The murder of disabled children and adults

Image depicting the quote "How a society treats its disabled is the true measure of a civilization." on orange background. This quote is by Chen Guangcheng.

When there are no words strong enough

I have no words to begin this post. And so I begin by admitting that I have no words. What incinerated the lingering amber inside of my heart and turned it into a burning storm of fire that could no longer be ignored was this article:

“Probation understandable for woman who killed disabled daughter”

I had read about the murder of innocent 28-year old Courtney by her adoptive mother Bonnie Liltz a couple of days before but had not followed up. Because these cases sadden me too much and because they always spark a firework of sympathy. For the murderer.

The same thing happened with this case. People started talking about how they could emphasize with the murderer. How they could understand why she did it. And now there was the very real possibility of a murderer getting away with parole for killing an innocent person. It would not be the first time either.

This woman poured a fatal dose of medication into her adoptive daughters feeding tube. She planned this. It was premeditated and she executed it exactly as she had planned. These are the facts.
It was murder. And even more so it was premeditated. This was not a tragic accident. And it most certainly was not involuntary manslaughter as the murderer has pleaded guilty to.

Liltz tried to commit suicide after killing her adoptive daughter – yet she survived.
She is critically ill with cancer and believed she would die soon – yet she still lives.
Courtney does not. Courtney is dead. Courtney was murdered. Yet I read over and over again how people feel sorry for the mother. Over and over the mother’s struggle is highlighted.

Image depicts Courtney Liltz - a young Caucasian woman with short brown hair looking over at a Christmas tree in the background.

What about Courtney?

Does Bonnie Liltz deserve sympathy? Yes she does.
She deserves sympathy for suffering from cancer. She deserves sympathy for struggling with the fear and desperation that came with not knowing what would happen to Courtney if she as her caretaker passed away. She deserves sympathy for caring for her disabled adoptive child while being so very sick herself. She deserves sympathy for struggling with a lack of services, help, and ability to access both.

She does not deserve any sympathy whatsoever for murdering Courtney.
I am going to repeat this as I know from everything I have read, that many people disagree with me.
Bonnie Liltz does not deserve any sympathy whatsoever for murdering Courtney.

Courtney was alive. She was known to be happy. She deserved to live. She had no choice in this matter. And the person who made the choice for her had no right to that choice.
Bonnie Liltz decided to become a murderer. She used her full mental capacity to decide to kill. I am sickened by that to the very core of my soul. And I am sickened by every single person sympathizing with this murder specifically and with any other murder like this one.

Murderers of disabled children and adults don’t deserve sympathy.
Their victims do.

It saddens me to say that Courtney was not the first disabled person to be killed by a family member and it saddens me even more to say that she will not be the last.
I have debated whether or not to link to some of the horrible cases in this post and have finally decided to do so. These innocent human beings deserve for their names and stories to be known. They deserve for their murderers to be publically named.

All of the following are children who had their lives cut short before they even turned 18 years old. I have tried my best to find photographs of the children but could not find one for all of them. Please let me know if you can find any. These children should not be invisible.

Image depicts Lexie Agyepong-Glover - a young African American girl with close cropped black hair looking into the camera with a serious look.

Alexis “Lexie” Agyepong-Glover, killed at the age of 13.
Her mother left her to die in a creek.


Zain Akhter, killed at the age of 5, Faryaal Akhter, killed at the age of 2.
Their mother strangled them.


Image depicts Zahra Baker - a young Caucasian girl with shoulder long brown hair with blonde highlights looking towards the left, smiling brightly.
Zahra Baker, killed at the age of 10.
Her stepmother and perhaps her father murdered and dismembered her.


Image depicts Leosha Barnett - an African American teenager with close cropped black hair facing the camera with a wide, bright smile.
Leosha Barnett, killed at the age of 17.
Her sister and mother starved her to death.


Image depicts Benjamin Barnhard - a Caucasian teenage boy with short curly brown hair facing the camera with a concentrated expression and half a smile.
Benjamin Barnhard, killed at the age of 13.
His mother shot him.


Charles-Antoine Blais, killed at the age of 6.
His mother drowned him.


Image depicts Markea Blakely-Berry - a young African American girl with black hair in four chin long twisted braids decorated with colorful hairbands facing the camera smiling.
Markea Blakely-Berry, killed at the age of 16.
Her mother starved her to death.


Image depicts Jeremy Bostick - a young Caucasian boy with short blonde hair sitting with his side towards the camera, focusing intensely on something in front of him.
Jeremy Bostick, killed at the age of 11.
His father gassed him.


Image depicts Timothy Boss - a young African American boy with close cropped black hair looking intensely the camera with big bright eyes.
Timothy Boss, killed at the age of 10.
His adoptive parents beat him to death.


Image depicts Gabriel Britt - a young boy with close cropped black hair facing the camera with his eyes intensely focused and his mouth slightly open.
Gabriel Britt, killed at the age of 6.
His father suffocated him.


Image depicts Scarlett Chen - a young Asian American girl with short black hair facing the camera with a huge smile.
Scarlett Chen, killed at the age of 4.
Her mother drowned her.


Johnny Churchi, killed at the age of 13.
His mother strangled him.


Image depicts Julie Cirella - a young African American girl with her black hair pulled back into a high puffy ponytail facing the camera with a big warm smile.
Julie Cirella, killed at the age of 8.
Her mother strangled her with a cord.


Image depicts Ben and Max Clarence - two young Caucasian boys with short blonde hair facing the camera laughing whole heartedly.
Olivia Clarence, killed at the age of 4, Ben and Max Clarence, killed at the age of 3.
Their mother suffocated all three of them.


Image depicts Daniel Corby - a young Caucasian boy with short blonde hair. He has both hands in front of his mouth and seems to be happily sucking on his fingers.
Daniel Corby, killed at the age of 4.
His mother drowned him in a bathtub.


Chelsea Capra Craig, killed at the age of 14.
Her mother poisoned her with a mix of medications.


Ryan Davies, killed at the age of 12.
His mother pushed him off a bridge.


Image depicts Kyle Dutter - a young Caucasian boy with short blonde hair facing the camera smiling widely.
Kyle Dutter, killed at the age of 12.
His father shot him.


Peter Eitzen, killed at the age of 16.
His mother stabbed him to death.


Payton Ettinger, killed at age 4.
His mother starved him to death.


Image depicts Maxwell Eyer - a young boy with short black hair and lively eyes, smiling happily into the camera.
Maxwell Eyer, killed at the age of 2.
His father beat him to death.


Image depicts Marcus Fiesel - a young Caucasian boy with short brown hair squinting against the sun, smiling gently.
Marcus Fiesel, killed at the age of 4.
His foster parents wrapped him in heavy blankets and left him in a closet to suffocate.


Image depicts Glen Freaney - a young Caucasian boy with short brown hair and glasses looking into the camera with a big open smile.
Glen Freaney, killed at age 11.
His mother strangled him.


Image depicts Naomi Hill - a young Caucasian girl with shoulder long slightly curly ginger hair facing the camera smiling.
Naomi Hill, killed at the age of 4.
Her mother drowned her.


Image depicts Kenneth Holmes - a young African American boy with close cropped black hair turned away from the camera, appearing intensely thoughtful.
Kenneth Holmes, killed at age 12.
His mother shot him.


Image depicts Gerren Isgrigg - a young Caucasian boy with short blonde hair looking intensely at something next to the camera.
Gerren Isgrigg, killed at the age of 6.
His grandmother left him out in the woods to die.


Image depicts Christian Clay Jenkins - a Caucasian teenage boy with short brown hair smiling lightly into the camera.
Christian Clay Jenkins, killed at the age of 14.
His father murdered him with an overdose of oxycodone.


Image depicts Danieal Kelly - a young African American girl with her black hair pulled back into a ponytail.
Danieal Kelly, killed at the age of 14.
Her parents left her with rotting, maggot infested bedsores, and starved her to death.


Image depicts Tony Khor - a young Asian American boy with short black hair looking into the camera with stern focus.
Tony Khor, killed at age 15.
His mother strangled him.


Image depicts Ethan Scott Kirby - a young Caucasian boy with medium long brown hair, his head slightly tilted, smiling into the camera.
Ethan Scott Kirby, killed at the age of 3.
His mother’s boyfriend beat him to death.


Image depicts Tausha Lee Lanham - a young Caucasian girl with short blonde hair glancing at the camera with a cheeky smile.
Tausha Lee Lanham, killed at the age of 7.
Her mother starved her to death.


William Lash III, killed at the age of 12.
His father shot him.


Black and white image depicts Tracy Latimer - a young Caucasian girl with short hair sitting in her wheelchair.
Tracy Latimer, killed at the age of 12.
Her father gassed her.


Image depicts Daniel Leubner - a teenage boy with short brown hair, lightly biting his lower lip with the hint of a smile.
Daniel Leubner, killed at the age of 13.
His mother burned him alive.


Image depicts Jori Lirette - a young Caucasian boy with short blonde hair, looking to the right with his mouth lightly open and a slight frown.
Jori Lirette, killed at the age of 7.
His father decapitated him and dismembered his body.


Katie Lynn, killed at the age of 10.
Her mother starved her to death.


Image depicts Katie McCarron - a young Caucasian girl with medium long brown hair, squinting against the sun and biting her lower lip, holding back a cheeky smile.
Katie McCarron, killed at the age of 3.
Her mother suffocated her.


Image depicts Noe Medina Jr. - a Hispanic baby boy wearing a blue and yellow helmet looking intensely into the camera.
Noe Medina Jr., killed at the age of 7 months.
His mother threw him from the roof of a parking building.


Image depicts Jude Mirra - a young Caucasian boy with short dark hair. He is laughing exitedly into the camera.
Jude Mirra, killed at the age of 8.
His mother forced him to overdose on prescription medications.


Pierre Pasquiou, killed at the age of 10.
His mother pushed him into the sea.


Image depicts Rylan Rochester - a Caucasian baby boy with short blonde hair.
Rylan Rochester, killed at the age of 6 months.
His mother suffocated him.


Image depicts Ajit Singh-Mahal - a young Indian boy with short black hair standing in front of a chain link fence.
Ajit Singh-Mahal, killed at the age of 12.
His mother murdered him by forcing him to drink bleach.


Image depicts Alex Spourdalakis - a teenage boy with shaved dark hair, running towards the camera smiling, with both arms raised into the air.
Alex Spourdalakis, killed at the age of 14.
His mother and godmother tried to murder him with sleeping pills, then stabbed him repeatedly in the chest and finally slit his wrists.


Image depicts Calista Springer - a Caucasian teenage girl with shoulder long dark hair, smiling cheekily, sitting in front of a wooden panel background.
Calista Springer, killed at the age of 16.
Her entire family chained her to a bed and abandoned her in a fire.


Ulysses Stable, killed at the age of 12.
His father slit his throat.


Image depicts Melissa Stoddard - a young girl with shoulder long curly black hair looking directly at the camera with a huge smile.
Melissa Stoddard, killed at the age of 11.
She suffocated in restraints put in place by her father and step-mother.


Image depicts Daniel Thomas - a young Caucasian boy with short dark hair and big dark eyes.
Daniel Thomas, killed at the age of 2.
His babysitter killed him while his mother did nothing to help him.


Image depicts Shylea Myza Thomas - a young African American girl with her black hair in many tiny braids, laying in bed holding her stuffed teddy bear.
Shylea Myza Thomas, killed at the age of 9.
Her adoptive mother starved her to death.


Image depicts Lakesha Victor - a young African American girl with her black hair pulled back into a ponytail held together with a large blue bow, looking intensely at the camera with big eyes and her mouth wide open.
Lakesha Victor, killed at the age of 10.
Her mother and her mother’s boyfriend starved her to death.


Image depicts Shellay Ward - a young Caucasian girl with fair skin and shoulder long ginger hair. She is looking into the camera with the hint of a smile on her lips.
Shellay Ward, killed at the age of 7.
Her parents starved her to death.

This is by no means a complete list. There are more. There will be more. But let this list be a reminder that disabled people are killed by those they depend on and who are supposed to care for and protect them.

Disabled lives are not worth any less than non-disabled. They are not worth any more either. Every innocent life is worth the same. Disability is not an excuse for murder.

Yes, caring for a disabled person, child or adult, can be difficult. I am not invalidating the strain this can have on people. I am also not invalidating the fact that access to services is highly dependent on where you happen to live and that often there are not enough services. But just as often services have been offered and declined or services have been offered and were waiting on consent to start helping.
I am not invalidating that a family member may break down and not be able to take it anymore. But there is always another way. One that does not involve murdering an innocent.

For every murder of an innocent disabled person you comment on with “I can understand.” there will be at least one family member of another disabled person reading and thinking “Maybe it really would be the best thing to do.”
Maybe you were not aware of that. You are now. The most vulnerable need and deserve the most protection. And validating the horrible murders of disabled people is the opposite of protecting them.

The “Walk in their shoes.” argument

Every time people – especially disabled people – speak up about how wrong it is to condone the murder of disabled people someone claims their voices are invalid. They claim one only has the right to judge the caregiver of a disabled person if one is a caregiver as well. I cannot even begin to explain how wrong and inhumane that argument is but I will try.

Imagine you are watching TV. It is time for the news and you are watching a report on a father who beat his 2-year-old son to death. They show a picture of the little boy and they show a picture of the man who murdered him.
You are outraged, right? You feel sad, maybe angry, maybe disgusted. There is no doubt in your mind that harming an innocent child is wrong and possibly the darkest evil act imaginable.
You feel for the little boy. Your stomach twists as you imagine the pain and fear he went through before his life got cut short by the man supposed to care for him, love him, and protect him.
Now imagine someone sitting next to you. You are watching the news about this horrible killing together. And the person next to you turns their head, looks at you and says:
“Maybe the father had a good reason to kill that boy. Who knows what that man went through. Unless you are a father of a 2-year-old boy you cannot possibly judge this man’s actions.”

Can you feel it? The disgust? The outrage?
You don’t need to be a parent to know murdering children is wrong.
Your humanity tells you that. It also tells you that someone who believes there can be a legitimate reason to murder an innocent child has a very sick mind.

Now imagine the exact same scenario with one tiny change. The little 2-year-old boy is now disabled.

What changes?
Nothing.
It is still the exact same murder of an innocent 2-year-old boy.

You don’t need to be a parent or caregiver of a disabled child to know murdering children is wrong.
Your humanity tells you that. It also tells you that someone who believes there can be a legitimate reason to murder an innocent child has a very sick mind.

The “Walk in their shoes before you judge.” argument is invalid. There is never a legitimate reason to murder an innocent human being. It is murder. And anyone who rationalizes and condones the murder of an innocent human being is very seriously wrong.

What can be done to stop these horrors?

First of all we as a society need to make it very clear that murdering disabled people is never okay. There can be no more sympathy for murder. There can, however, be sympathy for people’s struggles. Those are and always should be two different things.
Secondly we as a society need to destigmatize disability as well as the need for help. People need to understand that disabled people’s lives deserve the same protection as non-disabled people’s lives. And at the same time people need to feel safe to open up about their struggles and seek help.
And finally we as a society need to make sure help is available.

Offer help. And mean it. If you know a family with a disabled family member make sure they know if they ever struggle you are willing to help. Are you wondering “But what can I do?” Help can have many faces.
You can take care of the disabled family member from time to time to allow the family to rest. Even a few hours from time to time could mean the difference between a caregiver being completely exhausted and a caregiver getting a break to recharge and finding new strength.
If you feel unable to care for a disabled person you can offer help with other things. Helping with household chores frees up valuable time and strength for family members of disabled people and can be a huge help. You can also help with grocery shopping, running errands, or driving to places.
You can look up and research services available and have a list ready to hand out or talk about with the disabled person’s family when needed. Because this kind of research takes a lot of time, patience, and energy. Things a family member caring for a disabled person might not always have enough of.
You can offer a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. Just having a place to go and talk about their struggles can often make the difference between a caregiver being completely desperate and a caregiver knowing they are not alone and someone is listening.

If you have a disabled person in your family I strongly believe the best course of action is to take action before it is needed. Research services and help available and come up with a plan when you are strong and do not actually need it.
Make sure to have short time and long term options available and periodically check in with things on your plan list to make sure they are still up to date and accurate.
The most important thing for a plan like that might be to make sure you always have someone to take care of your disabled family member when you get sick. And to have a plan in place for when you pass away. Having something in place should you ever, for whatever reason, run out of money is important as well.
That way you have options lined up as soon as you feel you are struggling. You won’t have to spend energy and strength you don’t have on having to figure it all out. You will be able to tap into your resources straight away to hopefully catch you before an actual crisis happens.

Another important thing is to open up. Don’t keep your struggles to yourself and try to do it all on your own. Don’t be ashamed to need help. There are so many ways in this day and age to find people to talk to.
Neighbors, friends, family all exist. But there is more! There are professionals who have the added benefit of usually knowing what help and services are available so they can point you in many directions and even help you actually accessing things. There are self-help groups of families in similar situations as yours.
If seeking contact in person is difficult for you look for a service with email as a first contact option. That way you can gradually get comfortable with the people involved.

Now if you feel like you are not ready to talk to people in person at all look online. There is a vast world of online resources available.
Forums and support groups are a great way to connect with people sharing similar experiences to yours without the possible stress of face to face contact. They offer a way to learn about what people in your area have tried and found helpful. They also offer the possibility of going from online to face to face contact eventually once you are ready for it or need it.
You can be completely anonymous online which might take off a lot of pressure. You might be able to speak more freely, honestly, and openly when you know nobody knows who you are. And you are free to let go of the anonymity as you choose.
From personal experience I can absolutely recommend twitter. There are all kinds of disability hashtags and communities active on twitter and if you send out a request for help and tag it with the appropriate keywords and a request for retweets people will help you.

Anything that makes you feel connected and less alone is okay.
Keep in mind that there is always a way even if you have not found it yet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *