Ellen Boehm: A uniquely evil monster, Boehm took out her petty grievances on the innocents she was supposed to protect, her own infant children.
Christina Walters: Christina wasn’t your average single mom, she was a gangbanger, eager for her first kill. Pity the unfortunate soul who crosses her path tonight.
Pamela Gourlay: An addict desperate for a fix comes knocking on her neighbor’s door in the middle of the night. In her pocket, she’s carrying a boning knife.
Kathleen Worrall: Sibling rivalry runs out of control in this frightening tale of familial disharmony and bloody murder.
Jeanne Harrington: A dispute over finances brings a married couple into conflict. It is resolved with a Taser and a spool of plastic wrap.
Raya & Sakina: The remarkable true story of Egypt’s most notorious serial killers, a pair of malicious sisters named Raya and Sakina.
Raynella Dossett Leath: The grieving widow claimed that her husband had taken his own life. But how many suicides shoot themselves three times?
Marlene Johnson: A possessive wife; an affair that never was; a life cut short in the name of pathological jealousy.
Deadly Women Volume 14
The relationship between Ellen Booker and Paul Boehm was a difficult one for her friends and family to fathom. Ellen was just a teenager. Paul was a married man with children and a reputation as a womanizer. He was also old enough to be Ellen’s father. Still, the fresh-faced 18-year-old was besotted with her older lover, determined to lure him away from his wife and kids. She eventually succeeded in 1980, when the couple used money that Ellen had inherited from her paternal grandparents to put a down payment on a house in St Louis, Missouri.
In September of 1981, the Boehms welcomed a daughter, Stacy Ann, into their lives. Four years later, on September 22, 1985, Ellen gave birth to a son, Steven Michael Boehm. Within a month of his birth, Ellen was pregnant for a third time. By then, the marriage was already in trouble. The couple was taking more and more time apart. For Ellen, a considerable chunk of that time was spent attending professional wrestling tournaments with her friend, Deanne Smith. For Paul, it was spent in the arms of a new, younger lover. In June 1986, with Ellen eight months pregnant, he took off, abandoning her and their children. He’d show up at the hospital on the day that his third son, David Brian Boehm, was born. Thereafter, he disappeared again, moving with his new girlfriend to Tucson, Arizona.
Paul Boehm was the archetypal deadbeat dad. He never called, never inquired about his children’s well-being, never sent cards on their birthdays. He was also loath to pay the $105 per week child support that the court had ordered. Ellen eventually got tired of chasing him for money and gave up. Meanwhile, she was delivering pizzas at night to keep her children housed, clothed, and fed. Despite these efforts, she was swamped by debt. In 1988, she filed for bankruptcy. With her house foreclosed, she was forced to move her young family to more affordable housing at the Riverbend Apartments on South Broadway.
Ellen’s only solace, during this wretched time, was her love for pro wrestling. Despite her money troubles, she always managed to scrape up enough for a ticket, and still attended every event she could, with her friend Deanne. And her obsession ran deeper than that of most fans. She frequently wrote to her favorite performers, hinting not too subtly that she wouldn’t be averse to some one-on-one time. Getting no response to these solicitations, she took to boasting about sexual liaisons anyway, telling her friends that she’d slept with many wrestlers on the circuit. Few believed her and Deanne knew outright that she was lying.
But who would begrudge Ellen these flights of fancy? Who can blame her for wanting to escape the daily grind that was her life? At the time, she was having trouble paying for even her most basic needs; utility bills were piling up; the phone company was threatening to cut her off. And then there was the check that she couldn’t avoid writing, her monthly payment to the bankruptcy courts. It was all getting too much for her, dragging her down, pulling her under.
Ellen was bemoaning this very fact to a friend during the Thanksgiving holiday of 1988. Then she suddenly broke off the conversation and said that she’d have to hang up because something was wrong with her baby, David. A short while later, Ellen Boehm dialed 911 and said that her son’s lips had turned blue and that he wasn’t breathing. Paramedics rushed to the scene but found that they couldn’t enter the apartment because the front door was locked. It would take several minutes of knocking before Ellen’s daughter, Stacy, let them in. She said that her mother was “out.” Then, as the medics were preparing to transport the toddler to the hospital, Ellen suddenly reappeared. She seemed oddly calm given the crisis, informing the paramedics that her son had been suffering from a cold over the last few days.
David Boehm was still alive when he arrived at the ER. He would remain on life support for the next few days, until the decision was taken to turn off the machines. He died on November 26, 1988, at the age of just 28 months. Cause of death was officially given as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
The loss of a child is devastating to any parent. Yet Ellen Boehm seemed to cope just fine. Her demeanor could best be described as neutral, neither happy nor sad. Her friends put this down to shock but even they were surprised when they heard of a phone call that Ellen made to Deanne. This was on the day before her infant son was laid to rest. Ellen wanted to know if Deanne was interested in attending a wrestling show at the Kiel Auditorium. She had a meeting at the funeral parlor that afternoon, she said. It would be no problem at all for her to stop off on the way and pick up a couple of tickets.
David Brian Boehm was buried at Trinity Cemetery in early December 1988. A few days later, Ellen received a check for $5,000 from her employer’s group life insurance policy. And that must have given her an idea because a few months later, she started shopping around for life cover on her two surviving children. Six policies were eventually written with three different insurers. They valued each child’s life at $100,000.
On the evening of September 13, 1989, an accident occurred in the Boehm household. Stacy Ann was in the bathtub when a hairdryer somehow fell into the water. The child received a severe jolt that left her screaming in pain with blood trickling from her nose. She was rushed to the emergency room where Ellen told doctors that her younger child, Steven, had dropped the hairdryer into the tub. When Stacy insisted that Steven had not even been in the room at the time, Ellen shushed her, saying that she was confused. Stacy, fortunately, suffered no serious injuries. She was treated and discharged.
But just nine days later, another tragedy befell the Boehm family. On Monday, September 25, 1989, Ellen called her workplace and spoke to a co-worker, telling her that she was taking four-year-old Steven to the emergency room. “He’s been feeling under the weather since his latest round of vaccinations,” she claimed. Then, ominously, she added, “The same thing that happened to David is happening to Steven.”
Ellen Boehm did not bring her son to the ER that day. Instead, she took him for a meal at Taco Bell and then to visit his brother’s grave. At 11:30 a.m., she phoned the colleague she’d spoken to earlier and told her that the doctors had examined Steven and found nothing wrong with him. She said that she was taking him home and would be back at work in the morning. She wouldn’t, though. The afternoon was about to take a tragic turn.
Just after 1:00 p.m. on that September afternoon, one of Ellen Boehm’s neighbors was startled by someone pounding at his front door. The man worked as a paramedic and so he was used to his neighbors coming to him for first aid assistance and always willing to help. This time it was Ellen Boehm that he found on his doorstep, and she appeared distraught. “Please come quick,” she said. “My son…he’s not breathing.”
The medic immediately went to his phone and called for an ambulance. Then he grabbed his medical bag and followed Ellen to her apartment. The boy was lying on the floor. The blueish tinge to his lips was not a good sign. There was also no pulse or hint of breath. Still, the paramedic did his best, keeping up CPR until the ambulance arrived. Tragically, it was not enough. Steven Boehm, who had celebrated his fourth birthday only three days earlier, was dead.
But this death was not as easily explained away as that of David. Steven was four years old. He had certainly not succumbed to SIDS. So, what had caused his inexplicable death? Ellen’s insistence that he’d had an adverse reaction to a vaccination was dismissed by medical experts. And her muted reaction to losing a second child in the space of a year raised eyebrows. In fact, some of her friends were so put out by her lack of emotion that they began to suspect the worst. A few of them even spoke to a homicide detective they knew, asking him to look into the matter.
Events, though, had already gotten ahead of them. Dr. Michael Graham, medical examiner for the city of St Louis, was another who didn’t trust Ellen Boehm’s version of events. Graham was convinced that Steven had been suffocated, a view that he shared with investigators looking into the case. That sent the detectives on a quest to find a motive and it wasn’t long before they learned of the insurance policies. Ellen, it seemed, was already writing checks. She’d recently splashed out on a new car, hardly the actions of a mother grieving the tragic death of her 4-year-old son.
So now the police had motive and they had opportunity. Did they have a murder weapon? Dr. Graham wasn’t sure. Convinced though he was in his theory of mechanical asphyxiation, he needed a second opinion. To obtain such validation, he sent his autopsy findings to seven respected medical experts, asking them to review the evidence. The results, when they came, were unanimous. Every single one of these experts concluded that Steven had been suffocated. Finally, after a year-long investigation, the decision was made to bring Ellen Boehm in.
St Louis PD was taking no chances with this one. They had consulted beforehand with the FBI, gaining insights into the best way to approach the interrogation. When Ellen walked into the interview room, she found herself confronted with an array of charts and exhibits, detailing her checkered financial history, the insurance policies she’d purchased, her recent spending spree, and the medical records of her children.
And the strategy worked. Just a few hours in and Ellen Boehm was admitting to ending the lives of her children. She wasn’t taking responsibility, though. This was everyone’s fault but hers. It was her desperate financial situation, her deadbeat ex who refused to support his children, the stresses of being a struggling single mother.
Ellen Boehm’s confession was captured on tape. It would be played at her trial. Delivered with no discernable emotion, it makes for chilling listening. Describing the murder of two-year-old David, she said: “I put the couch pillow over him. And my hands were on both sides. And he was really strong. He did struggle a little. And then I put the pillow right there for about forty-five seconds at the most. Then I put the pillow back on the couch and at this point he was lying on his back. And then I called my girlfriend and we talked, you know, about what each of us did for our Thanksgiving.”
These are damning words, spoken by a uniquely evil monster. And yet, Ellen Boehm was still determined to go to trial and put the matter before a jury. Perhaps she thought that sob stories about her difficult life would gain her some sympathy. It was only when prosecutors signaled their intention to seek the death penalty that she buckled and asked for a deal. A guilty plea to two counts of murder got her life in prison without parole. She is currently incarcerated at the Women’s Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Missouri.
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