Cradle to Grave

In the 1960s, a local couple became the most famous bereaved parents in America, as their infants died one after another. In April, a Philadelphia Magazine investigation revealed the deaths were indeed tragic, but perhaps not unexplainable.

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  1. April, 1998

    Homicide Hal has always been concerned that the Noe case is a ditzel.

    The renowned forensic pathologist thought the case might be a ditzel back in 1963, when he did the autopsy on the sixth healthy infant that Art and Marie Noe had lost to “crib death.” And he was completely honest with that nun who called him at the medical examiner’s office in 1966 to inform him that the Noes were listing him as a reference on their adoption application — after having lost a record nine babies.

    ”I remember telling the nun there were two ways of looking at this,” recalls Dr. Halbert Fillinger, the 71-year-old Montgomery County medical examiner with the “Homicide Hal” license plate. “I said, ‘If you give Marie Noe a baby, she’ll either kill it quickly ... or, if she had no hand in these deaths, nobody deserves a baby more than she does.’”

    Everyone in the Philadelphia Office of the Medical Examiner (OME) had suspicions about the Noes back then, even though they never said so publicly. And, sitting in an office cluttered with antique murder-phernalia, Fillinger says he continues to have his suspicions today, 30 years after the tenth Noe baby died and the couple was investigated one last time and nothing came of it. While the Noes went on to rebuild their lives, their case lay dormant in OME file #30-68 and police homicide miscellaneous investigation file #11-1968. Just another ditzel.

    ”A ditzel is a case that looks like a goodie, but means nothing,” Fillinger tells me, his voic...