Ottawa Citizen
Thursday 22 March 2001

Montreal mother on death watch

Rachel Capra Craig ordered to undergo psychiatric exam

Gary Dimmock
The Ottawa Citizen


JuLie Oliver, The Ottawa Citizen / Jim Craig, the husband of Rachel Capra Craig, who is charged with killing their daughter Chelsea, 14, seemed exhausted and distraught as as he left the Montreal courthouse yesterday. Mrs. Capra Craig will remain in jail for psychiatric tests to see if she is fit to stand trial.

Grieving father 'doing the best he can' MONTREAL -- Jim Craig sat statue-still as guards shuffled his wife into the courtroom to face first-degree murder charges in the death of their disabled daughter.

The couple did not look at one another throughout the hearing.

Rachel Capra Craig, sat handcuffed in the prisoner's dock with a blank stare while the court went through the motions. No plea was entered yesterday.

The accused child killer, 46, will remain in jail awaiting psychiatric tests to see if she is fit to stand trial. Depressed and suicidal, police say Mrs. Capra Craig brewed a "poison cocktail" of drugs, administered the lethal mix to her 14-year-old daughter, Chelsea, tucked the girl into bed before drinking the cocktail herself. Police say Mrs. Capra Craig collapsed minutes before her husband returned home from work on Monday afternoon.

Yesterday, Mr. Craig, a Radio-Canada International announcer, had little to say publicly. Privately, he spent the morning finalizing funeral arrangements for young Chelsea, whose neurological disorder -- Rett Syndrome -- left her with the mind of an infant and robbed her of the ability to speak coherently. She had trouble walking and still wore diapers.

The death of his little girl and the criminal charge against his wife has clearly devastated Jim Craig, 57. His brother, Robin Craig, told the Citizen the family is doing everything it can to help. "He's doing the best he can right now," Robin Craig said.

In the courtroom, grieving friends of the family cried softly when Mrs. Capra Craig entered. Others comforted Mr. Craig, expressing sympathy and inquiring about this Saturday's funeral at Eglise de la resurrection in Pointe-Claire, Que., a quiet neighbourhood in this city's West Island.

After spending a night in hospital under police guard, doctors released Mrs. Capra Craig, telling detectives she had fully recovered from an overdose and could attend the brief court hearing.

The accused whispered to her defence lawyer, Marc David, but otherwise didn't utter a word.

She stood once when Judge Michele Toupin read the charge, then slowly stepped back and took her place with others accused of other crimes.

Mrs. Capra Craig appeared tired and pale and jail guards have placed her on a 24-hour watch for fear she may try to kill herself again.

The Craig family, which neighbours describe as quiet and reserved, has drawn unusual attention from the media. A mob of photographers filmed Mr. Craig's every step yesterday. The grieving father was teary-eyed and haggard.

Yesterday, the Quebec Rett Syndrome Association urged parents of afflicted children to seek help for children who suffer from the disorder, and for themselves. Mrs. Capra Craig had enlisted a community health nurse to help care for Chelsea.

Rett Syndrome afflicts almost exclusively females. While children born with the syndrome appear normal in the first 18 months of life, motor skills soon deteriorate. Its victims do not suffer pain. Some girls affected by the rare condition may appear autistic, with a sudden incapacity of social interaction.

In the hours before Chelsea's death Mrs. Capra Craig stood outside her tidy red-brick home, waiting to help her daughter off the school bus. The stay-at-home mother and her daughter, described as shy and physically disabled, went for their last walk around the neighbourhood. An hour later, Mr. Craig arrived home to find his girl dead in bed, and his wife barely conscious at the bottom of the stairs.

This Saturday morning, friends and family will honour the life of young Chelsea while her mother sits alone in jail, awaiting trial on charges that could condemn her to life in prison.

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.