I have been following this story with great angst.Tony
Pitiful story should melt cold hearts
By Eric Zorn
“The murder was committed in a cold, calculated and premeditated manner,” said Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Maureen O’Brien, speaking last week to reporters about the recent stabbing death of a 14-year-old River Grove youth, allegedly at the hands of his mother and full-time caregiver.
“Calculated and premeditated”? Evidently, yes.
Law enforcement officials say the mother — Dorothy Spourdalakis, 50
— and the caregiver — Jolanta Agata Skrodzka, 44
— planned for about a week to take the life of Alex Spourdalakis.
It was no impulse killing, no spur-of-the-moment act of deranged passion like the murder-suicide near suburban Darien on Tuesday when a father who’d just been fired from his job shot and killed his wife and two daughters before shooting and killing himself.
Police said the women in River Grove tried to give Alex a fatal overdose of prescription sleeping pills, and when that failed to do the job, they stabbed him multiple times in the chest and slit his wrist so deeply they nearly cut off his hand. Then they wiped the knife clean and put it away in the kitchen.
I don’t think so. The tragic circumstances here suggest desperation, sorrow, confusion and helplessness in the hearts of these women, not the malice and indifference to life we associated with coldblooded killers.
Alex weighed more than 200 pounds and was so frequently agitated and aggressive that he was often held to his bed by restraints.
In an online video interview earlier this year with the Autism Media Channel, the women told how he sometimes slept as little a two hours a night and required near-constant vigilance. It showed Alex kissing his mother, and his mother tearfully pleading for help to place him in a rural setting, not a “psych facility” where staff would be “chasing him around the room with syringes …
“… Once they get him,” she concluded, “it’s over.”
I’m sure it’s beyond frustrating — beyond heartbreaking — to care for a child with such a profound disability. I’m sure it’s easy to go to very dark places in your mind where you think that the best option for the child would be death.
The extent to which these women came to that conclusion is suggested by the fact that, after allegedly stabbing Alex to death, they killed the family cat, then tried to take their own lives as well with overdoses of medication.
They were evidently of sound mind — the women come off as lucid in the video, and Mary Kay Betz, executive director of the Autism Society of Illinois, said Dorothy Spourdalakis seemed to her like a loving, concerned mother when she spoke with her earlier this year.
So for Spourdalakis and Skrodzka to conclude that they’d all be better off dead than to have Alex in an institutional setting tells me there’s no wickedness animating this story, only horribly misguided love.
The law can’t forgive these women. Society must never OK killing as an acceptable option for those facing severe troubles, and the charges of first-degree murder are appropriate.
But the rest of us can feel pity rather than rage; can seek to understand even as we condemn.
And even though it sounds facile, we can remind those who may be feeling that they are out of options that many others have been there, and assistance can be just a phone call away.
The Autism Relief line operated by Autism Speaks is 888-288-4762. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services help line is 800-252-2873. The Autism Society of Illinois is at 888-691-1270.