2008-04-25 04:51:08 UTC
She kidnapped two babies from their mothers and murdered the second
mother in order to do so. Her case was turned into the 1993 TV movie
starring Kate Jackson, "Empty Cradle."
What's puzzling it why it took so long to film it!
Mary Childs, 26, was an L.A. grocery store employee who had endured a
routine pregnancy until September 20, 1974. That day she entered the
Kaiser Foundation Hospital to give birth. There, she met Norma
Armistead, who took an immediate interest in her.
That evening, Norma gave Mary several drugs before she fell asleep.
When Mary awoke in the middle of the night, everything seemed wrong.
She couldn't control her limbs, couldn't focus her mind, wasn't big
anymore. Nurse Armistead and several doctors were by her side. Nurse
Armistead was telling the doctors she had visited the ward a few
minutes earlier to find Mary unconscious with a stillborn between her
legs. When the realization finally hit Mary, she was inconsolable.
Doctors informed her that her system contained massive quantities of
narcotics, none of them prescription. Mary was astonished; she had
never taken drugs. Doctors chose not to believe her; it was common for
users to deny using......
Norma had been living common law with Charles Armistead. She felt they
were drifting apart due to her inability to have a child. (She'd had a
hysterectomy in 1961.) Her job as a obstetric nurse gave her ample
opportunities to steal a live child and replace it with a child from
Mary, meanwhile, had her 8-month-old returned to her. She sued the
hospital and attending physicians for $24 million. She was awarded
(And had the authorities investigated, the following murder might have
Excerpt (from the bottom):
Norma Jean Armistead checked herself into the Kaiser Hospital in
Hollywood, California, after claiming to have given birth at home.
Armistead, a nurse at the hospital, confused doctors by showing no
evidence of giving birth. Doctors pieced together the evidence after
Kathryn Viramontes was soon discovered at her apartment in Van Nuys
stabbed to death with her baby cut from her womb. "Authorities said
Armistead took the Viramontes infant to the hospital after the murder
and claimed to be the natural mother. However, hospital authorities
became suspicious and notified police," The Oakland Tribune reported
on December 10, 1975.
According to what few online sources there are, Armistead was
sentenced to life.
So, does anyone know if that was without chance of parole?
What REALLY interests me, though, is what the hospital's defense was
in Mary Childs' case, when she sued! Not to mention how much influence
her case had on national hospital security.
(I heard about the case in the early 1980s courtesy of Reader's Digest
- I don't remember now whether the article had a certain bias or not,
but as a 14-year-old, when I read that she'd sued, all I could think
was "that's so unfair! The hospital didn't steal the baby!" Of course,
I understand things better now. Had anyone tried to explain it to me
back then, I would probably have argued that hospitals shouldn't have
to spend hundreds of dollars and energy on employee screenings and
security when such kidnappings are so rare anyway. Sadly, one effect
of tighter hospital security these days seems to be that baby-
kidnappers are attacking in more random, unpredictable ways - at the
mother's home, for example, where results are more likely to be