Picks and Pans Review: The Death of Innocents

UPDATED 01/12/1998 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/12/1998 at 01:00 AM EST

by Richard Firstman and Jamie Talan

When Waneta Hoyt's infant son Eric died suddenly and inexplicably in 1965, residents of rural Newark Valley, N.Y., felt nothing but sympathy for their quiet neighbor. After her second child died mysteriously three years later, they felt even worse. But when a third child died, again for no apparent reason, Waneta Hoyt's neighbors started whispering.

Even so, it took another 24 years—and two more deaths—before Hoyt was finally found guilty, in 1995, of smothering her five children. These are the unthinkable events at the heart of this spellbinding true-crime story. As grippingly paced and plotted as a legal thriller, Innocents examines the mind-boggling mistakes and dubious motives that led coroners, law enforcement officials and an influential Syracuse doctor to conclude that Hoyt's children all died of a little-understood disease—sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS—in effect granting the attention-craving Hoyt a blank check to kill again and again.

Husband-and-wife journalists Richard Firstman and Jamie Talan also unravel the painstaking police investigation that culminated in Hoyt's full confession and sentence of 75-years-to-life in prison. Not that her jailing offers satisfying closure; by the time the elderly Hoyt is hauled away, she's too sad and feeble to make a tidy villain. An expert telling of a tragic, complex tale, Innocents will leave readers sorting through a jumble of emotions. (Bantam, $24.95)

Your Reaction

Follow Us

On Newsstands Now

Lupita Nyong'o: Most Beautiful!
  • Lupita Nyong'o: Most Beautiful!
  • Chelsea Clinton is Pregnant!
  • Exclusive Royal Tour Diary

Pick up your copy on newsstands

Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine


From Our Partners

Watch It

Editors' Picks

From Our Partners

Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters