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RationalWiki's Chilling Tales of True
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Articles on illegal behaviour

Let us not obscure the fact that murder is murder.
—Vilissa Thompson[1]

Filicide is the despicable act of murdering your own child(ren). It is always wrong, no matter how "difficult" your child is.[citation NOT needed]

Most filicide perpetrators are mentally healthy.[2]


Experts have identified 5 reasons why adults may kill their own children:[3][4]

  1. "Altruism" — The offender thinks the child is suffering, and thus kills them in an act of "love," or the offender intends to commit suicide and thinks the child could not cope with being left behind
  2. Accident — The offender simply intended to beat the child and ended up killing them, or Munchausen by proxy was involved
  3. Psychosis — Drug use or severe mental illness causes the offender to kill for no clear reason
  4. Spousal revenge — The offender wants to make their spouse suffer
  5. Unwanted child — The offender didn't want kids, or doesn't want this particular kid

Some of these overlap with the reasons women induce abortions, though killing a sentient child is obviously far worse.

Female infanticide[edit]

Some parents kill female infants because they only want male babies. This may be especially prevalent in societies in which male (but not female) children are expected to look after their aging parents, or in which a dowry is necessary for marriage.[5]

Killing of disabled children[edit]

How we treat the most vulnerable in society – in the health system, the justice system and elsewhere – is a litmus test for our compassion and humanity.
—André Picard[6]

When a parent murders a non-disabled child, they may be called "pure evil" or a "monster."[1][7] (And they'll deserve it.)

But when the child is disabled, suddenly people trip over themselves in order to justify it.

Media outlets choose to focus on the children's disabilities, and the things they were unable to do (e.g. speaking), or things they did (like screaming or hitting, which obviously non-disabled children never do). The children are portrayed as burdens on their parents, as a way of explaining why their death was logical.[8][9] It may even be called a "mercy killing," "final act of love," "loving sacrifice," or some other euphemism.[10] Other people may be told not to judge the murderer.[11][12]

Murderers of disabled children may receive sympathy to the point that people argue for a light sentence.[13] For example, the two killers of Alex Spourdalakis were only sentenced for 3 years each, despite the horrific brutality of his murder,[1] and the mother of 14-year-old Annie Marshall (who had been shut in a room and slowly starved to death), received only 5 years in prison.[14]

While the murderer may claim it was an act of altruism, they may have a history of hating the child's disability, suggesting that the act of cruelty was actually because they didn't want the child.

The Disability Day of Mourning keeps a long list of disabled people murdered by their families.[15]

Murder of autistic children[edit]

In the wake of this tragedy, I read a lot of articles that asked the readers to imagine how George’s mother must have felt. But I didn’t see a single article that asked the reader to empathize for George, to imagine how it feels to see your mother point a gun at you.
—Zoe Gross[16]

Autism is a heavily stigmatized disability, and not all parents love their autistic children. Frighteningly, autistic children in particular are more likely to be victims of murder-suicide.[17]

Katie McCarron's family wants her photos shared so people can know what a happy child she was. Her grandfather reported that her interests included singing, going to the zoo, dancing, visiting the mall, dressing up, and playing outside

Here is an incomplete list of autistic children and young people who were killed.

  • Jude Mirra (8), forcibly poisoned in 2010 by his millionaire mother[18][19]
  • George Hodgins (22), shot and killed in 2012 by his mother[16]
  • Daniel Corby (4), drowned in 2012 by his mother;[20] his mother may have been inspired by the news coverage of George Hodgins' death[16]
  • Alex Spourdalakis, a boy who loved music and balloons, brutally murdered in 2013 by his anti-vaxxer mother and his godmother;[21][1] he was a subject of several Age of Autism blog posts and was likely subjected to various biomedical "cures" before he was killed[22]
  • London McCabe (6), a cheerful and loving boy who liked big hats and watching his parents kiss, thrown off a bridge in 2014 by his anti-vaxxer mother[23][24]
  • Nicholas Ritchett (20), shot and killed in 2015 by his father[25]
  • Austin Anderson (19), who was blind and had limited mobility, left in a field to die without water or medication while his physically abusive meth-abusing mother watched in 2016[26][27]
  • Katie McCarron (3), an intelligent autistic girl who loved singing and walking in tall grass (among many things[28]), was suffocated by her mother[29]
  • Je'Hyrah Daniels (4), thrown into a river in 2018 by her negligent and thieving mother who didn't want an autistic daughter[30][31]
  • Sarah Dubois-Gilbeau (5), who loved acting out movie scenes and Lego comic books, beaten to death by her father who didn't like her autism[32]
  • Thomas Valva (8), died of hypothermia after his father forced him to strip naked and sleep outside in freezing conditions while his stepmother sprayed him with cold water.[33][34]

Many of them are deeply missed by friends and family members, who said they were loving and a joy to have in their lives.[35][36][37][38] None of these children and young people deserved death.[citation NOT needed]

Some members of the autism rights movement have raised concerns that sympathetic media portrayals could be linked to copycat crimes.[39] For example, 4 days after Autism Speaks released a video in which a mother discussed contemplating murder-suicide, 3-year-old autistic Katie McCarron was murdered by her mother.[11][40]

Reactions to the murder of kids with disabilities[edit]

Some autistic people, such as writer Mel Baggs, have asked that their death not be treated as justifiable if they are murdered.[41]

Lack of services[edit]

Conversations about services and conversations about child abuse and murder need to be separated by a brick wall. This isn’t about services. And when we say, give us more funding or parents will kill their kids, we are saying, very literally: give us more money, or the kid gets it.
—Julia Bascom, director of ASAN[42]

Anti-autism groups including Autism Speaks claim that lack of services drives parents to murder.[43]

However, this doesn't account for the existence of wealthy murderers, or the existence of murderers who reject help from others.[1][44] Advocates for autistic people have argued that claiming services will stop murders sounds awfully similar to using children's lives as a bargaining chip.[45]

Frightening comments by parents[edit]

Yet there is a controversy because parenting an Autistic child is "hard," which means that Kelli Stapleton's feelings are more important than Issy's life.
—Anonymous autistic writer[46]

If anti-vaxxers think that autism has already "stolen" their child and taken away their soul[47][note 1], then murder must not be so bad, since the victim wasn't even a real person.[48]

Members of anti-autism communities have spoken up for murderers and would-be murderers on social media, telling people to "walk in [the murderer's] shoes" before judging them.[49]

Understandably, this shocked people. Decent parents of disabled children expressed horror at the idea that it is somehow "normal" to want to kill a child.[50][51] Autistics, including autistic abuse survivors, have asked why no one ever thinks to walk in their shoes, pointing out how hard it is to be an autistic child whose parent hates autism.[52] "I could have been [attempted murder victim] Issy Stapleton," noted autistic writer Kassiane Sibley, whose violent mother threw her against a wall hard enough to dent her skull.[53]

The death of a child is a terrible thing, including the death of an autistic child.[54]

Fighting ableism[edit]

The disability day of mourning on March 1 honors disabled people killed by caregivers.
There were concrete documented efforts by the autism community to help [Spourdalakis], and she rejected that. She wanted her child cured, and when she couldn't, she resorted to murder.
—David Perry[1]

Members of the autism rights movement have pointed out that the common denominator is likely the horrible belief that children are better off dead than disabled.[55] Some murderers have refused to accept their children's disabilities, and have put them through intensive behavior modification or biomedical "treatments" before deciding to kill them.[56] "The truth is, Kelli didn’t want Issy anymore. She made it look like it was unselfish and loving, but it was not unselfish and loving," said Eileen Stapleton, grandmother of murder attempt survivor Issy Stapleton.[57]

On March 1, many disabled advocates observe the Disability Day of Mourning.

See also[edit]


  1. The child's soul, not the murderer's soul. But if anyone's missing a soul here, we'll give you a hint: it's not the child.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 How Murder Victims With Disabilities Get Blamed For Their Own Deaths - Huffington Post (Note: Contains disturbing details of a child's murder)
  3. Why do parents kill their children? The facts about filicide in Australia
  4. An Overview of Filicide
  5. Female infanticide - BBC
  6. Pardoning Robert Latimer is not justified
  8. When autistic children are murdered - Briannon Lee
  9. New Report Discovers That the Media Normalizes the Murders of People with Disabilities - Paste Magazine
  10. ASAN Statement on Sentencing in Jude Mirra’s Murder - ASAN
  11. 11.0 11.1 Media erases autistic victims of violence - Miscellany News
  12. Mercy! Here we go again - Ragged Edge Online
  13. Father's Killing of Canadian Girl: Mercy or Murder? - New York Times
  14. Look for Annie, Abuse - Not Dead Yet
  15. Disability Day of Mourning memorial
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Remarks on the Murder of George Hodgins
  17. Emerging evidence indicates that children with disabilities in general and with autism in particular are frequent victims of murder-suicide - Left Brain, Right Brain
  18. Millionaire mom who killed autistic son gets 18 years in jail - New York Post
  19. New York executive describes for jury how she killed her son - CNN
  20. Woman sentenced in tub drowning of autistic son, 4
  21. Alex Spourdalakis - Disability Day of Mourning
  22. "Autism biomed" and the murder of Alex Spourdalakis - Science Blogs
  23. The first Father's Day after his son was killed, Matt McCabe speaks out - The Oregonian
  24. Jillian McCabe Accused of Throwing Autistic Son Off Oregon Bridge - NBC
  25. Statement on the Murder of Nicholas Richett - ASAN
  26. 'Let God take you': Woman said she left her blind, autistic son in field until he died, police say
  27. A Woman Brought Her Blind Son With Autism to a Field to Die, Police Say - TIME
  28. For Mike and Katie McCarron
  29. Katherine McCarron - Disability Day of Mourning
  30. Je-Hyrah Daniels - Disability Day of Mourning
  31. Report: Mother upset daughter had disability - Fox 13 News
  32. Sarah Dubois-Gilbeau - Disability Day of Mourning
  33. Ex-NYPD officer sobs as he is sentenced to life for murder of eight-year-old son who froze to death in garage
  34. Evil stepmother convicted along with dad after boy, 8, froze to death in garage
  35. Rest for a 5 year old who was killed by her dad - GoFund Me by Chantel DuBois
  36. Boy thrown from Newport bridge remembered at school as a kindergartner 'full of love' - Oregon Live
  37. Neighbor: Mother 'didn’t care' about daughter tossed into Hillsborough River - Tampa Bay
  38. The Murder of Katie McCarron - Not Dead Yet
  39. ASAN Anti-Filicide Toolkit (PDF)
  40. Katherine Marie “Katie” McCarron - Find a Grave
  41. If I am killed... - Mel Baggs
  42. The Mommy Blogger Who Tried to Kill Her Autistic Daughter Talks to Dr. Phil
  43. Murder-suicide underlines strain of autism care - Detroit Free Press
  44. How ASAN Helped Issy Stapleton Get Justice - Thinking Person's Guide to Autism
  45. Terrorist Threats - Love Explosions
  46. Walk in Issy's Shoes, not Kelli's #IamNOTkellistapleton Flash Blog
  47. How to Talk About Vaccines on Television - Nautilus (featuring a terrible quote by Jenny McCarthy
  48. Autpocalypse then, autpocalypse now - Autistext
  49. Mom's alleged attempt to murder autistic teen prompts national, Kalamazoo response - Michigan Live
  50. the road to killing a child - Love Explosions
  51. About the Issy Stapleton Murder/Suicide - Meriah Nichols
  52. Here, try on some of my shoes. - Kassiane Sibley, abuse survivor
  53. I could have been Issy Stapleton. - Kassiane Sibley
  54. Anger - Just Keep Stimming
  55. Why London McCabe's death matters
  56. Kelli Stapleton. Still relevant. - Love Explosions
  57. As Kelli Stapleton sentenced in autistic daughter's poisoning, other girl asks: 'What happens to my mom?'