- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Police have begun tracing the 30-year trail of a woman they say killed three of her babies, then roamed the country for a decade or more with their remains before stashing them in a rented storage shed in Arizona.

Beyond the task of reconstructing Diane O’Dell’s life since 1972, when the first of her children died, police also will try to follow her wanderings from the mountains of New York to Arizona to Pennsylvania and points in between.

Miss O’Dell, of Rome, Pa., told investigators that between 1972 and 1984, while living in upstate New York, she gave birth to four children who died, including three whose remains were found in Arizona, said Sheriff Frank Hughes of Graham County, Ariz. Police would not comment on the cause of death.

Miss O’Dell, 49, was arraigned in New York state on three counts of murder and ordered held without bail.

She told police she kept the remains of the dead children with her for at least 10 years before leaving them in the storage unit in Safford, Ariz., near where she lived in 1991 and 1992. The bodies were discovered last week by a man who bought the contents of the abandoned storage unit at auction.

New York State Police Maj. Alan Martin said authorities will interview “family members, friends, anybody” who may have information in the case.

Both of Miss O’Dell’s parents are dead and it is unknown if any of her family members still live in New York, police said. Even 20 years ago, Miss O’Dell kept her private life to herself.

“Nobody gave any indication whatsoever that she had been pregnant in the year 1981, ‘82, ‘83,” said Sullivan County District Attorney Stephen Lungen.

Miss O’Dell gave birth to the children at her home in Sullivan County and didn’t seek any prenatal care or medical care, he said.

She told investigators she had given birth to the first baby in 1972. She said her father beat her and caused the child to be stillborn, so she put the body in a plastic bag and then a suitcase, state police said.

In 1989, New York authorities discovered the infant’s remains and investigated, but no charges were filed. That case is being reopened, police said.

At the time, investigators questioned at least four of Miss O’Dell’s relatives but got no indications any of them knew about the three other children born since the first one died, Mr. Lungen said.

Miss O’Dell has eight living children, authorities said.

Investigators also questioned her partner, Robert Sauerstein. The only telephone number listed for a Robert Sauerstein in Pennsylvania was not in service Tuesday.

Miss O’Dell gave birth to the three babies found in Arizona between 1981 and 1984, said Graham County, Ariz., lawyer Kenneth Angle. Miss O’Dell told investigators those babies also died shortly after their births.

Police said they don’t know yet who fathered those children. Their deaths were never reported to police.

Authorities questioned Miss O’Dell in Pennsylvania during the weekend after identifying her through records at the self-storage company. She drove to New York on Monday to be questioned by police.

She also said she thought the owner of the storage company had thrown out the contents of the shed in 1994 — the same year she last paid rent on the unit, authorities in Arizona said.

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