Montreal Gazette

Deluded mother killed child to stop fictional abuse

Court finds woman not criminally responsible

George Kalogerakis
The Ottawa Citizen
Montreal Gazette
Thursday, February 21, 2002

The Canadian Press
Chelsea Craig, a 14-year-old who suffered from Rhetts Syndrome, was poisoned by her mother, Rachel Capra-Craig. Ms. Capra-Craig was found not criminally responsible for her daughter's death after psychiatrists determined she was delusional, paranoid and depressive.
MONTREAL -- A deluded woman killed her severely disabled daughter last year believing it was the only way to save the child from being molested by her father.

But experts determined the sexual abuse was all in Rachel Capra-Craig's head, and a Quebec Superior Court judge yesterday ruled she is not criminally responsible for giving her 14-year-old daughter a lethal potion of ground-up pills.

Ms. Capra-Craig, 54, was originally charged with first-degree murder, but psychiatrists found her to be delusional, paranoid and depressive. She was ordered detained at a secure psychiatric unit where she will get treatment until experts decide she won't be a danger to society or herself.

Last March, Ms. Capra-Craig planned to kill her daughter, Chelsea, and then herself. Chelsea suffered from Rhetts Syndrome, which impeded her motor ability and speech. She needed help to eat and had to have her diaper changed 15 times a day. Her mother cared for her full time.

The case has often been compared to that of Robert Latimer, the Saskatchewan farmer who said he killed his 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, to end her suffering from cerebral palsy. But the court heard differently.

"This is not the Latimer case," prosecutor HČlĖne Morin said. "Ms. Capra-Craig did not kill her child to end her suffering."

Psychiatrists testified Ms. Capra-Craig would have done the same thing to a normal child. The woman, who has been treated by psychiatrists for more than two decades, has always been unhappy and depressed, and saw nothing good in life. She wanted to kill herself, but couldn't bear the idea of leaving her child behind to be abused.

Psychiatrist RenČe FugĖre testified that despite medication, the woman still believes her husband molested Chelsea. She would see the most innocent things and use them as proof, the doctor added. For instance, she thought it suspicious whenever the child smiled at her father or put her arms around his neck.

But a police officer, social worker and two psychiatrists are certain the father is blameless.

Chelsea died after being given a lethal mixture of food and ground-up pills on March 19. When her father returned from work he found her dead. Ms. Capra-Craig was home, in a drugged state. She told police her husband was responsible because he had molested the child.

© Copyright  2002 Montreal Gazette