Mother kills autistic daughter, then attempts overdose

Pekin Journal-Star, 2006-05-08

PEKIN, Illinois, USA: Police say a central Illinois mother accused of killing her three-year-old autistic daughter tried to overdose on over-the-counter medication a day later.

Police say 37-year-old Karen McCarron has confessed to suffocating her daughter by placing a plastic bag over her head.

Three-year-old Katherine McCarron died on the afternoon of May 13. Early on the following morning - Mother's Day - police say they were again called to the McCarron family's home in Morton because Karen had tried to overdose on pills.

She faces two charges of first-degree murder, each of which are punishable by 20 to 60 years in prison. She is being held on a two-million dollar bond, and she is next due in court on June 8.

McCarron is a pathologist who went to medical school at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield.

She told police she "had just wanted to end her pain and (her daughter's) pain."

Toddler Katherine "Katie" McCarron had retreated into her own autistic world on May 13 and would not take a nap, according to court documents.

So Karen McCarron told her mother, who was visiting the family's Morton home, that she planned to take Katherine for a car ride, as was common to calm her down, Morton Police Chief Nick Graff said on May 17.

But on this trip, McCarron drove to her mother's Morton home, placed a plastic garbage bag over her daughter's head and suffocated her, Graff said. She returned home to her mother and two-year-old daughter, Emily, and took her dead daughter to her bedroom.

McCarron originally told police she had tried to wake Katherine from a nap but found her not breathing. Another visiting family member called 911 (the emergency services) at about 4 pm while Karen McCarron performed CPR on her child, who later was pronounced dead at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

McCarron was not yet a suspect in the case on the evening of May 13 and was allowed to return home, Graff said.

Early on May 14, emergency crews were again called to the McCarron home, but this time for Karen McCarron, who had overdosed on some type of medication, Graff said.

Police found Karen and husband Paul, who had just returned from a business trip in North Carolina, in an upstairs bedroom embracing one another. Paul was crying, but Karen, who had told her husband she put a plastic bag over their child's head to calm her down, was unemotional, court documents stated.

When police asked Karen what had happened, she replied: "Nothing is going to help and it's not going to make any difference."

Paramedics took Karen McCarron to St Francis, where she told police "she had just wanted to end her pain and Katie's pain" and admitted to killing her daughter, Morton police Detective Ray Ham wrote in an investigation report.

McCarron, 37, a certified pathologist with no previous criminal record, now faces two charges of first-degree murder, each of which are punishable by 20 to 60 years in prison.

Tazewell County State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz said he does not plan to seek the death penalty, and no one else is expected to be charged.

"Obviously, this is a tragic circumstance. It's a terrible incident any time a mother would be charged with murdering her child. But it's particularly troubling when it occurs over Mother's Day weekend," Umholtz said.

He would not discuss the mother's mental state or whether she was being treated for any conditions.

Dr David Ayoub said he met with Karen McCarron shortly after her daughter was diagnosed with autism.

"She was very dedicated to trying to get treatment for her daughter," Ayoub said. "I've met with a lot of parents who are dealing with autistic children, and she was one of the most loving mothers. This is a story that's been played over and over again. Homicide, suicide. The families just don't have the support."

The brain disorder in autism interferes with the ability to interact and communicate to others and causes difficulties with communication, motor skills, social and play skills, and coping with their environment.

Sue Grimm of Groveland, who has two autistic children, said she thought McCarron was a fantastic mother.

"She was doing everything in her power to care for her child, everything," Grimm said. "She was a fantastic mother. My condolences go out for the family."

(Sources: Associated Press, Copley News Service, May 18, 2006)

Police: Mother confesses to suffocating daughter

Autism has impact on families

By Josh Brogadir
Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 10:57 PM

PEKIN -- We're learning more about murder charges brought against a mother from Morton.

Morton Police said 37-year old Karen McCarron confessed to suffocating her three-year-old daughter, Katherine.

According to an arrest affidavit, McCarron admitted to placing a plastic bag over her daughter's head until she stopped breathing.

She said she committed the act somewhere else in Morton, before bringing the body back to the family's home on the 300 block of East Idlewood Drive.

Katherine McCarron had been diagnosed with autism.

Morton police said Karen said she wanted to end her pain and her daughter's pain, as well.

"What drew our attention to this case was when we determined that the cause of death of this child was suffocation,” Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stu Umholtz said. “Then everything that we knew about this incident no longer made sense."

McCarron is currently in the Tazewell County jail on $2 million bond.

Umholtz will not seek the death penalty against her.

He said one reason is that McCarron has no previous criminal record.

Authorities are not commenting as to her motive, but people who know Karen McCarron said the challenges with autism can be too much to handle.

While McCarron sits in a jail cell charged with first degree murder in her daughter's death, Lauri Hislope sits knowing what it means to raise a child with autism.

“People do not understand, unless you have walked in our shoes and lived in our shoes, this is a minute to minute thing, there's very little reprieve,” Hislope said.

And she's not alone.

“You can become obsessed with trying to find a cure for your child,” Patty Floyd said.

Floyd has been providing home therapy for kids with autism for several years, including care for her daughter.

“Now all of a sudden you have to become educated, you have to seek all the treatments necessary and in essence you have to become the doctor, the dietician, the teacher, you never planned on becoming,” Floyd said.

“We are overwhelmed with having these children with these disorders,” Hislope said.

“I think there is a real sense of desperation there because of the lack of coordinated care and clear answers,” Easter Seals Chief Executive Officer Steve Thompson said.

That frustration drove Karen McCarron to divide up the family in search of better care.

Her husband took Katherine to North Carolina, Karen stayed with their other child at their home in Morton.

“And that had to be overwhelming in itself, because now your support's not there, you're both separated, you know,” Floyd said.

“Karen was an active advocate for her daughter,” Hislope said.

As for the thought that anyone could ever see this tragedy coming?

“You know I’ll tell you, absolutely not,” Hislope said.

“No, no, she was an excellent mother and she was out there to help her daughter the best that she could,” Floyd said.

Patty Floyd was going to provide home care for three-year-old Katherine McCarron in just a few weeks.

One in every 166 children is diagnosed with autism and parents wish more was being done to help.

Easter Seals is hoping to launch a Regional Autism Center for Excellence if administrators can acquire local, state and federal funding to make it happen.

Photographs of Katie have been made available for public use by her grandfather. Download yours here: Katie McCarron Photos

Daughter's murder puts focus on 'toll of autism' With a cautionary note by us on that "toll of autism" thing.
'This was not about autism', grandfather says Who Katie McCarron really was.
Katie's father files for divorce, citing 'extreme mental cruelty'
Karen McCarron admitted to planning the murder
Karen was described as 'lucid' and 'very calm'
'I wanted to take the autism out of her'
More analysis of the Journal-Star articles.
Murder of Autistics (Archive)

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