A Maryland mother has recently been arrested on five felony charges for attempting to poison her two children with Visine, creating life-threatening medication conditions. The 23-year-old Samantha Elizabeth Unger told the Pennsylvania State Police who arrested her that she had intentionally squeezed more than a bottle of eye drop solution in her 3-year-old’s water and juice and that her 1-year-old son had become sick twice from accidentally drinking out of the same cup.
After her 3-year-old had to be flown by helicopter to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and was found to have large doses of Visine in his system, Unger admitted to poisoning her children’s drinks. Her son’s heart rate had dropped to 40 beats per minute and doctors said the child came to the center with “life-threatening clinical signs.”
“It was terrifying, it was so terrifying,” The children’s grandmother Stacey Unger told Fox43 News. “This whole ordeal has just been very traumatic, very rough for us.”
The mysterious illnesses had been occurring in both children multiple times in March, and the doctors subsequently told police they believed the children were being poisoned after conducting several tests. They found Tetrahydrozoline, a substance found in over-the-counter eye drops and nasal sprays, and Unger admitted to adding the large doses to her son’s drink after his fever went away. Unger will go to court July 24, but until then, she remains on a $50,000 bail.
The reason for poisoning her children remains unexplained. Women who internationally harm their children reflect a behavioral pattern called Munchausen syndrome by proxy in which caregivers deliberately exaggerate, fabricate, and/or inflict physical or psychological pain to their children for attention.
Oftentimes, it’s women who inflict the pain on their children, and it’s unknown if it’s because they’re the primary caregivers or if there is a psychological tendency toward women harming their own offspring. Deception is a key characteristic of the syndrome, and in several cases, they go so far to seek attention that they actually wind up murdering their child.
Mothers Who Harm Their Children
- Andrea Yates: In 2001, Yates drowned her five children in the bathtub of her home in Texas and tried to reason with the police and psychiatrists that Satan ordered the murders to save them from eternal damnation. When interviewed, Yates said “Drowning them [was] all I thought about.” She was convicted of capital murder a year later in 2002 and rejected the plea of insanity but was retried four years later and found not guilty for reason of insanity. She has since been committed to a state mental hospital.
- Diane Downs: In 1983, Downs shot three of her children in the back of her car on the side of an Oregon state road. She shot herself in the arm and created a dramatic story for police when they found two of her children critically injured and her 7-year-old daughter Cheryl dead. Her story gained national attention, but once her daughter Christie recovered her ability to speak, she testified in trial and revealed her mother had shot them. Police discovered Downs’ motive in her diary, which noted her boyfriend didn’t want any children. Nine months after the shooting, she was sentenced to life in prison plus 50 years.
- Susan Smith: In 1994, Smith drowned her sleeping 3-year and 14-month-old sons by buckling them into the back of her car and pushing it into a South Carolina lake. She created an elaborate lie involving a hijacker and abduction, but police later discovered the truth, and in 1995, she was sentenced to life in prison.
Why did these women do it? Some psychological turns for the worse, others of a narcissistic motive. No matter the reason, there is a creepy eeriness when it’s revealed a mother attempted to harm and kill her children. There remains a biological connection between mother to child with innately intertwined roots, which makes it hard to believe a mother would ever harm her child in the first place.