Police Accuse Mother Of Trying To Poison Daughter; Media Softens
Approach Toward Victims
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 30, 2006
PEKIN, ILLINOIS--Well, it's happened again.
For the second time in less than six weeks, a Tazewell County mother has been charged with trying to kill a daughter with disabilities.
And, as could be expected, the mother has been described in the media as a devoted parent overwhelmed by her daughter's condition and a faulty service system.
This time, however, the local media appears to be responding to disability rights and child abuse prevention advocates who criticized reporters for trying to gain sympathy for the alleged perpetrators.
Last Thursday, police arrested Kellie A. Waremburg, 32, of Pekin and charged her with attempted murder and aggravated battery of a child.
Investigators accuse Waremburg of trying to overdose her 4-year-old daughter, Lexus Fuller, with a combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Waremburg reportedly confessed to police that she gave the drug cocktail to her daughter to get her "to go to sleep and not wake up."
Attorneys who have volunteered to represent Waremburg said that she would be pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.
The Peoria Journal-Star quoted police as saying Waremburg struggled with her daughter's cerebral palsy, blindness, and mental retardation. It also quoted a neighbor as saying Waremburg doted on her daughter. The newspaper followed up with an article in which it focused on the "challenges" that parents of children with cerebral palsy face.
Lexus Fuller's near overdose is similar to the case of Katie McCarron, 3, who had autism and was suffocated to death on May 13 in Morton, roughly 13 miles away from the Waremburg residence.
Katie's mother, Dr. Karen McCarron, reportedly confessed to police that she held a plastic trash bag over her daughter's head to end the pain of dealing with her autism.
Earlier this month, a grand jury indicted Dr. McCarron, 38, on two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of obstructing justice, and one count of concealing a homicidal death. She is currently free on bond. On Thursday, an administrative law judge in Chicago decided to temporarily suspend the pathologist's medical license, saying she poses an imminent danger.
In responding to the stories, Kari Anne Charbonnel of the Center for Prevention of Abuse, told WHOI-TV: "The child has not asked for any of the circumstances and it's not their fault in any way, and it's not your fault in any way that there is stress involved in raising a child, but child abuse is never ever appropriate."
Last Saturday, a Journal-Star story included a statement by Steve Drake from the Chicago-based disability rights group Not Dead Yet, saying that coverage of Katie McCarron's death "has been dominated by discussion of autism, poor support services and an alarming parade of parents seemingly eager to tell the public they've felt like killing their own kids with disabilities."
The paper followed up with its own editorial about the girls' deaths, stating: "Let us hope that this is not contagious."
"Just as it's important not to rush to judgment regarding Waremburg's guilt or innocence, it's critical not to blame the victim here, not to suggest that somehow, Lexus's challenges excuse her mother's alleged behavior," the editorial explained. "Advocates for the handicapped rightly repudiate any attitude that would dehumanize the disabled, that would depict these children as mere burdens, that would paint these parents as understandably overwhelmed, that would explain away these alleged crimes as the inevitable result of a primary caretaker snapping under the stress."
In her column for the Joliet Herald News, disability advocate Valerie Brew-Parrish replied to the alleged murder of Katie McCarron, dubbing the killing of people with disabilities "disabledocide".
"What on earth is going on here?" she wrote. "I am certainly glad that my parents never had notions to end my supposed misery."
In 2002, University of Alberta psychology professor Dick Sobsey pointed out that in the years after Canadian farmer Robert Latimer gassed to death his 12-year-old daughter Tracy, who had cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities, there was an increase of more than 30 percent in the average number ofcases in which parents murdered their children.
Sobsey explained that early news coverage was very sympathetic toward Mr. Latimer, often presenting him as a loving father who wanted to end his daughter's suffering.
"People will identify more closely with a person in the public eye who is portrayed as noble or heroic," Sobsey told the Edmonton Journal.
"Woman arrested for allegedly trying to kill 4-year-old daughter" (Peoria Journal-Star)
Expert: Cerebral palsy a challenge for families" (Peoria Journal-Star)
"Child Abuse prevention advocates speak out after recent cases" (WHOI-TV)
"Group claims media soliciting sympathy" (Peoria Journal-Star)
"Editorial: Disabilities should not dehumanize young victims" (Peoria Journal-Star)
"Attorneys plan insanity plea" (Peoria Journal-Star)
"A name for this murder" (Herald-News)
"Karen McCarron: Doctor Says She Killed Daughter To "End Their Pain" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
"Sympathy For Robert Latimer Linked To Increase In Child Murders" -- April 3, 2002 (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)