders: 1946 - 1969
Method of murder: Suffocation
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
On the surface, Martha Woods was a devoted Army wife, moving from one military base to another with her husband. But Martha suffered from an unusual mental illness known as Munchausens Syndrome by Proxy. Victims of this bizarre condition typically seek attention or sympathy by making up illnesses and ailments for their loved ones. In extreme cases they may even inflict harm on those close to them, including their own children. Martha Woods was an extreme case. Seven children would lose their lives because of it.
Woods’ M.O. was almost always identical. She would rush into the E.R. with an unconscious baby in her arms, saying that the child had just stopped breathing. The child would almost always be revived but within days (sometimes even hours) the drama would play itself out again and the child would be dead. Three of Martha’s own children died in this way, as did a niece, a nephew, and a neighbor’s child. When she ran out of victims, Woods adopted a little boy, who soon went the way of the other children.
You might wonder why police or hospital staff did not pick up a pattern to these deaths. That was because Martha had geography on her side. As she traveled with her husband to various military bases around the country, the deaths were not linked until her adopted seven-month-old son, Paul, died in Baltimore in 1969.
With clear evidence of murder, Woods was arrested and committed for trial. Convicted on one count of murder, she was sentenced to life imprisonment.