On a rainy night in 1928 in a Pennsylvania factory town called Iverstown, Martha Ivers (Janis Wilson), thirteen years old, is trying to escape from the guardianship of her wealthy, domineering aunt. Her friend, the street-smart, poor Sam Masterson (Darryl Hickman), comes for her through her bedroom window, but Martha"s aunt catches them. While Sam slips out unnoticed, Martha hits Mrs. Ivers on the head, causing her to fall down the long staircase and die. Though Sam saw nothing, the event was witnessed by Walter O"Neil (Mickey Kuhn), the son of Martha"s tutor (Roman Bohnen), known as Mr. O"Neil. Martha lies about the incident to Mr. O"Neil, and Walter supports her.