87-Year-Old Killed Her Disabled Grandson With Overdose, Police Say – The New York Times

87-Year-Old Killed Her Disabled Grandson With Overdose, Police Say – The New York Times

A Florida woman who cared for her disabled adult grandson on weekends faces second-degree murder charges after she told the police she gave him a fatal overdose over concerns about who would care for him when she died, the authorities said.

The police responded to a call on Sunday afternoon in Bradenton, Fla., about 40 miles south of Tampa, and found the grandson, Joel Parks, dead at the scene, Capt. Brian Thiers of the Bradenton Police Department said in a news conference on Tuesday. Mr. Parks was discovered by a sister.

Mr. Parks, 30, lived with his grandmother and part-time caretaker, Lillian Parks, 87, on weekends and in a group home during the week, Captain Thiers said. Mr. Parks was unable to care for himself, but details about his exact health condition were not known, he added.

After the authorities arrived, Ms. Parks made “several concerning remarks, spontaneous remarks,” including that she had “purposely overdosed” her grandson, Captain Thiers said.

“She was concerned about her medical condition and was worried about who would be caring for him in the event that she passed away,” he added. Mr. Parks’s father is deceased and his mother is estranged, Captain Thiers said.

Ms. Parks was taken into protective medical custody for an evaluation, the police said.

Captain Thiers said on Wednesday that a judge had signed an arrest warrant for Ms. Parks on second-degree murder charges.

“As soon as she’s released from medical care, we will be taking her into custody under those charges,” Captain Thiers said.

He emphasized that the investigation was continuing and that it was not yet known how Ms. Parks had given her grandson the fatal overdose or what substance she had used.

“A lot of that is dependent upon the autopsy and the toxicology report to determine what was the actual cause of death,” Captain Thiers said. “Right now we’re just going off of her statements.”

There were no signs of physical trauma or evidence to indicate a violent death, he said.

“This is a difficult case for detectives,” Captain Thiers said at the news conference. “Partly we feel bad for an individual who feels that the only option is to take another human being’s life because they’re so worried about their care after they’ve gone.”

Cases like this occur with some regularity, Peter Berns, chief executive of the Arc, a national advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said on Wednesday.

“We hear too frequently of parents or caregivers who murder their family members with disabilities or individuals they are caring for,” he said. “It’s tragic that this happens with the frequency that it happens. It is plain and simple a horrible crime. And there is, like most murders, no justification for it whatsoever.”

Mr. Berns pointed to the Disability Day of Mourning, a site that maintains a list of people with disabilities who have been murdered by family members or caregivers. The site reported 64 deaths so far in 2019.

Mr. Berns suggested that estimates of such killings were generally low. “There are a lot of these cases that never get identified as being a murder,” he said. “It happens too frequently.”

He said he believes this case should be prosecuted to the extent of the law. “Even if the person wasn’t receiving services, murder is not the solution,” he said.

“There are lots and lots of family situations where you have parents or other family members who are concerned about their loved ones with disabilities. It never crosses their mind to kill them.”

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