Mother Who Killed Daughter With Autism Guilty
Former doctor prepares for prison term after being found guilty of 2006 murder
Friday, January 18, 2008
BY KEVIN SAMPIERof the Journal Star
PEKIN - There was a noticeable difference in Karen McCarron's choice of clothing Thursday, leading some to speculate she was preparing for jail.
And now, after a nine-day jury trail, she is on her way to prison. McCarron was found guilty Thursday of suffocating her 3-year-old autistic daughter Katherine "Katie" McCarron with a garbage bag.
McCarron, 39, of Morton sat silently in Tazewell County Circuit Court as she was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder, one count of obstructing justice and one count of concealment of a homicidal death.
Absent were the professional business-like clothes she wore throughout her trial, instead replaced with light-colored jeans.
She carried a black backpack with her and wore white canvas shoes with no laces, and for the first time, glasses instead of contact lenses. There were smiles and hugs among husband, Paul McCarron's family, who softly cheered as the guilty verdict was read.
"If the measure of a person's life could be quantified by the number of people that loved them, then Katie, in her brief 3 1/2 years, achieved well beyond all of us," Paul McCarron said in a prepared statement about his daughter after the trial.
Karen McCarron told police and jurors about driving to her mother's empty Morton home on May 13, 2006, and wrapping a plastic garbage bag around Katie's head until she died.
She then drove the girl's lifeless body back home and put her in bed as if she were asleep.
Paul McCarron, who is in the process of divorcing his wife, cried as the verdict was read, but Karen McCarron showed no emotion.
She has been free from jail on $1 million bond since June 9, 2006, but Judge Stephen Kouri revoked that bond after the verdict.
Handcuffs clicked around McCarron's wrists and she was led out of the courthouse by Tazewell County sheriff's deputies.
Karen McCarron's attorneys, Marc Wolfe and Steve Baker, entered a not guilty by reason of insanity defense on her behalf, which was rejected by jurors as well as the option of guilty but mentally ill.
Jurors deliberated about four hours Wednesday and five hours Thursday before making their decision.
Wolfe said he was "extremely disappointed" with the guilty verdict and said, "I'm certain she's disappointed as well," referring to his client.
Karen McCarron was mentally ill at the time of the killing, Wolfe said, and he thought the evidence showed that.
"The testimony bore out the connection between her illness and the crime," he said, but stopped just short of confirming he will appeal the verdict."Certainly that option will be explored," he said.
Kevin Johnson, chief assistant Tazewell County state's attorney, said he told Paul McCarron and family the trial would be a long and difficult process.
"Today we reached the end of that journey with a justified verdict," Johnson said.
Paul McCarron stood next to prosecutors after the trial and thanked them and police for their work.
"We are blessed to have these caring and professional people in our community," he wrote.
The sentencing range for first-degree murder is between 20 and 60 years, but because Katie was younger than 12 years old, that sentencing range increases to between 60 and 100 years.
A sentencing date was not set Thursday but is expected to be scheduled today.
Numerous witnesses said Karen McCarron, a former pathologist, couldn't accept Katie's autism and was obsessed with finding a cure.
When a cure couldn't be found and suggestions of institutionalizing the girl and giving her up for adoption were rejected by family members, she chose to kill her.
Katie was sent to a special school for children with autism in North Carolina, where she lived with her father for nearly two years. Karen McCarron pursued various types of therapies and hired caregivers to work with her daughter as the obsession with curing the autism grew.
"I ask all parents, and especially those of children with disabilities, to always love your children and be proud of them," Paul McCarron wrote in his statement. "Cherish every moment you have with them. Love, patience and tender efforts are the best therapies."
Kevin Sampier can be reached at 346-5300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.