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Mother Who Confessed To Murdering Child Won’t Be Charged

© Courtesy photoTwins Brenda and Beth Summerfield died eight months apart in 1969 and 1970.
Twins Brenda and Beth Summerfield died eight months apart in 1969 and 1970. - Sputnik International
A 77-year-old woman who confessed last year to murdering her infant son 54 years ago will not face charges for now.

Janice Summerfield had confessed to Calhoun County Prosecutor Daniel Buscher that she smothered her 8-month-old son to death on May 29, 1961.

Following a meeting Thursday with Calhoun County Sheriff Department Detective Steve Hinkley and Medical Examiner Joyce deJong, Bushcer said he could not file charges or seek a requested murder warrant.

"Based on inconclusive medical results, I am not comfortable at this time proceeding," Buscher said. "We have many cold cases that are 25 or 30 years old, but in this case the scientific evidence made it very difficult. We wanted to do the right thing because we only have one chance at prosecution."

Paula Gastian, 55, approached Hinkley last year saying that her mother Janice confessed to killing her son in September. Hinkley opened an investigation which eventually led to Janice confessing to him. However, a confession on its own is not enough under law to issue charges.

After the boy’s body was exhumed in October, deJong said he did not find any evidence that the death was a homicide.

"The body was so degraded, we had a rough time having any conclusion as to what caused the death," Buscher said. "Dr. deJong was not comfortable based on the medical evidence that is available to call it a homicide. Unless that is cleared up now or there is further testing later on, I would technically deny it at this point. But they are free to submit it with any new evidence. But at this time I am going to deny it."

The child’s brother Phil Summerfield, 58, said he found the body in 1961 and was blamed for it by his mother.

Discussing recent revelations, Phil said, "I have to admit that I expected it. But I hoped that something else would happen. It was some help that I haven't been involved, and all this did was rehash things without there being an outcome.”

His other brother Mike Summerfield, 47, said he was not surprised by the news.

"We are done now,” Mike said after a recent meeting with investigators. “With any wound, once it is closed it is going to get better. It's the way it works."

Gastian said she recalls living with her brothers in an abusive home while her mother abused drugs and neglected her children.  Her father William Summerfield, 86, was a truck driver who did not spend too much time at home. In September, he entered a plea after being sentenced to sexual assault of a friend’s child.

The family also had two other sisters. Twins Beth and Brenda Summerfield died a few months after birth in 1970. Their death certificates indicate they both suffered from lung disease. 

However, Gastian said she believes her mother was to blame.

"I had twin sisters and I always suspected neglect," Gastian told the Battlecreek Enquirer.

Gastian said she confronted her mother about the twins’ deaths after her father was sentenced in September. She said her mother confessed to murdering her son that day, but said she was not responsible for her twin daughters’ deaths.

That case remains open and Buscher said the twins’ bodies may be exhumed for further investigation.

"We discussed it, but I am uncomfortable because I don't want to disturb the remains and I don't believe there will be anything there that will cause us to charge or not charge,” Buscher said. 

“Our theory is the same, that there was some type of suffocation and there would not be any traumatic injuries to the bodies or brains or any blunt force trauma that would give us a clear indication about cause of death. I just don't think exhuming the bodies of the two girls would shed any more light on the case."

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