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Sleep, My Child, Forever: The Riveting True Story of a Mother Who Murdered Her Own Children

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The dark double life of Ellen Boehm, the St. Louis, Missouri, mother who murdered her two sons—and nearly killed her daughter. Ellen Boehm, a single mom from St. Louis, Missouri, appeared devoted to her children. But in reality, she was unequipped for motherhood, financially strapped, and desperate. Within a year of each other, her sons, ages two and four, died mysteriousl The dark double life of Ellen Boehm, the St. Louis, Missouri, mother who murdered her two sons—and nearly killed her daughter. Ellen Boehm, a single mom from St. Louis, Missouri, appeared devoted to her children. But in reality, she was unequipped for motherhood, financially strapped, and desperate. Within a year of each other, her sons, ages two and four, died mysteriously, and Boehm’s eight-year-old daughter suffered a near-fatal mishap when a hair dryer fell into the girl’s bath. While neighbors wondered how Boehm remained so calm through it all, Det. Sgt. Joseph Burgoon of St. Louis Homicide had darker suspicions.   Burgoon soon unraveled a labyrinth of deception, greed, and obsession that revealed a cold-blooded killer whose get-rich-quick scheme came at the cost of her children’s lives. Boehm had taken out insurance policies on her children with six different companies totaling nearly $100,000. Using police reports, case documents, and photos, veteran journalist John Coston recreates the events that led to one mother’s unspeakable acts of filicide—and a cop’s relentless pursuit of the truth.  


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The dark double life of Ellen Boehm, the St. Louis, Missouri, mother who murdered her two sons—and nearly killed her daughter. Ellen Boehm, a single mom from St. Louis, Missouri, appeared devoted to her children. But in reality, she was unequipped for motherhood, financially strapped, and desperate. Within a year of each other, her sons, ages two and four, died mysteriousl The dark double life of Ellen Boehm, the St. Louis, Missouri, mother who murdered her two sons—and nearly killed her daughter. Ellen Boehm, a single mom from St. Louis, Missouri, appeared devoted to her children. But in reality, she was unequipped for motherhood, financially strapped, and desperate. Within a year of each other, her sons, ages two and four, died mysteriously, and Boehm’s eight-year-old daughter suffered a near-fatal mishap when a hair dryer fell into the girl’s bath. While neighbors wondered how Boehm remained so calm through it all, Det. Sgt. Joseph Burgoon of St. Louis Homicide had darker suspicions.   Burgoon soon unraveled a labyrinth of deception, greed, and obsession that revealed a cold-blooded killer whose get-rich-quick scheme came at the cost of her children’s lives. Boehm had taken out insurance policies on her children with six different companies totaling nearly $100,000. Using police reports, case documents, and photos, veteran journalist John Coston recreates the events that led to one mother’s unspeakable acts of filicide—and a cop’s relentless pursuit of the truth.  

30 review for Sleep, My Child, Forever: The Riveting True Story of a Mother Who Murdered Her Own Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lynda Kelly

    This was very well written and flowed well. It's a true murder case I'd never heard of and the mother is like nobody else I've ever read about, I must say. So much of this book left my jaw smacking the floor !! She is a real one-off (I would hope)....she was badly treated by her husband but she was a very hard worker indeed and appeared to have a lot of friends and her kids didn't appear to be horribly treated or regularly beaten, although it seems she was pretty rigid in her treatment of them. I This was very well written and flowed well. It's a true murder case I'd never heard of and the mother is like nobody else I've ever read about, I must say. So much of this book left my jaw smacking the floor !! She is a real one-off (I would hope)....she was badly treated by her husband but she was a very hard worker indeed and appeared to have a lot of friends and her kids didn't appear to be horribly treated or regularly beaten, although it seems she was pretty rigid in her treatment of them. It really was like she only did it for the money....but she had tried helping herself by doing 2 jobs and putting in a lot of hours per week. Her peculiar hobby of trailing around the country after wrestlers must've cost a lot of money. She freely admitted the same in the end as well. She appeared bright enough but the lies she told, including different ones to almost everyone she spoke to, were staggering !! And if she was caught out it didn't bother her in the least. In fairness, she didn't appear to try covering up the fact she killed her sons or to really pre-plan anything. She did it and only got away with it by sheer luck in her selection of method as opposed to any deep thinking or research, I'd say. A very strange woman indeed. I've met people like her who take a smidgen of the truth then embellish a big old lie around it. As with Ellen's friends, I knew it was happening but I didn't say anything, either. Just let them get on with it. Though it did always serve to irritate me a lot as I felt it insulted my intelligence that they thought I believed the tripe they were spouting. I didn't like that she encouraged the kids to lie at times as well. She made a terrible example. Her mum was little better in advising police that Ellen had taken out insurance on the kids without planning on collecting, so it was just for kicks then ?? Her behaviour around men was shocking and uncomfortable at times with her actions !! She wasn't a looker by any stretch but she was confident, although horribly inappropriate, in approaching men !! There are quite a lot of mistakes in this, though it began with hardly any, they just appeared to pop up more often as I proceeded. Sometimes he used the apostrophe in Veterans' Administration and then would drop it with another mention. There were a lot of missing words in sentences like the/that/she, even in the Acknowledgements at the end where we had "I wish to thank Susan Emily her willingness to retell....." and he also wrote 'an bottle of mouthwash'.....ouch !! He referred to Ellen's daughter as Stacy most of the time but would then tack on the middle name at times for no reason and then all of a sudden Judge Kitchin became Kitchen !! That I found careless. I was a little disappointed with the repetition at times, too. We read of the deaths as they occurred, then again when Ellen was arrested and THEN they go and video her confession so it was all written out yet again !! I'd thought he wasn't going to do that and then followed pages of pretty much all we'd just read ! There was no need, we'd not forgotten the details after the first telling ! All in all, however, this was a good job and told very well.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eva Marie

    I'm giving this five stars because I think this is what true crime is really all about. I'm a big true crime reader, I'm taking a break currently but have been reading t.c for years. This book turned my stomach. I would tell anyone who was going to read this to approach with extreme caution and I mean that. I wasn't prepared for what this book showed me. I'm giving this five stars because I think this is what true crime is really all about. I'm a big true crime reader, I'm taking a break currently but have been reading t.c for years. This book turned my stomach. I would tell anyone who was going to read this to approach with extreme caution and I mean that. I wasn't prepared for what this book showed me.

  3. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Marlene♥

    Very good book and I am glad I read this. I have a collection of books of women that kill there own children but most suffer from Proxy by Munchausen syndrome. not this selfish obese woman. She suffers from greed and just killed her 2 kids. Very well written.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    This is a fascinating true story of a mother who killed two of her children and tried to kill the third. She was a pure psychopath, with no mental illness. The case is described thoroughly and without any particular bias.

  5. 5 out of 5

    J.H. Moncrieff

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 3.5 stars Don't be fooled by the cheesy, 80s horror-era title: this is actually pretty good. I only wish Coston had delved a little deeper into the mother's psyche. How could a seemingly normal, "good" mother coldly murder two children and attempt to kill another for the insurance payout? It's almost like she snapped and completely lost any sense of reality. She's not the only villain, either. Her "husband," the disgusting excuse of a father who keeps abandoning his children and wives in favour of 3.5 stars Don't be fooled by the cheesy, 80s horror-era title: this is actually pretty good. I only wish Coston had delved a little deeper into the mother's psyche. How could a seemingly normal, "good" mother coldly murder two children and attempt to kill another for the insurance payout? It's almost like she snapped and completely lost any sense of reality. She's not the only villain, either. Her "husband," the disgusting excuse of a father who keeps abandoning his children and wives in favour of the young girls he meets as a bus driver, is the one who got Ellen into the financial mess that led to this tragedy. After convincing her to quit her job to be a stay-at-home mom, he abandoned her when she was eight months pregnant, and didn't bother to even be honest about it. (He claimed he was going to a hospital for treatment. Ellen didn't find out she'd been dumped until his latest paramour's husband spilled the beans.) One has to wonder how things would have turned out if she'd been with a responsible husband and father who'd loved her. Still, it's very sad the courts left the surviving child in foster care rather than let her go with her father, who wanted custody of her. But I guess his track record, along with his failure to pay a cent of child support to his two abandoned wives, indicated what kind of parent he was going to be. Too bad he only cared about his children after they were dead (or after an attempt was made on their lives, in the case of the daughter). In the epilogue, we learn that the daughter was later hospitalized for depression. I hope she ended up being okay. Very sad that the daughter, little David, and Stevie had to pay for so many adults' mistakes. While it was refreshing to read a true crime that didn't automatically describe the perpetrator as beautiful, I don't think it was necessary to keep referring to her as fat and unattractive, either, or reiterate how many men wanted it clear they weren't romantically involved with her because she was overweight and unattractive. Just made me feel sorry for her.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Interesting but poorly written - I found this book very difficult to follow. The chronology of the story seemed garbled and arbitrary. The author frequently Interesting but poorly written - I found this book very difficult to follow. The chronology of the story seemed garbled and arbitrary. The author frequently referred to the characters by first and last names, last name only, or first name only which added to the overall confusion.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jill Crosby

    Pretty basic and straightforward. Reads up quickly.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

    THis is such a sad story! It goes to show that we don't always know what a person is truly capable of and this person proved just that! If you like true crime this is one to read! It will grip you at the heart no doubt! THis is such a sad story! It goes to show that we don't always know what a person is truly capable of and this person proved just that! If you like true crime this is one to read! It will grip you at the heart no doubt!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Decent

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    Very well written but a hard story to read.. As a mother I can not imagine what this woman was thinking and how she can live with herself. Evil is the word to describe her.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Bettye McKee

    Excellent true crime reporting This is a well-written, well-researched true story about Ellen Boehm, a St. Louis woman who murdered her two little boys and attempted to murder her daughter. All three children were heavily insured. But for a couple of people who cared, she would have gotten away with it and most likely would have murdered her daughter as well. A social worker called a friend on the police force which set things in motion. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Detective Joe Burg Excellent true crime reporting This is a well-written, well-researched true story about Ellen Boehm, a St. Louis woman who murdered her two little boys and attempted to murder her daughter. All three children were heavily insured. But for a couple of people who cared, she would have gotten away with it and most likely would have murdered her daughter as well. A social worker called a friend on the police force which set things in motion. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Detective Joe Burgoon, Dr. Michael Graham, and others, the daughter was not killed. And she did it all for insurance money. 16

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tessa Ingram

    Nicely done. Very to-the-point about the situation without trying to pad the book too much in unnecessary detail. Tragic story that attempts to explain, but not excuse, the circumstances upon which this woman took the lives of her children. No doubt she was stressed and felt helpless, but she was not insane or had an altered mindset. She had one addiction: wrestling, but it was not even for this that she killed them. This story was also a segment on Deadly Women.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Black Butterfly

    THIS WAS CLEARLY A FAMILY WHO SHOULD HAVE NEVER, EVER, EVER BEEN ALLOWED TO REPRODUCE. BOTH ELLEN & HER HUSBAND CAME FROM A LONG LINE OF STRANGE CRAAZE PEOPLE. I FELT SO SAD AND ANGRY READING THIS, MADE ME WONDER WHAT MAKES SOME PEOPLE SO HARD HEARTED, GAVE ME CHILLS. I WONDERED WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DAUGHTER, HOPE SHE IS DOING WELL. ;X

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bree

    Very chilling. I gave this 5 stars because I like this author didn't include information that wasn't needed. I feel some true crime authors talk a lot about a secondary family member that really isn't needed. It kept me reading and I finished it in just one day! Very chilling. I gave this 5 stars because I like this author didn't include information that wasn't needed. I feel some true crime authors talk a lot about a secondary family member that really isn't needed. It kept me reading and I finished it in just one day!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bridget Holbert

    Good Well written with an accurate description of the people that were in this true account story. Unreal what a hard working, single mother of three children would do. The detective behind this case worked hard and diligently to nail the guilty person.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I don't know why I like these true-crime killer next door books, but I do. This was pretty good but the author repeated things numerous times, there were typos or missing words but all in all, the story was pretty good. I don't know why I like these true-crime killer next door books, but I do. This was pretty good but the author repeated things numerous times, there were typos or missing words but all in all, the story was pretty good.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jeanine

    True story of a dispicable toad of a woman who murdered her two toddler sons for their insurance money.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    I was interested in reading this true crime book, and the story was a stunner, but the writing was very disjointed. I have read many others of the same genre that were much better written.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    This book was amazingly well written and I probably flipped through it faster than most books, the idea of a mother killing her children for money isn't as insane as most people think in this instance. This was a woman who had been left by every man in her life, who worked every day only to spend the money on frivolous things like wrestling shows, new cars, and a shit ton of junk food. Her needs were first and her kids were second, that right there is a good indicator of someone who would not mi This book was amazingly well written and I probably flipped through it faster than most books, the idea of a mother killing her children for money isn't as insane as most people think in this instance. This was a woman who had been left by every man in her life, who worked every day only to spend the money on frivolous things like wrestling shows, new cars, and a shit ton of junk food. Her needs were first and her kids were second, that right there is a good indicator of someone who would not miss their kids if they disappeared. Am I excusing this woman? Hell no, she smothered her kids instead of just dropping them off with the father or having them sent into foster care (OR NEVER HAVING THEM). The thing that caught my attention was that people began to suspect because of her falseness and lack of emotion towards her children's death, that's exactly what you need to report. Yes some people react to death with less emotion (I'm sometimes guilty of that) but there's a difference between an acquaintance and your own child dying; I know people who have lost adult children who never stop thinking or talking about it. So when Ellen Boehm barely reacted to her own kids death you can be sure someone noticed and reported that. I love that the author spoke with people who were involved. The thoughts and reactions from Deanna were such a great contrast to Ellen's own actions. I'm actually impressed she never came out and just said "Listen here mother****** I know you killed those kids and I hope you rot in Hell", even after Ellen went to prison she still argued with her but never lambasted her. That takes some serious patience and resilience. So yes, I recommend this book with two warnings: you have to be able to handle child death (obviously) and you have to not freak the hell out when listening to anything Ellen says. Also her husband is a piece of crap, but I chose not to talk about him just because if he wasn't involved in the kids lives then he doesn't deserve to be mentioned more than he barely was. Epic failure on both these parents.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    True crime at its most chilling. I was intrigued by John Coston's tale of Ellen Boehm since I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where the sordid tale is located. I was very young during the series of events so I only vaguely recalled the story of a mother who slaughtered her children in cold blood. Being a true crime fanatic, I grabbed a copy of this book during an Amazon sale. Ellen Boehm and her husband Paul came from a long line of abuse. When they met and eventually married, they had dreams of th True crime at its most chilling. I was intrigued by John Coston's tale of Ellen Boehm since I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where the sordid tale is located. I was very young during the series of events so I only vaguely recalled the story of a mother who slaughtered her children in cold blood. Being a true crime fanatic, I grabbed a copy of this book during an Amazon sale. Ellen Boehm and her husband Paul came from a long line of abuse. When they met and eventually married, they had dreams of the perfect life together -- the house, the children. What happened what much, much different. After meeting a new woman, Paul abandoned his wife and three children, leaving them to fend for themselves with little money and no support. Ellen quickly lost her home and took on extra work when she could in an effort to make ends meet. It still wasn't enough and soon the woman was overwhelmed with her own fantasy world and three children standing in the way of her wonderful life. What unfolds next is something of horror stories. Ellen kills her two youngest children within a year and attempts to murder her eldest daughter. By a stroke of luck, her daughter survives unscathed but life will never be the same. Ellen tries to reap the death benefits following the murder of her sons but underestimates the tenacity of the St. Louis Police Department. Sleep, My Child, Forever is a tale of true monsters. Not the ones that live in closets and under the beds of children, but the ones that we see everyday and never suspect.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Atkinson

    ellen booker boehm her husdand leaves her when shes pregnant with her 3rd child never pays support and starts a new family ellen loses the house and works 2 jobs while her mother babysits...but she always has money to follow the wrestling curcit from town to town with her friend deanne bond..ellen lives in a fantasy world where all men want her even though shes over 300 pounds than she realizes that she can insure her children and cash in on the policy...so she smothers her son but the insurance ellen booker boehm her husdand leaves her when shes pregnant with her 3rd child never pays support and starts a new family ellen loses the house and works 2 jobs while her mother babysits...but she always has money to follow the wrestling curcit from town to town with her friend deanne bond..ellen lives in a fantasy world where all men want her even though shes over 300 pounds than she realizes that she can insure her children and cash in on the policy...so she smothers her son but the insurance wont pay because she let the policy lapse...than another son dies and her friend dianne reports her to the police to check into it...than there was the incident where the hair dryer was dropped into her daughter stacys bath....ellen thinks she had the perfect plan but she was wrong.....

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marsha

    What a sad situation! I would love to say that Ellen was a monster, but that sounds the situation up far too tidily and simplistically! She probably was, but her overall childhood and upbringing are doubtless a part of her character and actions later in life. The book was good as far as it went, but that background and upbringing deserved a more formal investigation for the reader to get an overall view of the troubled woman. This is not to say that a horrible childhood and early circumstance exc What a sad situation! I would love to say that Ellen was a monster, but that sounds the situation up far too tidily and simplistically! She probably was, but her overall childhood and upbringing are doubtless a part of her character and actions later in life. The book was good as far as it went, but that background and upbringing deserved a more formal investigation for the reader to get an overall view of the troubled woman. This is not to say that a horrible childhood and early circumstance excuse later actions, but a little more background in those areas would have been helpful. I weep for Ellen and Stacy both! I don't weep for the boys, because there's no point: they're dead :-(

  23. 4 out of 5

    April Chaney

    A very sad situation This was an interesting look into the life of a woman who turned out to be a monster. I felt the author did a good job of talking about her from a neutral place and just giving the facts and opinions of the people who knew her. I wish there had been a little more clarity with some of the dates, as they got a bit confusing sometimes when talking about past and ‘present’ events. And though I know it is likely because she was a minor I would have really liked to know more about A very sad situation This was an interesting look into the life of a woman who turned out to be a monster. I felt the author did a good job of talking about her from a neutral place and just giving the facts and opinions of the people who knew her. I wish there had been a little more clarity with some of the dates, as they got a bit confusing sometimes when talking about past and ‘present’ events. And though I know it is likely because she was a minor I would have really liked to know more about how Stacy is doing. I hope she was able to get help dealing with how her life turned out.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Monta

    This review comes from the perspective of someone who really enjoys true crime. Surprisingly, this was a story I wasn't familiar with--so it was really good in that way. So many of the stories I read or see on TV are already familiar to me. No matter how much true crime I wallow in, it's still always surprising to me when mothers kill their children. It's just mind-boggling--I can't wrap my brain around it. This is an interesting, sad, tragic story, but not riveting or compelling in its presenta This review comes from the perspective of someone who really enjoys true crime. Surprisingly, this was a story I wasn't familiar with--so it was really good in that way. So many of the stories I read or see on TV are already familiar to me. No matter how much true crime I wallow in, it's still always surprising to me when mothers kill their children. It's just mind-boggling--I can't wrap my brain around it. This is an interesting, sad, tragic story, but not riveting or compelling in its presentation.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    This book is based on an actual crime. I was surprised that it took the authorities so long to realize the mother was killing her children. I guess it is difficult to think a mother could kill her own children. This book brings this possibility to a sharp focus. I shudder to think that this is even a possibility in today's world. Read with caution because the book will sicken the reader. This book is based on an actual crime. I was surprised that it took the authorities so long to realize the mother was killing her children. I guess it is difficult to think a mother could kill her own children. This book brings this possibility to a sharp focus. I shudder to think that this is even a possibility in today's world. Read with caution because the book will sicken the reader.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rosangel

    A horrible crime that goes into detail on how a mother nonchalantly killed two of her children to collect insurance money. As interesting of a read this was, the author was too repetitive and I found myself skimming through parts I've already read about in previous pages. Also, just be aware that the author wants to make it absolutely CLEAR to the reader that Ellen Boehm is fat and unattractive. A horrible crime that goes into detail on how a mother nonchalantly killed two of her children to collect insurance money. As interesting of a read this was, the author was too repetitive and I found myself skimming through parts I've already read about in previous pages. Also, just be aware that the author wants to make it absolutely CLEAR to the reader that Ellen Boehm is fat and unattractive.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Sacco

    most of the time I read nonfiction, it's via audiobook. It's easier for me to focus that way. this narrator wasn't BAD, but he was extremely flat. Read everything like a court stenographer reading back notes. also John Coston's determination to remind us that Ellen Bohem was overweight almost every chapter was gross and unnecessary. most of the time I read nonfiction, it's via audiobook. It's easier for me to focus that way. this narrator wasn't BAD, but he was extremely flat. Read everything like a court stenographer reading back notes. also John Coston's determination to remind us that Ellen Bohem was overweight almost every chapter was gross and unnecessary.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    A good true crime novel I found hard to read but well written. I just can't imagine why people do the things they do and can sleepat night or want to spend their life in a prison cell. Some will do anything for attention, wow, what a shame. I really felt for those children. A good true crime novel I found hard to read but well written. I just can't imagine why people do the things they do and can sleepat night or want to spend their life in a prison cell. Some will do anything for attention, wow, what a shame. I really felt for those children.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda Deppen

    Great read! I chose this rating because this book is not only an interesting read but also because I could not put it down. It was factual but did not get into so much technical stuff that it got boring. I don't care for a lot of court room mumbo jumbo so this book was perfect. Great read! I chose this rating because this book is not only an interesting read but also because I could not put it down. It was factual but did not get into so much technical stuff that it got boring. I don't care for a lot of court room mumbo jumbo so this book was perfect.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mindy Goorchenko

    For its genre, I think this was well-told. I finished it within 24 hours. As someone who works in the field of pediatric forensics, I felt it also demonstrated the challenges of child death cases and how long and frustrating they can be.

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