An elderly Michigan woman living in a nursing home has come forward with a startling confession: She killed her 8-month-old son 53 years ago. Two of the women’s other children now wonder if she also killed their twin sisters years later.
Janice Summerfield, 77, recently confessed to killing William Earl Summerfield III. In a story Sunday, the Battle Creek Enquirer said Summerfield confessed to smothering little Billy during interviews with her 54-year-old daughter Paula Gastian, a detective and a reporter.
“I killed that baby,” Summerfield, who is in a nursing home in Kalamazoo, told the Enquirer reporter. “My mind wasn’t right. I killed that baby. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
On Oct. 16, the boy’s tiny casket was removed from a cemetery grave marked only with a number. The Calhoun County Sheriff Department opened a homicide investigation. Detective Steve Hinkley told the paper he is awaiting results of an autopsy to determine a possible cause of death.
The boy’s death certificate says he died accidentally on May 29, 1961 in Tekonsha. The cause of death was anoxia, or oxygen deprivation to the brain.
Phil Summerfield said he was 4 ½ when he awoke that day and found his little brother lifeless in the bed next to him.
“After she allegedly smothered the baby, she put the baby in bed with me,” the 58-year-old Alabama man told the Enquirer. “I was shy of 5 years old. I woke and he was dead. I picked him up and took him downstairs. She told me it was my fault.”
Summerfield said he believed his mother. “I thought it was my fault,” he said. “There was never anything else said.”
Gastian, of Battle Creek, said they lived in an abusive home with a neglectful mother who used drugs and a father who drove a truck and was often absent. The father, now 86, was sentenced to prison in September after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a friend’s child.
Gastian said her mother told her she had found God. She also believes her mother murdered her twin sisters. They were born in 1969. Beth died three months later. Brenda died a month short of her first birthday. The death certificates say they died of lung disease.
“I don’t want her to go to prison,” Gastain told the Enquirer. “But it needs to be put on record. She needs to be somewhere for what she has done.
"It is just such a relief. I am sick of living with secrets."