15 June 2013

RIP Alex Spourdalakis - yet another autism murder

Alex Spourdalakis, autistic 14-year-old, was murdered last week by the very people entrusted with his care. 

RIP Alex Spourdalakis

Alex is one of such a long list. And his story has really gotten under my skin, for a number of reasons, as outlined below.


What happened?
 
His own mother, Dorothy Spourdalakis, with the support of his godmother Jolanta Agata (Agatha) Skrodska, stabbed him four times in the chest. This happened several hours after they had attempted to give him a drug overdose of sleeping pills and decided they couldn't wait any more to see if the medication would kill him. So his own mother went to the kitchen, chose a knife, went back to the bedroom, and plunged it into her own child's chest, over and over again, while he lay sleeping in his bed. She also nearly severed his hand while slitting his wrist.

She then handed the knife to her co-conspirator, his godmother and co-carer, who proceeded to use it to kill the family cat because they didn't want it to go to a shelter. Then the two women cleaned the knife, returned it to the kitchen knife block, and attempted to overdose themselves on sleeping pills. After locking the bedroom door, they laid down beside poor dead Alex and went to sleep.

The only small mercy I can see in this is that Alex was fast asleep when his mother stabbed him.


The Media Message

The media is failing Alex. As a whole, the message is currently focused on the idea that Alex was a difficult autistic teen who weighed 200 pounds and was prone to violent outbursts. His mother and godmother were "overwhelmed" and "beyond exhaustion". The media are saying that the system, by leaving them unsupported, drove these two women to commit premeditated violent murder of a helpless autistic teen.

What the media seems to not realise is this: the message they are spreading is that the lack of supports and services probably justified murder, even premeditated murder. It's apparently not their fault. It's everyone else's. Also, an autistic person's life has no real value, and it's okay to commit murder in order to step back from personally difficult circumstances.

I would appeal to the media to spend more time looking into Alex's story, finding out who he really was and how he touched lives, sharing those details with us. If this were not a disabled child, the media would automatically do so. They would raise him up, spend time talking about how wonderful he had been in life, how he had touched so many lives, how loved he was by his community, and would share little personal stories offered by people who had known him.  They would do this while concurrently pushing home the point that murdering one's children is not okay, and publicly vilifying the parent.

But because Alex is autistic, and despite the crime being so violent and awful - and premeditated - once again the message is one of sympathy for the murdering parent. Why is it justifiable to violently kill an autistic teen, but not okay to kill a neurotypical one? Why is that the default position of the media?

The media needs to turn this lens on the choice of focus they use, because they are propagating the tragic and horrific idea that disabled children's lives don't hold the same worth as other children's lives. They need to pick up their game and get the message right.




Let's look at the situation more bluntly and honestly.

Earlier in 2013, Alex's mother had publicly appealed for help and she claims that help had not been forthcoming. She purportedly received $15,000 in cash raised from concerned citizens who sent money. Nobody seems to know how that money was dispersed. And later there was an additional appeal for more money. She did receive an offer of DCFS services via the hospital two weeks before she killed Alex, but she apparently rejected those services.

Instead, she took Alex out of hospital. She took him home, and after just a week, started to conspire with his godmother to kill him. 

She gave up on her own son.
She chose to kill him.
She spent a week talking about it and planning it with another person.
She premeditated it.
There was no sudden mental snap.
It wasn't a crime of passion.
She didn't suddenly fly into a rage and do something terrible in the heat of the moment.
She planned it.
FOR A WEEK.
And then carried it out, three times.
She gave him an overdose of sleeping pills.
She waited for hours, checking his pulse and breathing to see if he was dead yet.
That was murder attempt number one. 
Eventually she decided more drastic action was needed.
So, after attempting to murder him once and failing, she decided to do it again.
She went and got that knife from the kitchen.
She probably spent time deciding which knife would be best for the job.
Then she went back to the bedroom, stood over her sleeping son.
She probably took a moment to think about which way would be best to stab him. 
Then she plunged the knife into her son's chest.
And she did it again.
And she did it again.
And she did it one final time.
That was murder number two. 
Then she sliced open his wrist for good measure - this would be the third attempt to kill him.
She nearly took off his hand, she cut his wrist so deep.


She murdered her own son in three different ways, to make sure it was really done. She was methodical, systematic and patient. She made sure the job was done and there was no chance of his survival.

There is nothing here to be sympathetic about.


I am also suspicious of the supposed suicide attempt by these two women. Given they already had seen the sleeping pills not work in their attempt to kill Alex, I question the veracity of their claims that they were attempting suicide. I am of the view that they more likely wanted to make themselves look like victims and garner sympathy after they were found.


So, what's to be done?
 
It's really very simple.

Next time you hear of an autistic or disabled child killed by his/her parents, instead of thinking,
"Oh those poor parents, they must've been desperate."
Remind yourself to think this:
"Oh that poor child, how awful."

It comes down to people seeing it differently, and reminding others to do so as well. Murder of a child is simply not the behaviour of a normal caring person.  It is a crime, regardless of the circumstances. It's that easy to understand.


Also, there is a Community Vigil for Alex scheduled for 7am 16 June.  Click for details.


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Other articles about Alex: 

1 comment:

  1. Thankyou. For having the courage to say what really needs to be said.

    ReplyDelete