A 25-Year Trail to Murder Charges—... The first suspicions were raised in 1985 by Dr. Linda Norton, a former medical examiner for Dallas County, Texas, and an expert on pediatric pathology, who had been a consultant in the VanDerSluys case.
"You may have a serial killer in Syracuse," she told the prosecutor in giving him a copy of an October 1972 article in Pediatrics (1972;50(4)) called "Prolonged Apnea and the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Clinical and Laboratory Observations." In the report Dr. Steinschneider described his work with the syndrome and how two children in a family plagued with the affliction had died within hours of their release from his Syracuse research project.
In his paper, Dr. Steinschneider concluded that the family, which he still identifies only as "H," showed that victims suffered from real if almost undetectable physical abnormalities. In a proposal that was radical then but is now accepted, he suggested that the syndrome had a genetic component and was therefore inherited. He suggested that scientists could identify the abnormalities and thereby devise a warning system.
"But the paper indicated a more sinister possibility to Dr. John F. Hick of Minnesota. In a letter to the journal, he wrote that the case offered "circumstantial evidence suggesting a critical role for the mother in the death of her children." (See below.)
But his warning was dismissed, until Mr. Fitzpatrick read the paper 15 years later.
"The medical records described two happy, healthy, perfectly normal kids," he said. "It convinced me that these children were murdered."
- Copyright © 1994 by the American Academy of Pediatrics