Toronto Sun

Thursday, March 22, 2001

Psych test for mom on trial

Disabled girl killed

By CPToronto Sun

MONTREAL --  A woman described by a neighbour as a "devoted" mother was ordered yesterday to undergo a psychiatric exam to determine if she is fit to stand trial in the first-degree murder of her handicapped daughter.

Rachel Capra Craig, 46, entered no plea and will return to court on April 4. She often averted her eyes to the floor.

Police said 14-year-old Chelsea Craig, who suffered from Rett's syndrome, died Monday after consuming a "poison cocktail" and that the mother had ingested the same drink. She was treated in hospital and released to police.

Craig's husband James and two other relatives sat in the spectators' section of the courtroom yesterday and would not comment as they left.

Her lawyer Marc David made no comment, only saying a decision on a plea would be made after the evaluation at a Montreal psychiatric hospital.

LOVING FAMILY

But in the family's neighbourhood, a man who spoke on condition of anonymity described a loving family dealing with the challenges of having a daughter with a debilitating genetic disease.

"She couldn't communicate," the man said of Chelsea. "She was badly handicapped. She wasn't able to look after herself. She had to be fed so it was a real chore to look after her."

The man, who said he spoke frequently to Rachel Craig, described her as "a very nice lady and very devoted to the child."

Chelsea didn't play with other kids.

"She was very shy," he said. "They had a trampoline there and her father used to swing her back and forth on the swing there."

The man said he never got any sense that the family was overwhelmed or that something was wrong.

Dick Sobsey, who trains teachers to work with disabled children, has spent 15 years tracking cases of handicapped children who have died in their parents' care. There have been about 50 such cases since the 1970s, said Sobsey.

"There's kind of sympathy for someone who says, 'I was under terrible stress and I wasn't getting the support I need.' "

Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.