Montreal Gazette

Woman not criminally responsible in handicapped daughter's death

By The Canadian Press
Montreal Gazette
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

MONTREAL - A judge ruled Wednesday that a woman who admitted to killing her severely handicapped daughter was not criminally responsible in the death.

Justice Fraser Martin's ruling came a few hours after a psychiatrist told the court that Rachel Capra Craig informed her she killed Chelsea Craig because she believed the girl's father was sexually abusing her.

Dr. Renee Fugere said Rachel Capra Craig still holds firm to the belief she was protecting her 14-year-old daughter when she gave her a "poison cocktail" last year, despite the fact an autopsy revealed no evidence of sexual abuse and several experts determined the mother's accusations against James Craig were false.

"I make the finding that (she) is not criminally responsible for the death of her daughter by reason of mental disorder," Martin told Quebec Superior Court.

Psychiatrists concluded that Capra Craig was suffering from a paranoid delusional disorder when she killed Chelsea last year with a "poison cocktail."

Fugere, who testified for the defence at the first-degree murder trial, said the woman's initial plan was to kill herself because a long history of abuse and depression left her feeling that the future was "quite black."

But when she realized Chelsea would be left in her father's care, she decided to kill herself and her daughter on March 19, 2001.

Capra Craig's attempt to kill herself with a drug overdose failed, while the teenager was found dead in her bed after having been given numerous drugs, including antihistamines.

"Without question, Mrs. Capra Craig was convinced Chelsea would not have survived without her," Fugere told Martin.

"In someone else's care she would have been in a vegetative state and would have eventually died."

Defence lawyer Marc David did not dispute the fact his client killed her daughter. But he argued she was not criminally responsible for her actions because of her mental state at the time.

Chelsea had an extremely severe case of Rett's syndrome, a rare brain disorder that prevented her from speaking, feeding herself, breathing normally or using the toilet. She had severe food allergies, could not be in the sunlight for more than a few minutes and often had diarrhea.

News of Chelsea's death last year prompted debate about the amount and quality of help available to parents of disabled children.

It also drew comparisons to the case of Robert Latimer, currently serving a second-degree murder sentence for what he calls the mercy killing of his 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, who had cerebral palsy.

But Yves Beaulieu, a Montreal police homicide investigator, testified Capra Craig had refused to accept help from social services in dealing with her daughter.

Police also found a note written by Capra Craig that listed 35 people she believed hated her. On the list were several family members, "the postman", "the baker" and teachers at Chelsea's school.

© Copyright  2002 The Canadian Press

© Copyright  2002 Montreal Gazette