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WARREN Mom faces court in 3 babies' deaths



Published: Mon, February 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defense attorney said his client has two living children and has cooperated with police.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH and DENISE DICK

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- A 51-year-old Niles woman was expected to be in court this morning and plead innocent to charges that she killed three of her children, all shortly after their births more than 30 years ago, her defense attorney said.

Atty. Anthony Consoldane of the Ohio Public Defender's Commission said Gloria Jean Greenfield, of Robbins Avenue, was arrested late Friday afternoon on a secret indictment charging her with three counts of murder and two counts of assault with intent to kill. She was held in the county jail without bond over the weekend.

"She says she is innocent," Consoldane said. "She has been cooperating since May, when authorities first began talking to her about this."

Press conference: Greenfield was to appear in Judge W. Wyatt McKay's common pleas courtroom later today.

County prosecutors and Niles police declined to give any specifics about the case at a press conference earlier today.

Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, however, released a four-page typed statement, which says that one of Greenfield's daughters, Gloria Lee Bennight, contacted the coroner's office on June 29, 2000, about the deaths.

Watkins said if Greenfield is convicted of all the charges, she could face life in prison.

Consoldane noted that Greenfield has two children, Bennight, whose last name used to be Woods, 29; and Tonya Woods, 22.

Greenfield also had a child, Joseph Woods, who died July 23, 1967, when he was 2 months old. Consoldane said Joseph died of pneumonia. Greenfield is not charged with his death.

The babies: Greenfield is accused of killing Melissa Woods on March 7, 1969, when she was 28 days old; Theodore Woods on Feb. 8, 1970, when he was 17 days old; and Regina Woods on March 5, 1971, when she was 15 days old.

Officials said the county coroner's office had ruled that the babies all died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

The American SIDS Institute of Marietta, Ga., says SIDS, also known as crib death, is the sudden death of an apparently healthy infant. The death can't be explained even after the performance of an autopsy, investigation of the scene of the death, and an examination of the infant's family history, the organization says.

Infants between 1 and 12 months old are most susceptible, and the SIDS rate is highest for babies born to teen-age mothers. The shorter a mother's interval between pregnancies, the higher the SIDS rate.

The risk of SIDS death is higher for infants with a sibling who has succumbed to it, the organization says.

The cause of SIDS is unknown, but the incidence has decreased over the past 10 years because the medical community has promoted the idea of placing babies to sleep on their sides or backs.

Another charge: Greenfield also is accused of assaulting Bennight when she was 55 days old and when she was 80 days old, Consoldane said. He noted that Bennight was taken to the hospital, but he said he is not sure what her injuries were.

"I think that it's interesting to note that in the last 30 years she has had no criminal problems at all," Consoldane said, adding that he did not know why officials are charging her now.

"I don't know the evidence they have -- I will be waiting to get it," Consoldane said.

Greenfield's former husband, Theodore Woods, died in August 1996. Consoldane did not know when Greenfield remarried or if she is currently married.

sinkovich@vindy.com dick@vindy.com




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