Search results for 'murder'

Whitewashing the brutal murder of Alex Spourdalakis

31 Aug

Alex Spourdalakis was a 14 year old autistic who was brutally murdered by his mother and another caregiver. Among those with extraordinary needs, Mr. Spourdalikis had extraordinary needs. Shortly before his spent a considerable amount of time in a hospital, reportedly restrained the whole time. So far the only real details from that time have come from his mother and caregiver who were the perpetrators of the murder. The family was offered help. When someone from the local Autism Society asked the mother what she needed “[Ms.] Spourdalakis said all she wanted was an attorney” and one was found for the family. Another news report states that “Department of Children and Family Services spokesperson says that Dorothy Spourdalakis was offered services, but she refused.” Mr. Spourdalakis’ case became well known, especially within the online autism communities. The family received the services of Andrew Wakefield, whose career has taken him into reality TV film making. Mr. Wakefield’s team helped to publicize the situation and followed the family to New York from Chicago as they sought help from Mr. Wakefield’s former colleague, the gastroenterologist Arthur Krigsman. It is not clear what treatment Krigsman prescribed. Sometime after this, the mother and caregiver began to conspire in a plan to murder Mr. Spourdalakis. When the carried out their plan, they poisoned Mr. Spourdalakis with sleeping pills. When this did not work quickly enough, the mother and caregiver stabbed him. Not once, not twice, but four times, including two stabs to the heart. When even this proved not fast enough, the mother and caregiver slit his wrist. Slit so deeply that reportedly his hand was nearly severed from his arm. When Mr. Spourdalakis finally passed, the mother and caregiver turned the knife on the family cat. After cleaning the knife, they returned it to it’s place in the kitchen. The mother and caregiver then took large doses of sleeping pills, the method they had just found to be ineffective in the murder of Mr. Spourdalakis. The father (who was divorced from the mother and living elsewhere) and an uncle tried to reach the mother that day and, finding that they could not reach her, came to the apartment. When the door was not answered, the uncle reportedly kicked it down. This action, in my view, indicates that the danger posed to the young Mr. Spourdalakis by his mother (who was reported to have started planning the murder a week in advance) was known to his extended family and they were monitoring the mother in an attempt to prevent harm.

As noted above, Andrew Wakefield inserted himself into the story. His joint venture with Polly Tommey, the Autism Media Channel, started collecting film of Mr. Spourdalakis and his mother during the hospital stay. Mr. Wakefield’s intent certainly wasn’t to document the final days of Mr. Spourdalakis. Most likely he was planning a vide similar to that for the trailer he prepared for his proposed reality Show “The Autism Team”. That video shows autistic children in meltdowns, being self-injurious. One specific child is flown from the U.K. to New York to see Arthur Krigsman (just as Mr. Spourdalakis was taken from Chicago to New York to see Krigsman). In the trailer, after visiting Krigsman the child was shown happy, playing, and the parents were shown grateful. As we know, this was not the conclusion of the Alex Spourdalakis story. Whatever Mr. Wakefield and Ms. Tommey had planned for the video they had taken, the “treat bowel disease and everyone is happy” story was not to be. Instead, he has produced a video of the “medical establishment fails family, leading to tragedy” theme. I do wonder how he managed to work that theme around the facts that the tragedy (aka brutal murder at the hands of his mother) came to pass after Mr. Spourdalakis was seen by Mr. Krigsman.

CBS News journalist Sharyl Attkisson picked up the story and aired some of the video Mr. Wakefield’s team collected in Film provides glimpse into life of autistic teen killed by his mother. What is the subject of her story? The victim? The murderers? No. It’s the film. Likely the title of the online article was not chosen by Ms. Attkisson. Whoever did chose it acted poorly.

The written piece starts out with, yes, the mother:

Chicago mom Dorothy Spourdalakis was ordered to be held without bond early this week, on the charge that she and her 14-year-old son’s caretaker, Jolanta Agata Skordzka, murdered her severely autistic son. Alex Spourdalakis was found dead in June in his bed in the River Grove, Ill., apartment he shared with his mother and Skrodzka.

When Ms. Attkisson presents the discovery of the crime scene, she again presents the murderers first, then the victim. The mother and caretaker were “barely alive themselves”. The key point–they were (and still are) alive.

When police found Alex dead at home in June, his mother and caretaker were barely alive themselves after allegedly overdosing him on medicine and stabbing him in the heart before attempting to commit suicide.

The story presents the “balance” of which group failed. Was it the medical establishment or was (as she presents in a brief clip at the end) society’s attitudes about disability and the disabled? She chose this approach rather than checking facts in depth. What options were open to the family? What is the father’s and uncle’s view, as they were apparently worried about the safety of the young Mr. Spourdalakis? What evidence is there that the diagnosis made by Krigsman is accurate. While Krigsman is well thought of in some circles, he is not without his critics nor his own history of possible ethics lapses. Did she search out what supports had been offered to the family? What they had asked for (an attorney, for example, which was provided).

The written article states, “But some in the autism advocacy community take issue with the idea that lack of help is an excuse for murder.”

Really? Only some? And is this somehow limited to the autism community? Ms. Attkisson, what is your position? Is a lack of support an excuse for murder?

But there it is, in black and white, the crux of the story: is lack of help an excuse for murder? The answer is clearly no, it is not an excuse. When did we get to the point that U.S. journalists can be discussing an “excuse” for murder?

What about the lack of help? We have to take Ms. Attkisson’s word that there was a lack of help. Because Ms. Attkisson, investigative journalist, didn’t investigate that question. Instead she presented Andrew Wakefield’s depiction of the story from the murderers. Mr. Wakefield’s word is, well, not good enough for me. People who murder their children and are trying to build a defense are not reliable sources in my opinion. But the word of the accused murderers was enough for Ms. Attkisson. She took the time to investigate the hospital where Mr. Spourdalakis was kept for 2 weeks, but she didn’t bother to look into what resources were available to the family. Was insurance coverage really denied? More importantly, if so, why?

And, yes, she takes Mr. Wakefield’s word for it. She introduces her video segment with the statement that this would be “another unexplained tragedy” if it weren’t for the video he collected.

The story notes:

Dorothy’s suicide note read, in part: Alex will no longer be “treated like an animal” or “subjected to restraints.”

He will no longer be treated like an animal. He met the same fate as the family cat. Even the cat deserved better.

As a human being, I am appalled by this story. I am appalled by the way Ms. Attkisson and CBS have given us a commercial for Andrew Wakefield’s company and failed miserably to do the basic investigative journalism needed.

Much more, as the parent of a child not so unlike Alex Spourdalakis, I am disgusted. A common phrase we hear from parents is “what will happen after I am gone?” What will happen in a world where “caregivers” are excused from murder of their charges? And I know I am not alone in my views, having discussed this with other parents of disabled children. I won’t presume to present the autistic perspective on this, but here is one account:CBS Provides Glimpse into “Documentary” Defending Autistic Teen Alex Spourdalakis’ Killers .


by Matt Carey

Greg Simard pleads guilty in attempted murder of autistic boy

6 May

This is one of those stories that is so awful as to be unbelievable. The full story is at Greg Simard pleads guilty to attempted murder. An autistic boy was in a residential placement. On one of his last days before going back to his family full time, a worker in the placement took the autistic boy out into the woods and beat him and left him to die. There are also questions of sexual abuse. The assailant’s explanation:

“He’s a drain on society. His life is meaningless. It’s no big deal,” Greg Simard, 24, told police. “I did it for my country. . . . Um, maybe someone should come and shake my hand. . . a few pats on the back. . .”

Simard discussed the event itself:

“I just grabbed him by the hand and said come for a walk. . . . I hope he’s dead. He’s a drain on society,” Simard told Det. Amanda Pfeffer.

Questioned about the boy’s underwear being torn off, Simard said, “I didn’t sexually assault a retarded kid. That’s disgusting.”

I can’t express enough the sorrow that I feel for the child and his family. And I offer them my apologies as I make this point:

This is one big reason why people fight to destigmatize disability. The biggest reason is because it is just the right thing to do. But when the message is put out in public, over and over, about the disabled as burdens on society and somehow worth less than non-disabled citizens, people like Greg Simard are listening. And there are many more who won’t go to such an extreme, but still will accept and act on dehumanizing rhetoric.


By Matt Carey

San Diego mother pleads guilty in the drowning murder of her autistic son

29 Dec

Channel 10 news in San Diego reports Patricia Corby, woman accused in autistic son’s death, pleads guilty to murder charges, Corby faces sentence of 15 years to life.

The story begins

SAN DIEGO – A woman who drowned her 4-year-old autistic son in a bathtub, then drove his lifeless body to a police substation where she admitted the crime, pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder.

Patricia Corby, 37, sobbed as she admitted killing her son, Daniel, last March 31.

The mother reportedly drowned her 4 year old son, attempted to drown herself and then drove to the police department to turn herself in.

As an aside: such events as these bother me a great deal. I have a great deal of difficulty discussing these stories and I resort to a rather clinical approach in my writing.

In a previous story it was reported that when she turned herself in:

…she told police that the boy was autistic and that she didn’t believe he would have a life or a future without her, so she decided to kill him, the prosecutor said.

Multiple sources are reporting that the the family had spent a large sum on therapy, implying that financial stress played into the decision to murder her son. This sort of inference is often a source of much controversy for, among other reasons, playing into the “autistic as burden” discussion.  Also statements about the family’s debt are taken by some as an attempt to partially justify the murder.

Ironically, in most murder cases a financial incentive is seen as adding guilt to the crime. However, when a parent murders a disabled child, the financial incentive seems to be used to reduce guilt.

Not mentioned is the discussion of finances is that the murder happened just a few months before California law changed making autism therapies much easier to obtain through insurance. The family was reported to have a history of employment problems, but the father was employed at the time of the murder and may have had medical benefits.

Comments in online stories range from “I would have taken the child in” to “don’t judge the mother unless you have walked in her shoes” to comments that seem to emanate from a modern-day Ebeneezer Scrooge.

As an aside, it is my personal opinion that the “you haven’t walked in his/her shoes” discussion point is beyond meaningless. Consider a term that is often discussed in the context of autism: empathy.

Empathy is the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another sentient or fictional being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel compassion.

Somehow we are not supposed to be capable of empathy where it applies to being critical of the mother’s actions, but we are supposed to be capable of empathy in considering offering the mother sympathy.

Another term that comes up often in autism discussions is “balance”. As in “that news story needed to give both sides to show ‘balance’ “. Usually this is in regards to some totally unscientific or disproven idea about autism. News stories about parents murdering their autistic children almost never give balance in regards to presenting any one of  the hundreds of thousands of stories where parents don’t murder their autistic children. Stories of how it is difficult, but does not warrant murder.  How the norm for those of us who have “walked in her shoes” is to keep walking, not to commit murder.  There is no balance in the form of autistic voices, except in the comments to no online stories. Comments that are often met with a “you haven’t walked in her shoes” reply.

Some question why so many parents actively shun the “pity politics” of autism, where real difficulties and challenges for our children and ourselves are colored by language of hopelessness and despair. Among the many excellent reasons I would include  the desire to not encourage the sort of despair that Patricia Corby felt.

Discussions of these types of events are very difficult for many reasons. Not the least of which is being respectful to the family. I wish the father and the family well in this difficult time and apologize for intruding in this tragedy.


By Matt Carey

Autism is not murderous

12 Aug

Lives lost to autism is a new website with what seems at first glance to have an excellent reason for existence – to record all the non-natural deaths of autistic people.

But the name ‘Lives lost to autism’, the strapline ‘For many, autism can be deadly.’ and most particularly the statement ‘This site tells the story of the precious lives cut short by autism.’ are very misleading. Blaming autism for murder is utterly misleading. Autism didn’t murder any of the children listed as murder victims – or the ones that haven’t been listed either.

The site seems to be set up and run by Ginger Taylor (left) who’s position on autism has grown more and more extreme over the years. It seems now she is happy to denigrate autism itself as a murderous entity.

Should there be a site where victims of murder AND natural deaths are remembered? Of course there should, its a great idea. But to politicise it so graphically and so ham-fistedly is wrong. Its a testament to the ideas of Ginger Taylor and not a lot more right now.

Gentle autistic man murdered

22 Oct

If someone says, “there’s a murder in the news and an autistic is involved”, what is the image that comes to mind for most people?

This story from the Sacramento (California) Bee: Slain student was “gentle, sometimes a target,” dad says..

There are some autistics who are non aggressive to the point of being unable to defend themselves. It sounds like Scott Gregory Hawkins might fall into that category. He was beaten to death with a baseball bat by his roommate.

“I would say that he was just very gentle, sweet, unassuming, kind of sometimes a little goofy, and he was kind of a nerdy kid who really loved his studies,” his father said.

Scott loved history and wanted to be an educator.

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?

Disgusted.

To intentionally murder your child by burning him is shockingly evil

6 Aug

I’m with Judge Dempsy on this one. Evil. Shockingly evil.

An American woman has been convicted (and now sentenced to death) for the muder of her autistic son, Mason. WHNT news in Alabama carried the story, Judge Sentences Christie Scott to Death For Son’s Murder, on their website.

Here are some quotes:

In July, a jury found Scott guilty of three counts of capital murder for setting a fire in her home that killed her six-year-old son, Mason.

and,

During the trial, the state presented evidence that Mason, who was autistic, had a total of $175,000 worth of life insurance when he died. Christie Scott took out a $100,000 policy the day before her son died. Someone had also removed expensive jewelry and pictures from the home. Investigators also found an undamaged smoke detector in the ashes. It was believed to have been taken down before the fire.

And, this one just makes my eyes cross. Literally.

“To me, the fact that she chose that manner of death for a child that was scared of fire puts her in a category that not only is possible for death, it definitely deserves the death penalty,” says Rushing.

Autism and Murder

18 Mar

Two stories recently made a splash in the autism community. In the first:

An 18-year-old man described as “severely autistic” is in custody on suspicion he murdered a 59-year-old Coos County woman…

and in the second:

A judge has ruled that Asperger’s syndrome cannot be used by the defense in the case of a man accused or murdering a woman after he lured her to his home in Savage in October 2007.

Three blogs carried this story, each revealing their owners particular viewpoints. In his small circulation blog, Harold Doherty said:

In recent days and weeks two severely autistic young men have been implicated in homicides. In one case, a young man with autism has been implicated in the death of his mother who publicly professed her deep love for her son and the joy that he brought to her….Neurodiversity ideologues are unlikely to change. Their views are entrenched and tied to their own public careers as professional “autistics” or “enlightened” autism parents. The truth is that they discourage society from addressing the harsher realities of autism by effective therapy, treatment or cure. They help keep members of the public from understanding the full nature of autism, particularly as it affects the most severely autistic. Theirs is a movement whose aim is to keep everyone from facing autism reality. Theirs is a movement which wants society to keep our heads in the sand and ignore autism reality.

And on their advert covered anti vaccination site, Age of Autism said:

How many stories of violent deaths allegedly at the hands of autistic teen males will we have to read before the world either A) embraces treatment for autism as a medical ailment or B) paints all autistic males as dangerous killers and locks them away a la 1955?

So you can see that Harold uses these deaths to say how silly neurodiversity is and AoA use them to say that treatment for autism is the only valid option before society is overrun with autistic killers.

Both viewpoints are pretty ridiculous. Harold builds up the idea that members of neurodiversity don’t like to talk about the bad things autism can bring. This is patently untrue as just a fairly random peruse around Autism Hub blogs would reveal. In fact, what neurodiversity bloggers tend to talk about are the good things and the bad. A quick example from Niksmom for example. The thing is that for parents on the Autism Hub who talk openly about their kids, they easily mix the good and the bad. Amanda Baggs, an autistic person, talks about some of the bad things that can happen to autistic people often. What Harold finds offensive is that we talk about the good things *at all* . I have no idea why.

And of course, on AoA they are desperate to link everything together with treatment. To make sure that *every aspect* of autism is seen as medical and to encourage biomedical treatment of those issues. A simple look at the advert-riddled blog that they have become is evidence of that. NB – I’m not knocking ads on websites at all but six image and text ads and five ‘sponsors’ is a little bit too much.

But then the third blog I’m talking about is Lisa Jo Rudy’s where she asks carefully and thoughtfully about how we can make sure that autism is _accurately_ reported on and presented to the world?

How can we battle the anxiety felt around the “autism spectrum” diagnosis? How can we present the face of autism accurately, without raising the specter of violence? What are your thoughts on this thorny issue?

Note the lack of appeal to fear (cure ’em or they’ll kill us!!) or appeal to fallacy (the evil ND’s are brainwashing the world!!) that AoA and Harold feel compelled to perpetuate. In fact the only quibble I’d have with Lisa Jo’s piece is the emphasis she places solely on children. However as someone writing from the POV of a parent maybe this is understandable.

In my opinion, the answer to Lisa Jo’s question – how do we get accurate information out about autism? – can be answered in some part by science.

I found it quite difficult to get ahold of papers about autism and death attributed to an autistic person. But the few that I did get access to point to quite a different direction than the overly bleak and purposefully twisted futures foreseen by Harold Doherty and AoA.

In this study, the authors looked at rates of criminality amongst those with a Pervasive Developmental Disability (subgrouped to ‘childhood autism’, atypical autism and AS) . In the childhood autism group (which corresponds to severe/kanners/etc) 0.9% had a conviction as adults. In the control group, the rate was 18.9%. For atypical autism the conviction rate was 8.1%. The control group was 14.7%. For AS, the rate was 18.4% and the control group was 19.6%.

So, in each subgroup of PDD the authors looked at, the rate of criminal conviction was lower than controls. For the type of autism that Doherty and AoA are talking about less than 1% had a conviction compared to 18.9%. I think its clear that if this paper is accurate then we’re hardly going to be overrun with autistic killers.

In the other paper I couldnt get ahold of to read in its entirety, the authors looked at wether moral judgement was present in autism. Its worth noting the assumption that ‘theory of mind’ is somewhat accurate by these authors but still,:

Cry baby scenarios, in which the distress of the victim is “unreasonable” or “unjustified,” do not elicit moral condemnation from normally developing preschoolers or from children with autism. Judgments of moral transgressions in which the victim displays distress are therefore not likely the result of a simple automatic reaction to distress and more likely involve moral reasoning…

Therefore,

…basic moral judgment [is] substantially intact in children with autism who are severely impaired in ‘theory of mind’.

Or in other words, severely autistic people demonstrably know the difference between right and wrong.

The third paper that I did get ahold of in its entirety was a very disturbing case study about an autistic 10 year old girl who killed her baby sister. After reading it and the heap of physical and mental abuses placed upon the autistic child, including the parents letting neighbours beat her and the parents withdrawing her seizure medications I felt this case was too extreme to be valid.

The feeling I get is that these tragic cases of severely autistic people seriously harming others are rarer than rare. Certainly the observation that severely autistic people clearly are aware of right and wrong and that the follow up observation that severely autistic (and atypically autistic) people had an extremely low conviction rate compared to controls shows that I think its very wrong to paint autistic people as requiring a cure before they kill us all or are forcibly locked away. It is also wrong to suggest that the ability to find happiness in a life with autism is somehow not realistic because autistic people kill others. Its a real shame that Doherty and AoA – all parents of autistic people – have so little respect for the sort of people their children may turn out to be.

Another autistic child murdered

20 Nov

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that 12 year old Kyle Dutter was murdered by his dad..

He wasn’t killed. He was murdered. His dad, his own father, put him in the car, drove him a distance and then shot him. This coward then turned the gun on himself, thus at least saving Kyle’s family the sort of horror and recurring tragedy that the McCarron family had (and still have) to face following the murder of Katie.

On Tuesday, an anonymous 911 caller directed Madison police to a sport-utility vehicle parked in front of Haen Family Park on the city’s Far West Side. Inside, police say they found Dutter and his son with gunshot wounds.

Kyle, who had a developmental disability, died that day. His father died Wednesday. Authorities say Dutter, 36, recently of Middleton, shot his son, then himself.

There is a website for Kyle which shows an excitement about Hallow’een. There are also a collection of photos on the website showing Kyle and his killer.

There can’t be any excuses for this. None. Kyle’s killer may well have been suffering from financial pressures or other kinds of pressure and the locality may well have had a severe lack of appropriate autism services – so what? That is no excuse – and never should be – for picking up a weapon and taking away someone _elses_ options and life. Kyle had a mother. Why not simply take Kyle back to her? What about Kyle’s grandparents mentioned in the article? There was no need for this.

I have a 16 year old son who is just beginning to spread his wings in the world. Kyle Dutter is another in what is a unnervingly long line of autistic children who will never have that opportunity, an opportunity denied to them by the very people who should be providing it to them.

Another Day, Another Murder

30 Aug

Incredibly, as reported by abfh, yet another autistic child has been murdered by their parents – or foster parents in this case (if you follow that link please be aware that there are some particularly tasteless comments from John Best in the comments section).

Marcus Fiesel’s foster parents knew all along their missing boy was dead, say Hamilton County prosecutors. They knew, prosecutors say, because Liz and David Carroll Jr. left the 3-year-old alone for two days in a locked closet while they attended a family reunion. They knew because David Carroll later burned and hid Marcus’ body. They knew even as they cried before TV cameras, begging the community to help them find the missing boy.

Source.

I want to be absolutely clear here. These people are scum. Seriously. Scum. My liberal upbringing wants me to try and ‘understand’ how things like this could happen but to be honest, after a spring and summer in which poor Marcus is the fifth murder victim of their parents in the UK and US I don’t give a shit about understanding. They’re scum. Treat them as such.

No doubt this pair of low life will try and play the card that Karen McCarron is in the process of playing – the good old ‘get out of jail free’ insanity card. And why not? Despite the planning that went into sweet Katie’s murder and despite the intentional, wilful cruelty that Liz and David Carroll visited upon their foster son I’ve absolutely no doubt that this collection of low lifers will continue to put themselves first, much as they did when their poor children were still alive.

When Katie was murdered (and yes I know that I’m not supposed to use that word but you know what? If Karen McCarron doesn’t like it, she can sue me) I took refuge in my family and my own beautiful autistic daughter.

Below is a superlative video from Estee of The Autism Acceptance Project which I heartily recommend as an antidote to all the horrors that autistic people seem to be on the receiving end of just lately. Sadly, Ryan, Katie, Christopher, William and now Marcus will never be involved in so beautiful and life affirming a project.