Rights offering detail :
Unmasked: The Story of a Murderous Mother
June 20, 2022
Mary Ellen Donat
Non-fiction: True crime
Imagine being the victim of a horrific crime, survived, then solved it yourself 65 years later. But be careful what you wish for. Mary Ellen Donat tells the story of survivor Ellen Suey and her quest to find her would-be killer. Below is the pitch for this story.

After discovering through DNA the identities of her birth-parents, a woman is shocked to find that her birth mother is a murderer, if not a serial killer.

I am representing Mary Ellen Cordell Donat, author of Unmasked: The True Story of a Murderous Mother’s Crimes Against Newborns and How DNA Research Revealed Long-Hidden Secrets. It is the horrific tale of infanticide in 1950s Indiana and Ohio. A full manuscript is available for this work.
The mother of the infants, Phyllis Ann Smalley, gave birth to the baby girls in her bathroom. She dropped the first baby over a barbed wire fence to a sure death on a cold rainy fall night. The teenager had been confident the baby would not be found in the desolate woods, and surely die. But that child miraculously lived for several days and nights, to be discovered by squirrel hunters. Despite intense media coverage, Smalley was successful in hiding her identity. It was a close call.

Three years later, Smalley again gave birth to a daughter in a bathroom. Her plan was to secretly drop the infant, wrapped in a towel like the first, to rural obscurity. This time, she made sure the baby was already dead.

Despite enormous obstacles, Smalley’s first daughter, named Ellen by her adoptive parents, discovered thirty years later the circumstances of the crime against her as an infant.

This true crime narrative covers the miraculous survival of the infant who became Ellen Test Suey, and the investigation that at first left questions unanswered and mysteries unsolved.
And then the Twenty First Century brought with it a new tool: DNA technology.

It was through the testing site “23 and Me” that Ellen Suey discovered the identities of her birth-parents. In June 2021, she met her paternal half-siblings. During that visit she was given yellowed newspaper clippings chronicling the 1959 arrest and trial of her birth mother, Phyllis Ann Dare Smalley.

In 2021 Ellen Suey is shocked to find that her mother is a murderer, if not a serial killer. Newspaper accounts of Phyllis Ann Smalley’s arrest, trial, and unbelievable verdict in the second baby’s case, plus intensive research, reveal an even darker side to Ellen’s heritage.

Mary Ellen Donat has always had a special fondness for family lore – the quirkier the better. She has incorporated many of those oral accounts into historical fiction. Smiles, her second novel, is loosely based on her parents’ early lives and unlikely love. A native of Richmond, IN, she began her professional writing career with a weekly history column for a Gannett newspaper, where she was also a features reporter. Her first is In the Shadow of Her Hat. Both are historical fiction. She is also co-author of Tiny Baby Girl Found in Woods: A Memoir.
Rights available:
Donna Pudick
Parkeast Literary Agency
phone: 386.446.5916
Offering #:
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