Dragnet – The Big Child. 550426. The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Joe Friday and partner Frank Smith report to the squadroom. Frank marvels at all the toys and gadgets that kids these days have, yet they have to feel obligated to bash each others brains out. It looks like adults still have the same lament today, as they probably always have, and always will.
The call comes in about a little girl in critical condition in the hospital, and the cops are off to investigate to see if they can learn who hurt her. They question the girl’s aunt, in the house where she has been staying. The woman tells the story of the absent mom, and her empty promises to her kids. The feverish girl was left in the care of the aunt, who immediately contacted the doctor and the cops Might it simply be illness, or food poisoning?
The distraught aunt sends Joe and Frank to talk with her irresponsible sister, and the dead girls mom. Though the aunt doesn’t want to believe it’s anything more than a sudden illness, she has a suspicion that her sister Joan might have had something to do with the sudden death. When Friday gets to the apartment, Joan isn’t home, but a neighbor tells a tale of mistreatment, and a split up between mom and dad. Joan was said to be wanting to remarry after her split up, but her potential mates have all been put off by a woman with a kid. The neighbor suspects it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for Joan to have killed her baby.
Back in the station, Joe tells the results of the crime lab, and coroners reports. Bruising on the girl seem to prove out the stories that have been told, but the cause of death is poisoning. A phone call comes in from Joan. She wants to talk to the cops about her daughter. Joe and Frank find the tipsy woman in a bar, and she tells that she killed her daughter. She paints a picture of neglect. Joe summarizes the story the woman told after she was taken to the police station, and given time to sober up.
There’s still evidence to be gathered, and the apartment is given another once over, It seems that the poison was from a metal polish. The tiny fingerprints indicate the girl drank it herself, but it’s still mom’s fault for not being more diligent with her daughter.
PS: For all the reputation that the days of old time radio have, and the squeaky clean, wholesome family shows that were prominent well into the days of television of even the 1960’s and 70’s, it’s shows like Dragnet that hinted that all wasn’t so pretty in real life. It isn’t the only show, or the first, but it is probably one of the most well known for such reminders.