Volume 1, Issue 11 (Originally Published 14 May 2012)
On M a y 16t h , 1975, Ca lifo rn ia n hospital nurse Norma Jean Armistead was charged with murder of pregnant woman Kathryn Viramontes and theft of patient another patient’s, Mary Childs’, unborn baby.
Armistead was an obstetrics nurse who craved a baby of her own. Her husband Charles had undergone a vasectomy and could not provide the 44 year old Armistead with any children. She befriended Kathryn Viramontes at a hotel in Beverley Hills in late 1974, which seemed to have triggered the disturbing chain of events that followed.
In October 1974, Armistead used her position as a nurse to change her own medical records to create a report of her own pregnancy. Other nurses had thought it was a typing error because they didn’t believe she could be pregnant at her age. Around the same time, Childs was admitted into hospital preparing to give birth. Armistead, experienced in delivering babies without a doctor present, took this opportunity to heavily sedate Childs with drugs. When Childs woke up the next day, she was told by doctors that Armistead had delivered a stillborn due to the significant amount of narcotics in her body. Childs vehemently denied that she had ever taken drugs, but doctors brushed it off as it was apparently common for drug users to deny using.
In May 1975, Armistead went to Viramontes’ apartment and stabbed her to death, cutting out the unborn baby from her womb. She checked herself into hospital and tried to pass off the baby as her own, stating that she had a home birth. Doctors became suspicious because there were no physical signs of recent childbirth. They immediately alerted authorities.
Eventually it was revealed that Armistead not only killed Viramontes and stole her baby, but she had replaced Childs’ baby with a stillborn stolen from the hospital morgue. She had taken Childs’ baby and raised her as her own. It would be 8 months before Mary Childs was reunited with her baby. Childs also sued the hospital.
At trial, Armistead tried to plead insanity. She was convicted of murder, theft, and kidnapping, and sentenced to life in prison.
The strange and disturbing circumstances surrounding the gruesome case led eventually to a TV Movie being made called ‘Empty Cradle’.