Murderers should not be pitied

30 Sep

The deaths of a man and his 11-year-old autistic son on Sunday were the result of a murder-suicide, Edmonton police said….”To say that this can’t happen for other families,” Phillips said as her eyes welled up with tears talking about the tragedy. “The dad just felt he couldn’t do it any longer and he just didn’t think he could get the help he needed.”

So? So what? We all struggle. Its damned hard, we all lack services, all autism parents all over the world and guess what? We don’t murder our kids.

Don’t pity this murderer, don’t enable pity for this murderer, don’t blame lack of services for excusing a murderer and try to remember not to kill your children today, okay?


30 Responses to “Murderers should not be pitied”

  1. Erwin Blonk September 30, 2009 at 09:17 #

    My son is autistic. It can be tough at times, frustrating. Him being of normal intelligence makes people doubt his condition, which makes it hard too.
    Still, however I try, I can find no angle from which to justify this. Letting your child live with other family, giving him up for adoption, I can find grounds for that, some people might not be up to the task and however hard it is, sometimes there might be no other solution. But murder?

  2. Rose September 30, 2009 at 09:57 #

    I would suspect that the father was mentally ill, probably some form of clinical depression. Depression can change your perception so profoundly that murder-suicide seem like an acceptable plan. I’m not saying that it is, but when your brain is simmering in its own misaligned chemicals, it can really twist your thinking.

    I have compassion for everyone, even the mentally ill. Possibly this is because I’ve been there and done that, and all I got was condemnation (granted, I didn’t murder anyone, but the thought crossed my mind, along with many, many suicidal thoughts).

    And yes, I have an autistic child. Happily, my mental illness was sorted out before that child was born. I hate to even imagine what might have happened if I had the responsibility for that child when I was severely depressed.

    Encouraging people to hate just doesn’t seem to be productive to me. What good does it to to hate a dead man? Who is helped by harbouring hatred? Whether or not the man was mentally ill, he’s dead now and so is his child. That’s a tragedy on many levels. Hate won’t change a thing.

  3. Anna Hayward September 30, 2009 at 10:22 #

    I feel sorry for the dad because he was obviously deeply depressed. However, I also hate the way these incidents are reported, as if having an autistic child is such hell-on-earth that murder-suicide is almost a rational choice. I’m autistic, and my mum is still alive and well, and I have two autistic children. Life can be tough for parents of autistics, but lets stop the negativity – it is actually the negativity that leads to tragedies like this. My kids aren’t tragedies, they’re just different.

  4. Kev September 30, 2009 at 11:15 #

    Rose & Anna – I am mentally ill. I have manic depression (bipolar). At no point have I considered murdering my child due to lack of services. The idea that this dad was depressed is speculation. Even if he was, murder is not justifiable. I am not saying ‘hate this dad’. I am saying, do not pity him.

  5. hammie September 30, 2009 at 11:26 #

    F*cking Right Kev. xx

  6. ebohlman September 30, 2009 at 11:28 #

    I should note that there have been several reports of domestic murder-suicides where there was no indication that the children had any disabilities. I don’t see any reason why a murder-suicide where a child was autistic or had any other disability should be treated any differently from them.

  7. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. September 30, 2009 at 11:34 #

    “We all struggle. Its damned hard, we all lack services, all autism parents all over the world and guess what? We don’t murder our kids.”

    No. We don’t murder our kids, even with the lack of services. But there’s many ways in which a lot of us have some good support and appropriate information. We have people we _can_ talk to about things and know that there’s at least some sort of folk-psychological support. That doesn’t mean that everyone has that. When someone is at that point where they are so desperate that they end up killing both themselves and their child, they are not doing that out of laziness. That is the last thing that can think of, because they do not have anyone else who has been able to give them any other ideas or support otherwise. And if that someone has mental health difficulties anyway, and is in an acute phase of psychological disturbance at the time, then the ability to take on anything rational is pretty much absent anyway. And this is the difference between the father in this case and Karen McCarron and Alison Tepper-Singer… KMcC was a medical professional with a scientific training who should have been easily able to discern bullshit when it’s presented as fact by those idiots at Genocide Rescue, and AT-S was a whinging mum who didn’t have the kid she felt she should have had and wallowed in self-pity. If she’d been on that bridge, and in the same mental state this particular dad was in, she’d have still gone ahead and done it: in acute and severe psychological disturbance, rational thinking like “but there’s my other daughter” _doesn’t_ happen in such mental states.

    It’s alright for us on the Hub and who have access to it. We can get support from all over the world: we have people on here who have expertise either as professionals or as parents or even as autistics (some of us being all three in one!); we aren’t in such mental distress that we lose our rationality of thought. We don’t kill our kids, and this is _why_.

    There’s two reasons why autistic kids get killed:

    a- the parent can’t be bothered raising the kid and designs an ‘excuse’ to get rid;

    b- the parent is – through no small amount of stress and/or distress coupled with a pretty total lack of services/support – in an acutely intense psychologically-disturbed state and is not thinking rationally.

    This is not to say that lack of services is an _excuse_ for this: it definitely is _not_! But this premise doesn’t give any of us the fucking right to sit in judgment over someone whose resources genuinely have not enabled them to make the decisions that we make to _not_ kill our kids and ourselves. Someone else said it was hate speech, and actually … it is. It is also an attitude lumps in the the willing killers with the irrational/desperate ones. Like it or not, lack of services and support is likely to lead to this sort of thing, which is why pressure should be placed on the local authorities to provide appropriate services. This is regardless of whether the killings are willful murder or medical malpractice or sheer fucking desperation. And – quite frankly – I can guarantee you that the local authorities don’t give a shit who we ultimately ‘blame’ for this phenomenon… they will use whatever means that can to avoid funding and providing such services, such are our organisational cultures these days: “take people’s money and still provide fuck-all services/support – they’ll solve the problem’ themselves anyway!”

    So let’s indeed not pity the people who kill, but still have some smattering of human compassion left for those who actually still bloody deserve it because of the very desperate circumstances; and let’s start to organise pressure to be put on the local authorities whose responsibility is to fund, provide and maintain such services. People like KMcC and AT-P are not in such desperate situations as this guy was; and the appropriate response to situations like this guy and his son is this: to put as much pressure as possible on the local authorities to fund, provide and maintain appropriate services. Hating the guy for killing his kid and then himself is not an appropriate response, and it’s certainly one I would expect more often from the ‘other side’.

    “Don’t pity this murderer, don’t enable pity for this murderer, don’t blame lack of services for excusing a murderer and try to remember not to kill your children today, okay?”

    Indeed, indeed, and indeed (regarding the excusing) and indeed. But I’m going to say that hating the person isn’t going to get any of us anywhere; and besides… the ‘other side’ will make a fucking meal of this attitude, using it to say that we have fuck all compassion. Because that is definitely the bloody impression it gives.


    Me too… but with way more than what you’re disgusted with.

  8. Kowalski September 30, 2009 at 13:02 #

    What hammie said.

  9. daedalus2u September 30, 2009 at 14:57 #

    I put a lot of blame on those who whip up hysteria about autism using violent and militaristic metaphors and personify autism as an enemy to be defeated; as in war on autism or Defeat Autism Now. When a “war” isn’t going well, the “solution” is to escalate the violence. When war won’t bring a solution, then no amount of escalation will be successful.

    Inducing people to fight a “war” they can’t win, benefits the war profiteers, the merchants of death who profit by supplying war material. It also profits the politicians who started the war. It never “profits” the warriors in the field or the non-combatants, the women and children who are injured and killed as “collateral damage”.

    The “war on drugs”, the “war on cancer”, the “war on autism”, these are not “wars” that can be won by escalating the level of violence. War is the wrong metaphor to apply.

    I see these two dead individuals as “collateral damage” of the “war on autism”. I blame the war mongers, the war profiteers, the war leaders who whip up a hysterical war mentality, where “all is fair”, where the niceties of peacetime, the Declaration of Helsinki, the Geneva Convention, human decency, the “first do no harm” don’t apply. Desperate people will do desperate things. When your business is selling straws for desperate people to cling to, whipping up hysterical desperation is just good business.

    I fully expect the autism profiteers to use this episode to justify selling even more snake-oil. “Don’t let this happen to you and your family.” “Buy this magic treatment.” “If that one doesn’t work, there are hundreds more than might.” “Limited only by how much you are willing/able to pay.”

  10. Joseph September 30, 2009 at 15:42 #

    I pretty much buy what David is saying. Irrational actions stem from irrational thinking. Everyone has irrational thoughts to some extent, but some do more than others. In some cases, there might indeed be biological causes of irrational thinking. Irrational thinking is to some extent changeable, with education or counseling for example. It’s also changeable (for the worse) by the media and group-think (what daedalus2u is talking about.)

  11. Nick Boorer September 30, 2009 at 15:50 #

    Sorry to have to disagree with you 100%. This is tragic and terrible and should never have happened, but people are only human. There is only so much any human can take. Societal prejudice against all forms of mental “abnormality” is so deeply entrenched and so wretchedly perverse that it is no wonder that people become desperate and do these truly revolting things.

    I am a lifelong medicated depressive and probably have aspergers, but I am deeply aware of how easily I can stray away from moral norms and have the capacity to do truly evil things. I have nothing but compassion and sympathy for the guy in this story, as with the mother in the Pilkington case in the UK. I abhor judgmentalism and the refusal of others to see their own capacity for evil. Righteousness is best left to the revolting religious institutions. Judgmentalism is only valid against those with political power.

  12. VAB September 30, 2009 at 18:32 #

    As a goal, I try to have compassion for everyone who suffers. That is not the same as condoning all behavior. It is also my belief that it is easier to influence the behavior of those who we have compassion for. Compassion facilitates more complete understanding, and more complete understanding facilitates more effective response. So, for me, compassion is a starting point for change. When we limit our response to condemnation, we are forgoing an opportunity to bring about change. Of course, compassion for those who have done very bad things is emotionally challenging, but it may be worth the challenge.

  13. shanna September 30, 2009 at 21:46 #

    I think we can all agree that it is not ok to kill your autistic son. It is not ok to kill your son period. I think what Kev is upset about is the fact that the kid has autism is being used as some type of defense. As a parent of a child with autism, I can completely understand that bothering you. I for one am so protective of how people view my son. It is hard not to personalize this story. You do not want the public to get the impression that having a child with autism is so bad that a father killing his son could be seen as some type of mercy.

    On the other hand, I think these things happen with parents of NT children. The autism may have been a factor but probably the most contributing factor was the father’s mental health. And I think you can condem a person’s actions and still show compassion for what he has done. I do not think the two things are mutually exclusive.

  14. Emily October 1, 2009 at 02:12 #

    Shanna, exactly. You can feel pity for this insane man, but that doesn’t mean excusing what he’s done or finding excuses for it.

  15. David N. Brown October 1, 2009 at 05:53 #

    I think that this could be classified as a case of “caregiver syndrome”, which I saw covered in a local paper recently. Essentially, the stress of care (likely coupled with preexisting problems) makes the caregiver neurotic. One not-uncommon outcome is for the caregiver to die of psychologically-triggered health problems even before a terminally ill ward dies. By all indications, this can happen with any kind of illness or disability.

  16. Kev October 1, 2009 at 07:15 #

    Interesting news story.

  17. David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E. October 1, 2009 at 17:59 #

    “Why one copes and another doesn’t has to do with things that are part of their internal makeup. Obviously, this was a tortured soul in ways that some of us didn’t see or understand, and that was probably true, irrespective of being a parent of a child with disabilities.”

    Interesting last line.

    In this case, the word on the ground is that it wasn’t about services. However, in a large number of cases I’ve read or heard about, there’s been an element of it concerned with services but mainly been about a seriously psychologically distressed person in a situation they feel is not tenable. Again, nothing justifies the killing of anyone -child or adult – but things like shortage of services and individual psychological distress can bring these incidents about.

    TD: “This is not an appropriate response, whether there are gaps or not. There are thousands of families living with children with autism and despite the incredible challenges, they manage.”

    What concerns me is that there is nothing done to research what brings this about… obviously, an empirical experimental study would be inappropriate _but_ using psychological autopsy techniques, a grounded theory about this phenomenon could be built up (and as far as I am concerned _should_ be built up) in order to find out how circumstances interact to bring it about. Otherwise we’re never going to find out how we can avoid unjustified and needless deaths.

  18. VAB October 1, 2009 at 21:20 #

    I am under the impression that the province where this took place has some of the highest funding levels for autistic children in the world, in dollars and cents terms. The base funding is $40,000 per year, which is twice what it is where I live, and I have never heard of anywhere with higher funding rates (does anyone get more than 40K for funding to be used for therapy, etc. as the parents see fit?)

    What this tells us that spending more on services is probably not going to have any impact in reducing this kind of tragedy.

  19. Ringside Seat October 1, 2009 at 21:54 #

    Compassion is the right answer.

  20. Stephanie October 3, 2009 at 01:47 #


    “I hate to even imagine what might have happened if I had the responsibility for that child when I was severely depressed.”

    I have been severely depressed with three autistic kids. My husband also has bi-polar and has long been in a phase of significant depression (going on 6 years now). (Both of which had been experienced prior to having children with autism.)

    Thoughts of suicide I can understand. Thoughts of murder I cannot. Thoughts of murdering one’s children I truly cannot understand.

    I agree with Kev in that I’m not recommending hate this man or others like him. I do, however, recommend not justifying the behavior or pitying the perpetrator.

    Perhaps he was depressed, but even then… I don’t know about the UK. But here in the US there are intervention services in just about every community. If you need help because you’re feeling suicidal, the help is there, but you (or someone who knows you) have to ask for it. Maybe that isn’t available in the UK, and maybe it should be. I know it made a big difference for me. Even when I needed intervention services, I didn’t think about killing my child.

  21. Tessa October 3, 2009 at 03:42 #

    I think that those of you who are judging this family are incredibly insensitive and ignorant. I worked with this family and knew them very well. They were an amazing family with incredibly stressful lives. You do not know them so please don’t judge. There is no use in judging, two wonderful people are gone, please just take time to remember them and respect them.

  22. Stephanie October 3, 2009 at 06:28 #


    Murder is not a coping mechanism for stress. A lot of people live incredibly stressful lives and do not resort to murder.

    A calling a crime a crime without pitying the criminal is not “judging this family.”

  23. Dwight F October 5, 2009 at 00:21 #

    >> Rose & Anna – I am mentally ill. I have manic depression (bipolar). At no point have I considered murdering my child due to lack of services.

    That is all well and good but…

    I’m going to go right ahead and feel sadness and compassion for this man, and certainly for his son, under the assumption he was clinically out of his mind. I don’t pity him because his child was autistic or because he had a tough row to hoe. I pity him because his mental illness, and therefore grossly distorted views, convinced him this was even remotely acceptable option. That he, and his son, had so little to live for.

    Or maybe he was just a despicable numbnut? In my experience people that are Eeyores, always moaning “woe is me” and how everything is so gloomy, how they are the victim (of their autistic child, the high price of gas, the weather, etc.), forever wallowing in self-pity usually aren’t the ones to off themselves.

    BTW Alberta is perhaps the most likely place on the continent for the family to have gotten help. It is less than the sparkling rainbow ideal, and you do have to deal with somewhat of a maze, and things are going to take time to shake out. Indeed they were getting some measure of patchwork help. So this idea of not having help for his child is probably just as bad of an excuse as the “autism did it” vibe the story comes with.

    P.S. That you are aware of your bipolar, and I’m guessing have gotten over a lot of the stigma of it, probably puts you miles ahead of where this guy was in his position to deal with his depression.

  24. Kev October 5, 2009 at 10:10 #

    Dwight – thats a lot of assumption there. Particularly that the dad was in any way mentally ill.

  25. Dwight F October 10, 2009 at 18:51 #

    >> Dwight – thats a lot of assumption there. Particularly that the dad was in any way mentally ill.

    Yes, yes it is. But that’s what I tend to do, give people the benefit of the doubt when assuming (unless I’ve missed reasonable evidence to the contrary?). As well it really doesn’t contradict the title of your post. I’m pitying the mentally ill person, not the murderer. Maybe I’m pitying someone that didn’t actually exist. But as long as I’m clear about that ‘IF’ and that I’m not pitying a murderer I feel confident I’m not condoning such action.

  26. Liza October 11, 2009 at 13:15 #

    Murder-suicide is a hideous and horrible crime. ALWAYS. Why? Because its hideous and horrible to deny other person a right to live. Suicide after NEVER makes murder any better or more understandable. Every now and then there is some f**ker who feels so depressed he wants to end his life and take other people with him. Key point here is not his depression, not even his suicidal thoughts, but the fact that he views other people as his property or as extension of himself or as disposable scenery for his or so precious life. Most common scenarios of murder-suicides include:

    1. Abusive person who kills his spouse, probably other family members and then himself after his spouse leaves/divorces him.

    2. Abusive person who kills spouse, children and himself or just kills several (non-disabled) children because of the stress of supporting big family.

    3. Abusive person who just begins to murder random innocent people because he so depressed and pissed off.

    Now, none of this happens if person is not abusive and prone to violence or dehumanizing family members in the first place. Depression in itself is not enough for murder.

    That little kid had his own life. He had an ultimate right to live. His ultimate, most basic human right was cruelly torn from him, all because some other person decided he’s too depressed to let this boy live.

    I just wish people would remember who truly deserve pity in this case. And I wonder would people have the same sympathy to a father who murdered his non-autistic, non-disabled son (while being in really hard financial and social situation).

  27. Dwight F October 11, 2009 at 13:53 #

    >> And I wonder would people have the same sympathy to a father who murdered his non-autistic, non-disabled son (while being in really hard financial and social situation).

    Until given other evidence of willful abuse? Yes. Of course it gets a bit tricky because one symptom of depression (or remember, this could be something else) is a short-temper, thus quite potentially at least something that could be termed verbal abuse of others. This is NOT about the son’s disability.

    Oh, and just because it’s the most common (data?) hardly makes it alright to assume the worst of this individual. Because nonabusive people do sometimes crack. It doesn’t mention it there but it turns out that the father had a couple days prior told his parents he was concerned because he was “hearing voices”. They lived a long way away and decided to wait for a cheaper flight. Obviously poor decision not to just get out, I guess he assumed he could retain sane control of his actions. But crying out loud, you cannot feel no sympathy for him simultaneously having sympathy for his family and tennent?

    It is possible to hold sympathy for two people at once. I’m pretty sure I explicitly pointed out that I do in this case.

  28. Lauren October 11, 2009 at 23:28 #

    so ive read pretty much all of these comments. some i didnt because they all say the same thing..which is really boring. be inventive! but anyways…
    come on now, this person had an opinion nd was stating it. yes, some may feel differently. but to gently(ha!) break it to this guy that he feels wrongly about this??? people hav their own opinion just like the next person who reads all this. get off ur intellectual high horse and let him feel how he wants. he didnt try to bite your damn head off because you think he’s absolutely wrong.
    there’s so many ways that you can break down and explain the autistic dad and how he was. i’ll admit i know no one who has autism or is bipolar, or any thing of that nature(although i do think my mom is crazy!). but i do know that its a smidget childish to go off like that. i have no kind of education in any of this really, but….chiiiill.
    no, i dont think the guy should be pitied, bt of course i can think off 194 different exceptions that no one has yet commented on. but my point is, they’re dead nd gone. and its down right heart breaking to know this happend. now i know im not a medical whatever person like that crazy guy is(oh its david…hi david!), im 16, but i know that nothing has improved nor has anything changed with that mouthful you had to say. but why keep talking and goin on to each other about what happened when we should all be talkin about how to prevent it from reoccuring because its still going on??? and these big ol’ speaches??…woo boy y’all hav too much effort! i just felt like, SHUT UP! while your sittin there talkin, ur not doin anything…egtting mad and what not.
    i dont know how the hell i got on this web site anyways, but im jus trying to write an argumentative paper on if the death penalty is really effective in bringing justice(any advice would help by the way!). i really dont feel like doing it which is why i thought it neccessary to comment. but i just had to put my little bit of two sense in there since it seems that everyone and their mama left me out of this controversal arguement. but i do have something to say to the guy that started this whole intruiging…whatever you may call it, that i just read…dude, you set yourself up to get torn right back down. it kinda makes me giggle though.
    **oh and pardon me for my lack of sentence structure accuracy, im too lazy to push all those buttons**

  29. Lauren October 11, 2009 at 23:31 #

    **oh and pardon me for my lack of sentence structure accuracy. im too lazy to push all those button**


  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - Murderers should not be pitied « Left Brain/Right Brain -- - September 30, 2009

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Enola Knezevic and Merryn Affleck. Merryn Affleck said: Autism Blog – Murderers should not be pitied « Left Brain/Right Brain […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: