In 1933, the relatively rare baby name Aleeta saw an isolated spike in usage:
- 1935: unlisted
- 1934: unlisted
- 1933: 17 baby girls named Aleeta [peak]
- 1932: unlisted
- 1931: unlisted
What gave it a boost that year?
Aleeta Fleming, a 28-year-old “farm wife” from northeastern Ohio who was in the news starting on August 6th. A physician had recently determined that her 4-month-old son, Mertis, Jr., had died of strangulation. Following that revelation, Aleeta “glibly” confessed to the murder of not just Mertis, Jr., but also to the murder of an earlier son, Willis, who she’d poisoned as a baby in January of 1932.
The next day, she repudiated her confession and instead blamed her 55-year-old husband Mertis, who “disliked boy babies,” for the deaths:
Mrs. Fleming said her husband gave all his affection to their 3-year-old daughter, Beatrice, and complained to her that the boys fretted too much…[She] was quoted by the sheriff as asserting her husband threatened to kill her unless she made away with the boy babies.
Both parents ended up pleading guilty to second degree murder. In early November, both were sentenced to life in prison.
Interestingly, the spelling “Aleeta” seems to be a newspaper typo. In all the records I’ve seen (e.g., Willis’s death certificate, Mertis’s death certificate, the 1930 U.S. Census, the 1940 U.S. Census) the name is spelled “Alleta.”
Do you like the name Aleeta?
P.S. Beatrice, who spent her childhood in an orphanage, “worked as a foster parent with Indian children out west” as an adult.
- “Admits the Killing of her Infant Sons.” Lincoln Star 6 Aug. 1933: 17.
- “Held in Slaying of two Children.” Evening Independent [Massillon, Ohio] 7 Aug. 1933: 1.
- “Mother Admits Poisoning Babies.” Defiance Crescent 7 Aug. 1933: 1.
- “Parents Who Killed 2 Children Sentenced.” Nevada State Journal 3 Nov. 1933: 4.
- Beatrice M. Fleming obituary