Saturday, January 05, 2008

Karen McCarron's trial scheduled to begin Monday January 7

Below is the full article (January 4) by David Mercer from The Times (Munster, Indiana) about the trial of Karen McCarron (and some background about her case), which is set to begin this coming Monday, January 7. It is alleged that McCarron suffocated her three-year-old daughter, Katherine, who was autistic, with a plastic bag on May 13, 2006, because she "wanted a life without autism." A key question for jurors will be whether Mcarron was legally responsible for her actions or mentally ill at the time of the killing.

Mother charged in autistic daughter’s death headed to trial

Just days after she and her father moved back to the family home in Morton, Ill., from North Carolina in May 2006, 3-year-old Katherine McCarron was dead.

Police and prosecutors say the little girl’s mother - a physician who apparently was unable to cope with her daughter’s severe autism - suffocated her with a white plastic bag then tried to make it look like an accident.

Opening statements in McCarron’s trial are expected to begin Monday in Tazewell County Circuit Court in Pekin, just southwest of Peoria, where jurors could face a tough question: Was McCarron legally responsible for her actions or was she insane?

McCarron, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and has been free on bond since 2006, has been found mentally fit to stand trial. But a medical expert hired by her attorneys said McCarron was insane at the time of the killing. McCarron, who faces up to 60 years in prison for each charge, has pleaded not guilty.

Much of the case could hinge on a videotaped confession that Karen McCarron gave on May 14, 2006, the day after her daughter’s death. Karen McCarron was being treated at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria for her own attempted suicide.

On the hour-long tape, which a judge has said can be used in court when her trial begins next week, McCarron said she wanted “a life without autism."

“Autism left me hollow,” she said. “It seems that everything I tried to do didn’t help her. She was a tough nut to crack,” McCarron said.

Lawyers on both sides of the case either declined comment this week or did not return calls by The Associated Press seeking comment.

After her daughter was diagnosed with autism, Karen McCarron became well-known in a Peoria-area support group.

Dr. David Ayoub, a leading supporter of a controversial theory that mercury in early childhood vaccines causes the disease, said in 2006 interviews that he had occasionally talked with Karen McCarron after Katherine was diagnosed with autism.

“She was very dedicated to trying to get treatment for her daughter,” Ayoub told Copley News service in one of those interviews. “I’ve met with a lot of parents who are dealing with autistic children, and she was one of the most loving mothers.”

McCarron and her husband, Paul McCarron, decided in 2004 that Katherine needed better medical care and found a clinic in North Carolina that specialized in treating autism.

Paul McCarron, a Caterpillar Inc. engineer, transferred to a new job there and moved with the little girl. Karen McCarron, a pathologist who reportedly was unable to find a suitable job in North Carolina, stayed behind with the couple’s younger daughter, Emily.

The separation, however, proved difficult for the family, so Paul McCarron, planning to move back to Illinois in mid-2006, brought Katherine home in early May, according to news reports after Katherine’s death.

But on May 13, prosecutors say, Karen McCarron drove the little girl to her parents’ house, also in Morton, and suffocated her with a plastic bag. McCarron reportedly told police she’d taken Katherine for a drive to calm her after she couldn’t get the little girl to take a nap.

McCarron allegedly brought Katherine back home, carrying her past family members as if the girl was asleep, and laid her down in a bedroom. A while later, McCarron told family she couldn’t wake her daughter.

Emergency workers were called to the home to treat Katherine, who wasn’t breathing.
McCarron wasn’t a suspect, according to police, until they were called back to her house early the next day, after she tried to overdose on over-the-counter drugs.

Police said they found McCarron and her husband, who had returned from a business trip, hugging and crying. They say she’d just told him she killed Katherine.

Paul McCarron has since filed for divorce. Messages left for a Morton, Ill., phone listed for him were not returned.

Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz called the death “tragic” in a 2006 interview with Copley News Service.

“It’s a terrible incident anytime a mother would be charged with murdering her child,” he said.

But the little girl’s her grandfather, Michael McCarron, said Karen McCarron didn’t lack for help in raising her daughter, whom he called happy and playful.

“This was not a question of there’s no place to turn, there’s no support,” Michael McCarron told the Chicago Tribune. “This was not a murder about autism.”

A service of the Associated Press(AP)

(h/t to Kristina Chew from Autism Vox, for keeping us up-to-date)