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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. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Interesting case, but really could've done without the excessive mention of how much Ellen weighed. She murdered two children and the author of this book seems to think weighing over 200 pounds is just as, if not more, reprehensible Interesting case, but really could've done without the excessive mention of how much Ellen weighed. She murdered two children and the author of this book seems to think weighing over 200 pounds is just as, if not more, reprehensible

  2. 5 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.

  3. 4 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.

  4. 5 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    RoseDevoursBooks

    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.

  6. 5 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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I tried so hard to finish this book, but the author’s central assertion is that Ellen Boehm murdered her children because she’s “overweight and unattractive.” No. Just, no. Get out of here with your unexamined anti-fat bias and misogyny.

  8. 4 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.

  9. 4 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    T

    The story itself is fascinating and we get glimpses of the background of Ellen & her own (possible) sexual abuse plus the grooming she experienced from her first husband who then went on to abandon her and their kids, which must have had some impact on shaping her into a murderer. Unfortunately the author gives us these tidbits without ever analysing them or delving further into whether the things she said are true or had any basis in reality. Why did she hate her mother, eg? There also isn’t a The story itself is fascinating and we get glimpses of the background of Ellen & her own (possible) sexual abuse plus the grooming she experienced from her first husband who then went on to abandon her and their kids, which must have had some impact on shaping her into a murderer. Unfortunately the author gives us these tidbits without ever analysing them or delving further into whether the things she said are true or had any basis in reality. Why did she hate her mother, eg? There also isn’t a particularly coherent storyline, with details often repeated and mentioned out of order, and some minor players being mentioned under various names which makes it hard to always know exactly who is being spoken about (particularly when listened to on audiobook as the reader is very monotone). Furthermore the author is incredibly sexist and fat phobic. You would be forgiven for thinking that her real crime was her weight given the amount of times he mentions it. He also focuses significantly on her sexuality and attractiveness which he doesn’t manage to link to the murders in any significant way, and also focuses on the sexual appeal of the female lawyers involved in the case. On the other hand, the men in the story are heroes or victims and sexuality isn’t mentioned in regards to them at all (not even for the grooming ex husband of Ellen). The detective is spoken about like he is the lead in an 70s cop show. There are certain assertions made about police work that don’t quite match up to the many books written by / documentaries and shows about the Mindhunter team. The father of the children is a POS who had so little contact with his kids that he didn’t know his son was dead and had already been buried for 2 weeks until a cousin of his new wife called her to ask about it, but the author tries very hard to show how badly he was affected. We are supposed to feel more sorry for him than for the children that he abandoned and who were then killed or survived a murderous mother. So an interesting and very sad case that isn’t covered with any particular skill or sensitivity. Pretty sure you could get most of this info on wiki.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jill Crosby

    Pretty basic and straightforward. Reads up quickly.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Librarian Alli

    I tried to like this book, I really did..but the author seemed obsessed with this lady's weight and that really confused me. I tried to like this book, I really did..but the author seemed obsessed with this lady's weight and that really confused me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    In the late 80s Ellen Boehm killed her two young sons and tried to kill her daughter. Many people thought there was something strange about the boys’ deaths and Ellen’s behavior, but there was nothing to prove the they were not natural or that Ellen’s version of what happened to her daughter was not accurate. Eventually detectives were able to piece together what really happened and get a confession out of Ellen. Sleep, My Child, Forever does not get bogged down in the criminal justice system pa In the late 80s Ellen Boehm killed her two young sons and tried to kill her daughter. Many people thought there was something strange about the boys’ deaths and Ellen’s behavior, but there was nothing to prove the they were not natural or that Ellen’s version of what happened to her daughter was not accurate. Eventually detectives were able to piece together what really happened and get a confession out of Ellen. Sleep, My Child, Forever does not get bogged down in the criminal justice system part of the case. In fact, the time leading up to the trial date is less than a tenth of the book. More than half of the book gives an overview of Ellen’s life in the time just leading up to her committing the crimes and puts together the timeline in story form. The remainder focuses on the policework leading to Ellen’s arrest. It’s very well written and really sucked me into Ellen’s life. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys true crime.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nat Rainbow Book Therapy

    A case I’ve not come across before although that’s because it’s a crime type I’m not generally interested in reading (I know that does sound a bit odd) although I did enjoy this book. Writing was ok, the crimes themselves horrific, and despite my job and education, still blows my mind that people are capable of this sort of heartbreak.

  16. 4 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!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Decent

  18. 4 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mandi Martin

    So much fat shaming. Sure, the lady is probably a monster, but the author’s continuous reference to her obesity and how ‘no man would ever love her because she’s fat’ was really distracting from the overall story. The section about her childhood was difficult to follow and didn’t flow well. Also the use of “woman lawyer”...... I got a sense of the case, but I didn’t feel like I saw all the elements involved. The book relied heavily on anecdotal accounts and I would have liked more hard evidence. T So much fat shaming. Sure, the lady is probably a monster, but the author’s continuous reference to her obesity and how ‘no man would ever love her because she’s fat’ was really distracting from the overall story. The section about her childhood was difficult to follow and didn’t flow well. Also the use of “woman lawyer”...... I got a sense of the case, but I didn’t feel like I saw all the elements involved. The book relied heavily on anecdotal accounts and I would have liked more hard evidence. The science behind autopsies was mostly glossed over as was the general investigative work that led to an arrest.

  20. 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

  21. 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.

  22. 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

  23. 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!

  24. 5 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.

  25. 4 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.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Japheth Grimm

    This case seems to be well researched. The timeline of events was easy to follow. However, as other reviews have mentioned, the body-shaming by the author is disturbingly obsessive. Not cool.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeanine

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

  28. 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.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Annie Booker

    An absolutely chilling story of a mother who killed two children and tried to kill a third.

  30. 4 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.

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