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March 21, 2001

Montreal mom charged after handicapped girl dies from poison cocktail.

Canadian Press
National Post

MONTREAL (CP) - A woman was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the death of her 14-year-old handicapped daughter who consumed what police called a "poison cocktail."

Chelsea Craig was "more like a baby" and still wore diapers, said Montreal police Det.-Lt. Jean-Francois Martin. Martin said Rachel Capra Craig, 46, was in stable condition in hospital after likely taking the same cocktail of medication that proved fatal for Chelsea.

Jim Chisholm, who knew the family, said the girl suffered from Rett's syndrome, which the Canadian Medical Association defines as a brain disorder that affects only girls.

A school bus driver who also knew the teenager said Chelsea's mother was very protective.

"She would go out of her way, even at the school, to make sure her child was properly cared for," the woman said.

"If she felt she wasn't, she would be saying so.

"She (the girl) would get nervous and she would panic and take fits if she were frightened."

A neighbour of the family's said they remained a mystery.

"It's terrible, it's terrible," said Robert Buriss.

"They'd come in with their car, they'd open the garage door, drive the car in the garage and close the door. They were very reclusive."

Montreal police spokeswoman Carolyne Courteau said Chelsea was mentally and physically handicapped and was given a "poison cocktail."

Martin said the woman was to enter a plea in court Wednesday. If that were not possible, officials were to have it registered in hospital.

He said police hadn't spoken to the mother as of early Tuesday evening but that they had some idea of the state she was in.

"From the information we have, she was indeed depressed," he said, adding that a psychiatric evaluation will likely be requested.

Police did not speculate on a motive in the case. But it will bring to mind for many Canadians the death of Tracy Latimer.

Latimer, 12, suffered from cerebral palsy when she was gassed to death in 1993 as she faced another painful operation. The girl had been unable to walk, talk or feed herself.

Her father, Robert Latimer, a farmer from Wilkie, Sask., is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.

Chisholm, vice-president of the Quebec Rett's Syndrome Association, told CBC Radio the gene that causes Rett's also affects other aspects of a child's development.

"There are a lot of developmental problems that come from that," he said. "It's usually noticed, though, as a kind of a movement disorder because there are a lot of problems with planning and executing muscle movements."

He said the teen had no mobility.

"She couldn't walk and was in a wheelchair."

Peter Zwack of the Quebec Autism Society said many parents whose children have special needs become overwhelmed.

"Many families have told us that they're at the end of their rope and they don't know what to do," Zwack said.

Courteau said James Craig was in a "state of shock" when he discovered his wife and daughter on Monday in their suburban Montreal home.

Results of the autopsy aren't expected for several weeks.

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