A perfect child

A tragedy has unfolded in Pekin, Illinois, where a 3-year old girl was suffocated by a woman who put a plastic trash bag over the child''s head. Dr. Karen McCarron, a certified pathologist, now sits in jail, facing charges of first-degree murder. That a respected medical professional is charged with such a crime is shocking enough; but you also need to know that the victim is her own daughter, and McCarron has confessed to the killing. It sounds surreal, but the numbing fact is that an innocent child''s life has been brought to an end at the hands of the woman who bore her.

When I first read the story of Katie McCarron''s death, it was hard for me to imagine how a mother could intentionally drain the life out of her three-year-old daughter. So I decided to learn as much as I could about this little girl and her mom. But what I discovered horrified me. What I found has convinced me that our nation''s 33-year history of aborting our children has spawned a variety of attitudes that can only be described as wicked.

Katie was an autistic child; she had a number of problems that her parents had been dealing with during the years leading up to her untimely death. Like Katie, other children have been affected to varying degrees by autism and other problems. But in most cases, parents have accepted reality, learning how to best help their child and cope with the condition themselves. This can be a strain, no doubt. But a special needs child is also a blessing in many ways.

Growing up with a little brother who had Down syndrome taught me a lot about parental love, patience and acceptance of the unbelievable hardships that can occur when one of the family members is in need of so much care. But every moment of my brother''s life was a gift; it is a great sadness to me even now, fifty years later, to recall his short life and the common cold that took him away from us. But my brother died a natural death. Such is not the case with many of these children.

Katie''s death is not an isolated case:

  • In Oregon, Christopher Degroot''s parents set fire to their apartment and locked him inside.
  • In Hull, England, Alison Davies and her son Ryan fell suspiciously to their deaths from a bridge over the Humber River.
  • Lexus Fuller nearly lost her life in Pekin, Illinois at the hands of her mother.
  • In Memphis a mother left her eleven-year-old disabled daughter locked in a hot car while she shopped. The child nearly died.


These cases are clear manifestations of the culture of death. As one expert in this area points out, more space in newspaper articles about such cases is devoted to sympathetic comments about the mother than to the child whose special needs apparently created the crisis. Whether the child survives or dies, it seems many in the media want only to emphasize the difficulty of having to live with such a child rather than discuss the criminal behavior of a mother or father who acts in such a violent manner.

Canadian researcher Richard Sobsey has documented an increase in the murders of children by their parents, an increase that appears directly related to well-publicized and sympathetic coverage of the murders of children with disabilities. Not Dead Yet, the disability rights organization, opines, "Articles about the alleged murder of a person with a disability should not contain more about the disability than about the victim as a person. More space should be devoted to grieving family members than sympathetic friends of the accused killer."

In Katie McCarron''s case, the media has gone out of its way to portray the conditions of living with a child with autism as so difficult that the overwhelming burden can cause someone to do what Katie''s mother has reportedly confessed to. And while Valerie Brew Parish, a polio survivor, a mom and a grandmother has coined the term "disabledocide" to describe the act of killing people with disabilities; her most telling comment is this: "My daughter recently was asked what she would wish for. Her replies startled her friend, who chastised her by saying, your mom has paralyzed arms, your dad is blind and your son is autistic. Don''t you wish they were normal?"

This is precisely where the problem resides. We live in a society where those who would be parents can now get genetic testing done prior to their embryonic children being moved to their mother''s womb so that only the acceptable ones are used. The others are tossed away in the same manner one might toss out garbage.

If a mother is with child and has concerns about her baby, testing can be done so that the defective child can be weeded out and killed rather than being born into a life of pain and suffering. So is it any wonder that there are increasing numbers of parents who think that if murder in the womb or the Petri dish is acceptable, then surely when the going gets a bit tough, the best answer is to relieve one''s own pain and suffering by eliminating the "problem." This might sound harsh, but reality is what it is.

When a mother who has been accused of taking her daughter''s life is described as a "fantastic mother," a "loving mother," but someone who lacked sufficient support from the community, there is something wrong. When individuals are quoted in the media as saying that raising a child with disabilities "could move any normal person to be a different person and consider things they never considered before," the impression is given that deadly acts against vulnerable people are understandable and even compassionate. It further begs the question: what is "normal" in today''s self-absorbed culture?

Is it normal to murder a baby in the womb? Is it normal to warehouse sickly grandparents? Is it normal to become so frustrated with a loved one that taking his life is the only way out?

This is all part of the thinking that accompanies 33 years of decriminalized preborn child killing. There are more and more people these days who honestly believe they have a right to the perfect child and an equal right to reject those who are either burdensome or simply unacceptable. It''s all about "me," rarely about "you." How sad our world has become. How terribly disordered is our thinking.

In Katie''s case, it is tragic that she was not given the continuing care she was receiving during the 20 months she was with her dad in North Carolina. For as one columnist familiar with this case has written, "Too bad she didn''t stay there. She might still be alive today." You see, ten days after Katie was returned home to be with her mother, her life was taken.

The McCarron family has given photos of Katie to Not Dead Yet. When you visit the group''s web site, you learn a few things about this little girl. With one exception, no photo of Katie has ever been published as part of the news reports about her death, and yet she was one of the most beautiful little 3-year-old children I have ever seen. Katie''s grandpa wrote the most remarkable tribute to his dear granddaughter, which said in part,

"Each day I ask the Lord if I could take her place, and perhaps He could return Katie to the loving arms of my son and my wife. So far that prayer has not been granted. But in the meantime I can assure you that no one will describe her murder as ''understandable'' or devalue her in any way without my personal challenge to them and to the organizations they represent."


Katie McCarron''s grandfather loved the person, the human being whose life was a gift given to her parents. As we reflect on the tragic loss of this 3-year-old child and her grandfather''s grief, each of us must ask ourselves, how much longer will our culture value appearances and abilities more than innate human dignity? How many more children, born and preborn, will be thrown away because someone else judged their lives unworthy to be lived?

Release issued: 6 Jul 06