Reason Podcast

Why Would a Mother Throw Her Kids Off a Bridge?: Podcast

A conversation with Nancy Rommelmann about her new true crime book, To the Bridge



In 2009, Amanda Stott-Smith dropped her children off a bridge in Portland, Oregon. Her 7-year-old daughter lived, screaming until a good Samaritan fished her out of the freezing river. Her 4-year-old son drowned. Writer (and occasional Reason contributor) Nancy Rommelmann read about the story the next morning over a cup of coffee, then spent the next seven years chasing down every detail. The result is To The Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder, a reported work of non-fiction that is compelling and hard to read in equal measure.

Rommelmann and I sat down in a sweltering New York apartment in August to talk about true crime reporting, parenting, death, and the publishing industry. The conversation turned out to be one part interview, one part story assignment meeting for Rommelmann's next feature. So tune in to hear about the who, what, when, where, and why of reporting on child murder at book length, and stay for a sneak peek at a Reason editorial meeting.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

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  1. Wasn’t there a brief moment about 15 years ago where Postpartum Stress Disorder awareness was in high gear and people were suggesting that mothers shouldn’t be found guilty for killing their own children?

    1. Wasn’t there a Shikha Dalmia article like a week ago arguing that if mothers always know what’s in the best interests of their kids, especially in cases of infanticide?

      1. Pretty much, but I think she avoided the word “infanticide”, being aware of how stupid the argument sounded if you stated it honestly.

        1. Shikha aware of how stupid she sounds?

          I find that quite unbelievable.

      2. Tsk, tsk, infanticide is such an ugly word you misogynist. It’s postpartum abortion or abortion in the 19th and 31st trimester.

        1. National Lampoon did a thing on “postnatal abortion.” When I first saw this headline I wondered if it were one of those “Why did the chicken…” jokes. Now I’m not sure I want to hear the mp3 until, say, it’s a requirement for some sort of abnormal psych class.
          The takeaway is that forcing women to reproduce by sending men with guns to threaten doctors is not smart. The Canadian government came to the same conclusion. With the planet’s population increasing by 158 people EVERY MINUTE, it’s hard to fault the Canadian decision that pregnancy does not strip women of individual rights.

          1. Yeah, your unlimited support of institutional government infanticide is so commendable.

            You’re a fucking baby killing ghoul. And FYI, I’m agnostic. So don’t even try that “mystical Prohibitionist” shit on me. I’m quite prepared to have scientific discussion. Which I doubt you’re capable of.

          2. The takeaway is that forcing women to reproduce by sending men with guns to threaten doctors is not smart.

            A woman makes the choice to reproduce when she sleeps with a man without protection. And let’s not kid ourselves why women make this choice in large numbers: it’s because women don’t have to bear the consequences. Either she forces a man to pay for raising the child and her living expenses, or she gets the state to pay for it, or she gets a free abortion. It’s a no-lose proposition, and it makes sense for women to get repeatedly pregnant until she finds an economic outcome that’s to her liking.

            it’s hard to fault the Canadian decision that pregnancy does not strip women of individual rights.

            How about we simply adopt a libertarian solution and deregulate and privatize child bearing: there is no penalty for performing abortions, no insurance has to cover it, no doctor has to perform it, the state does not subsidize pregnancy or motherhood, and fathers are responsible for children only inside a marriage (contract). That’s the libertarian solution.

            If you don’t like it, don’t babble on about “a woman’s individual rights”, because the positive rights you posit for her trample all over the primary libertarian right, namely the right to be left alone and not to have to bear responsibility for other people’s poor choices.

    2. ENB has managed to hit this shrill note a time or two.

    3. Yeah, my friend had to deal with thrown knives after his second child was born. Women need community support after giving birth. It was awkward to receive those text messages.

    4. I’m pretty sure postpartum stress isn’t supposed to last several years.

      It’s also not uncommon in the animal world for some animals to kill one or more of their own offspring sometimes. But again, I think that happens early on?not when the offspring are already the animal equivalent of school-age (starting to venture out of the nest?).

      1. In the animal world (mammals anyway) it’s almost exclusively young, first time mothers and it usually occurs in the first hours after giving birth.

      2. It’s also not uncommon in the animal world for some animals to kill one or more of their own offspring sometimes.

        Yes, usually when there aren’t enough resources to raise the offspring. Which is of course the case here, when crazy woman broke up with her husband. The traditional human solution to that is to make marriage indissoluble. Whether that’s the best possible solution, I don’t know. But getting rid of that solution without something to replace it obviously has consequences.

  2. Hit & Run is now a “mommy blog”.

  3. Both the mother and the father sound pathologically selfish.

  4. Thad Russell’s interview with Nancy went off the rails a bit when he repeatedly revisited both his own failed marriage and his upbringing. We’ll see if Katherine can avoid talking about herself too much here.

    1. I wish they’d talk about the book a little more, but to be fair, the description is clear that it’s a fairly wide-ranging discussion on the whole industry of news, writing etc.

  5. More importantly, Rommelmann is the other half of Ristretto Roasters, some of the best coffee in town.

  6. Meh. Push the psycho off the same bridge. Zero f$ given.

    1. I like this solution. I have zero sympathy for anyone who throws a kid off a bridge and even less if it’s their own. She’s an adult. Throwing her off a bridge still gives her a better chance than she gave a four year old and a seven year old who called her “mommy”

  7. Women really need to stop with the blue hair.

    1. What’s wrong with blue hair? If a woman can pull it off, I’m a fan of fake hair. GO FAKE HAIR!

      1. If a woman can pull it off
        I’ll accept this theory, but I’ve never seen proof.

        1. They should pull it off. Although I’m guessing shaving or re-dyeing it to be less painful alternatives

    2. Why are you on a libertarian site?

    3. It’s fine once they are 70+

  8. Why Would a Mother Throw Her Kids Off a Bridge?

    Just be grateful for that “evolutionary drive”, the wonder is this doesn’t happen more often.

    1. Because most mothers aren’t narcissistic sociopaths.
      Even people with no maternal instinct, or who are grappling with depression, know not to throw other people off bridges. Even if they’re irritating you.

  9. Glad you edited out the photo of KMW next to Rommelman in the article. It was awkward and I bet people who didn’t know what KMW looked like were mightily confused.

    1. As someone who appreciates an attractive libertarian lady, I wouldn’t mind being confused by either of them, if you get my drift.

      1. No, I’m afraid I don’t. Please expound further.

    2. KMW should show some cleavage. Nick too.

  10. Speaking of someone plummeting from a bridge … oh, never mind. You guys are tired of hearing about my personal life.

  11. There’s a country song in there somewhere – – – – – –

    1. Martina McBride was going to write one, but she thought it would be too depressing.

  12. The tit pic is not the problem.

    Perhaps this will be Vohra’s campaign slogan for 2020.

  13. OK, I’ll bite: To keep them from being deported?

  14. Good grief, she takes forever to get to the point. The woman knew right from wrong and she was guilty; what else is there to say?

    Well, perhaps one more thing: the usual blame shifting, because this is what she said to her husband afterwards: “Why have you done this to me?” she said. “Why have you taken my joy away?” I think that’s all you need to know about what’s going on in her head.

    1. Bad things get teed up for people whose toolbox contains only anger and deflection. I can’t make the argument [no theology background], but I can ask the question: is this why man needs God?

      1. but I can ask the question: is this why man needs God?

        You don’t need God, but traditional Christian values and codes of conduct are intended to prevent this stuff: marriage is indissoluble, people need to practice humility and reflection, etc. Many forms of Christianity basically tell you that the Christian laws and rules aren’t arbitrary impositions from above, but are simply what a being with free will logically needs to follow to reduce their own suffering.

        And mind you, the anger shouldn’t be directed at this woman (though she does belong in prison for her deeds), it should be directed at the progressives who created the legal and cultural framework in which this sort of thing happens, in which men and women just walk away from marriages and a couple of kids. But instead of taking responsibility, progressives blame “the patriarchy”.

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