The Carter Family’s Ordeal of Blood

The body of a baby boy was found in Accomack County, in March  of 1679. It was buried in a blue blanket. The suspects were Paul Carter, his wife Sarah, and stepdaughter Mary.

Mary had the baby in January. The family claimed that it died and they buried it beneath the floorboards of their home. Both Paul and Sarah assisted Mary with the delivery. Family members stated the child died during its first night. The burial was done secretly to hide Mary’s shame. The parents claimed they didn’t even know Mary was pregnant until she was in her seventh month.

Magistrates appointed a jury of 12 ladies to oversee the proceedings. The legal panel was taken to a nearby garden. Sarah had moved the corpse. She said it would be easier for the group to examine the child outside. Their deeds weren’t suspected for another 6 weeks.

The baby was exhumed. Sarah held the child with no reaction. Paul held it next and the corpse grew blood red. The authorities noticed extensive bruising around its neck and signs of other neglect. The story the family told the community was quickly coming undone.



The jury documented their findings and reported the evidences to the authorities. The three Carters were then brought before a panel of community members and questioned individually.

Paul was brought before the jury and questioned first. He claimed the child had lain between him and Sarah that first night, but was dead the following morning.

Sarah was questioned next. She claimed the child was stillborn. She washed and dressed the body after it passed, and they buried it without ceremony.

Mary was then questioned. She initially claimed the child’s father was James Tuck. She claimed the baby slept between her and her mother that first night. She said the child screamed once after birth and then was silent. All three stories agreed that labor lasted only around 2 hours.



As their stories unfolded, the truth became obvious. Mary initially claimed she was raped by James Tuck, but it was proven she was with him, consensually and intimately, several times afterward. She was also frequently intimate with her stepfather, Paul.

She displayed more signs of doubt as the questioning proceeded. She eventually admitted that, in her heart, she knew the child belonged to her stepfather.

Sarah admitted she’d witnessed her husband hugging and kissing her daughter. She even watched him lift up her daughter’s petticoats. She said she “rebuked” him, but he said he did no harm.

All three were found guilty of various charges and were to be separated. No further proceedings were documented.


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