Surely it was more than coincidence that children in Christine's care kept dying...
As Christine Falling, 17, of Perry, Florida, settled down to babysit for Travis Coleman, she cuddled and cooed over him. He was just 10 weeks old. His parents set off, happy in the knowledge that their boy was safe.
True, the teenager was obese, plain, and a little simple – and had been through a string of tragedies recently. But she doted on all the kids she babysat.
Yet, shockingly, Travis’ parents returned to find their baby dead.
‘He just stopped breathing!’ Christine insisted.
A postmortem proved that Travis had been deliberately suffocated… And investigations revealed this wasn’t the first time Falling had killed a child in her care.
As she’d later tell police, she’d heard voices: ‘Kill the baby!’
So what turned this teenager into a killer?
Christine was born in 1963 into a violent, poor family. Her brutal father was 65, her mother 16 and already a mum to a 2-year-old.
When Christine was 3, both girls were abandoned in an orphanage, then adopted by a couple named Falling. Christine took their name but the adoption didn’t go smoothly.
Christine was epileptic, had severe learning difficulties, was obese and aggressive.
She was bullied at school, argued with her adoptive parents, and by 9, she’d started to torture and kill cats. She later claimed she strangled some to ‘show them her love’.
The girls were returned to the orphanage. Staff described Falling as a liar, thief and attention-seeking rule-breaker.
At just 14, Falling married a man 10 years her senior but, after six weeks of violent fights, the pair separated.
Over the next two years, Falling reported mysterious symptoms at the local hospital 50 times. But doctors never found the cause. Even as an adult, she only had a mental age of an 11-to-12-year-old, yet locals felt sympathy. So they gave her babysitting work.
In February 1980, as she babysat 2-year-old Cassidy ‘Muffin’ Johnson, the little girl collapsed. She’d suffered blunt-force trauma to her skull.
Falling admitted Muffin had fallen from her cot.
Months later, Jeffrey Davis, 4, stopped breathing while in her care. Jeffrey’s family comforted the distraught Falling. Even asked her to babysit his 2-year-old cousin, Joseph Spring, during the funeral.
As the service took place, Joseph died. Doctors suspected a virus had killed both boys.
Next, Falling became housekeeper to 77-year-old invalid Wilbur Swindle. On her first day, he died too. Doctors assumed it was a heart attack.
Soon after, Falling’s stepsister left her 8-month-old niece Jennifer Daniels in her car with Falling while she ran into a shop.
When she returned… ‘She stopped breathing!’ Falling sobbed.
Doctors ruled sudden infant death syndrome. Falling was so distressed, she was committed to a psychiatric unit. While there, she confessed to killing the children. She said, tormented by voices in her head, she’d killed them by ‘somtheration’ – pressing blankets over their faces.
Falling was sentenced to life, with a minimum of 25 years, for the three murders – while the other deaths remained on file.
Later, Falling also admitted killing Wilbur Swindle, but still couldn’t explain why.
Christine Falling remains in prison.