NILES Daughter: I'm not seeking revenge
The Masury woman doesn't know what to think about the charges against her mother.
By DENISE DICK
and PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- The daughter of a woman accused of killing three of her children says it was curiosity, not a vendetta, that led her to inquire about her siblings' deaths.
"I never intended for this to happen," said Gloria Bennight, 29, of Masury. "I still love my mom and care about my mom more than anyone knows."
Bennight's mother, Gloria Greenfield, 52, of Niles, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. She is accused of killing her infant children in 1969, 1970 and 1971. The deaths were attributed to sudden infant death syndrome.
Greenfield also is charged with two counts of assault with intent to kill Bennight when that daughter was 44 days old and again when she was 80 days old.
Greenfield's attorney has said that bad blood between the two women led to the investigation.
Bennight, a homemaker, contends that isn't true.
"I didn't do that," she said. "They came to me; I didn't go to them."
How this happened: She called the Trumbull County coroner's office in June 2000, seeking copies of the autopsy reports for the deaths of her siblings. She didn't even give her name, she said.
She had gotten a copy of her father's autopsy a few years before and says she was curious about her siblings.
She didn't suspect anything.
"They told me that they probably didn't have them because it was 30 years ago but that I would have to write a letter," Bennight said.
Believing she wouldn't be able to get the reports, Bennight dropped it. She was surprised, she said, when Niles police knocked on her door Sept. 11 to tell her that her mother was a suspect in her siblings' deaths.
"I just sat there," Bennight said. "I was very, very shocked."
She isn't sure what to think about the charges
"I don't know what to believe," Bennight said. "That's your mom -- what can you say. No matter what's said or what evidence comes out, that's your mom. I don't know."
Neither of her parents talked about the deaths while Bennight was growing up, and she didn't ask. When she was 8, an aunt told her.
"When I was 21, I asked my dad where they were buried, and me and my husband [Lee] went," she said.
Bennight visits the graves a few times a year, but she's never gone with her mother.
"She said her car no longer turns up that way," Bennight said.
She knew that she had stopped breathing once as an infant and that Jack McDermott, who had been director of Reese-Wynn-Winyard-McDermott-Laird Funeral Home, had revived her.
She said she didn't know there was a second time she stopped breathing until she was told by authorities.
She said she was told that she had to wear a heart monitor for several months when she was an infant.
Bennight acknowledges that she and her mother have never been close.
"I haven't seen her in four years, but she chose it like that," Bennight said.
Her background: Her parents divorced when Bennight was 3. Her mother worked a lot while she was growing up, and when Bennight was 15, she moved in with her father, Theodore Woods.
She described her childhood as unhappy, but she said her mother did not abuse her.
She said problems between her and her mother worsened in February 1998.
Bennight learned two days before her father's death in August 1997 that she was pregnant with her fourth child, but she didn't get to tell him before he died. Her father, who worked at General Motors in Lordstown, died of a heart attack at 54.
She was grieving the loss of her father, regretting that he didn't know she was pregnant, and she didn't tell her mother about her pregnancy until February.
That made her mother angry and created the rift, Bennight said.
When her son was born in April 1998, she named him Theodore, to honor her father.
That caused more problems, she said.
A family member called her at the hospital, telling her she needed to change the name.
"They said I named my son after her dead child," Bennight said.
One of the children Greenfield is accused of killing was a son, Theodore Woods II.
Bennight said she made a few unsuccessful attempts to contact her mother after that.
"My husband delivered flowers on Mother's Day, but I got no response," she said.
Not money, she says: Bennight also acknowledged that her mother was the beneficiary on her father's insurance policy, but because of the divorce agreement, Bennight said she was entitled to the money if she had wanted it.
She declined to say how much money was involved.
"That's not what led to this. Money had nothing to do with it," she said, contradicting the contention of her mother's attorney that she prompted the investigation out of a sense of greed and revenge.
Greenfield has never met Bennight's youngest son and severed contact with Bennight's other children, Claudia, 9; Lee, 7; and Joey, 6, Bennight said.
Claudia often asks about her grandmother and doesn't understand why she doesn't see her anymore.
Bennight isn't sure how to explain it.
"I try to basically avoid it," she said. "I don't say anything bad about my mother."
Press coverage of the Greenfield's case also has hit Claudia particularly hard.
The third-grader hasn't been to school this week.
"She's real clingy to me," Bennight said. "She doesn't really ask anything. I don't know what she's thinking."
Bennight and her half-sister, Tonya Schubert, had a falling-out last May and the two no longer have a relationship, she said. She wouldn't elaborate.
Some of the things Bennight has heard said about her make her feel like she's the one on trial. She now has some regrets about making the call to the coroner's office.
"It's a bad place to be in," Bennight said.