Montreal Gazette

Mother deemed insane: Ordered detained for poisoning girl

George Kalogerakis
Montreal Gazette
Thursday, February 21, 2002

A deluded Pointe Claire 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 the sexual abuse was all in Rachel Capra-Craig's head. That's why a judge found her not criminally responsible yesterday for feeding the girl a lethal potion of ground-up pills.

Capra-Craig, 54, was originally charged with first-degree murder, but psychiatrists found her to be delusional, paranoid and depressive.

She was ordered detained in a secure psychiatric unit at the Lakeshore General Hospital, where she will get treatment until experts decide she won't be a danger to society or herself.

Planned Suicide

Last March, Capra-Craig planned to kill her daughter Chelsea and then herself. The case has often been compared with the Robert Latimer mercy-killing case in Saskatchewan. But the court heard differently yesterday.

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

Chelsea suffered from Rett syndrome, which impeded her motor ability and speech. Her mother's life was spent caring for her full time because she needed help to eat and had to have her diaper changed 15 times a day.

Psychiatrists testified 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.

Father Blameless

Psychiatrist Renee Fugere testified that Capra-Craig, despite medication, still believes to this day that her husband molested Chelsea.

She would see the most innocent things and interpret them as proof, the doctor added. For instance, Capra-Craig 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.

"I have no doubts," Det.-Sgt. Yves Beaulieu of Montreal police testified. The homicide officer said the allegation was investigated thoroughly.

Chelsea died after being fed a mixture of food and ground-up pills.

She was wearing pyjamas and lying on her bed when her father found her on his return from work March 19.

Capra-Craig was home at the time, sitting in a drugged state at the top of the stairs. She told police officers her husband was responsible because he had molested the child. Though uniformed officers immediately arrested and handcuffed James Craig, detectives later rescinded that order upon finding out the man's wife had psychiatric problems.

Capra-Craig had accused her husband of molesting the child in the past. He angrily denied it and went to see the social worker in their daughter's case to protect himself in the future.

The social worker didn't believe any abuse occurred.

But Capra-Craig became even more convinced, and called a company to see about installing a hidden camera in the house to catch her husband.

Felt Unwanted

Psychiatrist Jocelyn Aubut said a number of factors led to Capra-Craig's suicide attempt.

She had had a miserable life of feeling unwanted and badly treated. She had been sexually assaulted as a youth, and that probably fed her delusion about Chelsea's being abused.

Also, five members of her family had attempted suicide, which made it more likely she would try as well.

She had no friends and felt everyone was against her. Police found a list she had made of "people who hate me." It included many relatives, the mailman, the local pastry chef and everyone at a school her daughter attended.

Capra-Craig had refused help to care for her daughter, and the resulting heavy workload made her even more isolated.

Capra-Craig sat through the hearing staring straight ahead. At the end, her husband got up and looked straight at her in an attempt to talk.

She didn't acknowledge him at all.

- George Kalogerakis can be reached at georgek@thegazette.southam.ca.

© Copyright  2002 Montreal Gazette