Greenwood, Indiana – 1967. Sara (Cindy) White, 9-years-old, was one of 6 children who felt overlooked. Small wonder. Her mother was severely alcoholic. Her father, Earl, was her only source of parental affection. Earl liked to bring little Cindy to work on cars with him, however, not for apprenticeship purposes. Knowing the child was love-starved, he made sexual advances towards his little girl until eventually Earl had full sexual intercourse with his child. Cindy had no harbor in her emotional storm. Her mother’s drinking left her oblivious – and unconcerned.
In 1974, at the age of 16, Cindy found herself paralyzed in one of her legs. She was sent to a psychiatric hospital and it was diagnosed that she had a somatic disorder, that is, extreme emotional stress had shut down her body. Perhaps it was her body’s way of protecting Cindy, since while she was hospitalized, she was protected from Earl. Sadly, she couldn’t bring herself to tell the doctor or nurses the real cause of her trauma.
One year later, in 1975, Cindy was sent back home. Happily, Charles and Carol Roberson, friends in the neighbourhood, graciously employed her as a live-in nanny for their four children. It seemed that Cindy had found her safe harbor. Cindy loved the children and no wonder – she was emotionally still at the level of a child herself. Unfortunately, Cindy shouldn’t have been released from the hospital and shouldn’t have been placed in charge of children. She was too damaged. The Robersons were aware of this fact and happily employed her.
Sadly, it would turn out that the Robersons weren’t the empathetic people they appeared to be. They recognized a victim in Cindy. Roberson made sexual advances toward the unfortunate girl. At first, Cindy was flattered. She mistook his behavior for affection. Roberson encouraged Cindy to keep their relationship a “secret.” Old wounds were quickly re-opened and Cindy found herself back in the hands of a child molester. Things got even worse. Carol was no saint herself. She photographed Roberson and Cindy in sexual poses and acts. Every person Cindy had ever turned to for help had betrayed her.
In December 1975, 17-year-old Cindy decided to save herself. She formed an odd plan. Believing it was the only escape she had, Cindy set fire to the Robersons’ home while the family slept. When she saw how rapidly it spread, Cindy panicked and ran upstairs to tell the Robersons. Carol told Cindy to open a window and she would hand the children out to her. Once the window was opened however, Cindy created a backdraft, that is, a blast of oxygen rushed inside the house, fuelled the oxygen-deprived room and exploded. Cindy was thrown violently through the window but was unharmed. When no children came through the window, Cindy tried to re-enter the house.
Neighbours saw the flames and heard her screams, They held Cindy back from entering the house, telling her it was too dangerous. The entire family died in the blaze. It didn’t take long for firemen to determine that the house was an arson. While processing the scene, police found Roberson’s wallet containing love letters to Cindy and nude photos of her. Police wrongly felt it was an affair gone wrong, and that this was a multiple murder motivated by revenge. Even while she was on trial, Cindy refused to divulge the reason for the arson. It was too shameful for the poor girl.
In May 1976, Cindy was convicted of six counts of first degree murder by arson. She was sentenced to six concurrent terms of life in prison. Ten years later, Cindy finally revealed her shameful secrets and abusive past to a prison psychiatrist. Although she was desperately remorseful about the loss of the children’s lives, her sentence remained unchanged. Cindy unwittingly killed four children she desperately loved. And she ultimately paid with her own life for a tragedy that began in her childhood when her incestuous father destroyed her childhood and her young mind.