"I just wanted autism out of my life"

Witness: McCarron wanted 'perfect life' without daughter

Published Wednesday, January 09, 2008

PEKIN — Karen McCarron thought her "life would be perfect" without her 3-year-old autistic daughter, her father-in-law testified Tuesday during the second day of the woman's murder trial.

Michael McCarron said his daughter-in-law called him from the hospital May 14, 2006, after a suicide attempt and told him how she killed his granddaughter.

Michael McCarron told jurors she said, "I hurt my baby," and "I thought my life would be perfect without her."

As her father in-law testified, the former pathologist, a graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, rocked slowly back and forth.

Karen McCarron is on trial for allegedly suffocating Katherine "Katie" McCarron with a plastic bag on May 13, 2006. She is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of obstructing justice and one count of concealment of a homicidal death.

Jurors also heard a 911 recording from the day of Katie's death and testimony from someone else who said Karen McCarron confessed.

Judy Rohde said she and her husband, who is a minister, met Karen McCarron through a church function in 2005.

Rohde said Karen McCarron called her several times on the day of her daughter's death and once on the day she was hospitalized after the suicide attempt.

"She said, 'I did a very bad thing,'" Rohde said, adding Karen McCarron told her, "I killed Katie."

Rohde said Karen McCarron then asked for Rohde's minister husband to come to the hospital because "I want him to come and save my soul."

Prosecutors say Karen McCarron also confessed to her husband, her mother and three times to police. One police confession was videotaped and will be played for the jury.

Witnesses also testified about antidepressants, Karen McCarron's psychiatric treatment and her time in a mental health facility.

Her attorney, Marc Wolfe, who has entered a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity, said she has been a patient at the McFarland Mental Health Center in Springfield since her daughter's death.

But Tazewell County assistant state's attorney Kirk Schoenbein said the woman signed herself into the facility. Schoenbein also said staff members have wanted to discharge her, but she has threatened suicide in order to stay.

Jurors will eventually hear from medical experts from both sides regarding her sanity.

Karen McCarron's behavior Tuesday in the courtroom drew the attention of prosecutors. She paced in front of windows in the courtroom during breaks, at times whispering to herself and at other times crying without tears.

Schoenbein said "open displays of rocking" and "contorting her face" during key parts of testimony can distract the jury's attention. He requested Judge Stephen Kouri to instruct the jury that her behavior is not considered evidence. Kouri took the request under advisement.

Prosecutors say Karen McCarron could not accept that her daughter had autism and became obsessed with finding a cure.

Karen McCarron told police she took Katie to her mother's house and let her play before suffocating her with a plastic bag.

She also said she drove the body back to her own house, put Katie's body in bed and returned to her mother's house to retrieve the plastic bag and dispose of it.

She then went to the girl's bedroom several hours later as if to wake her. Her brother and mother were in the home when she brought Katie's body downstairs and said she wasn't breathing.

Trial begins in autistic child suffocation

Published: Jan. 8, 2008 at 10:38 AM

MORTON, Ill., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- An Illinois woman accused of suffocating her autistic 3-year-old couldn't accept the imperfection of disability, prosecutors claimed at her trial.

Karen McCarron, of Morton, Ill., is charged with first-degree murder in the 2006 death of Katherine "Katie" McCarron. Prosecutors allege McCarron took the child to her mother's empty home, came up behind her as she played and suffocated her with a garbage bag, then carried her home -- past family members -- saying the girl was asleep and put her to bed before going out for ice cream, The Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star said. The mother later attempted suicide and confessed, the paper said.

McCarron spoke of institutionalizing her child or giving her up for adoption but Paul McCarron, the child's father, said his answer was always the same: "No way in hell. She's my daughter," the paper said.

Paul McCarron said Katie was well behaved, didn't suffer severe autism and the family had ample support including grandparents and in-home helpers.

Karen McCarron has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.

© 2008 United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

Murder trial: Weeping father testifies
By Robert Kerns
Pekin Times staff writer
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2008 2:59 PM CST

PEKIN - “I just wanted autism out of my life.”

That's the quote used by Tazewell County Assistant State's Attorney Kirk Schoenbein during his opening statements in Karen McCarron's murder trial Monday, referring to a statement McCarron made to Morton police detectives in her 2006 murder confession.

McCarron, 39, of Morton, a former pathologist, is on trial for killing her 3-year-old autistic daughter, Katie, on May 13, 2006. McCarron is accused of suffocating Katie with a trash bag at her parents' home.

She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Schoenbein told jury members that over the course of the trial they would see that McCarron had developed an obsession in finding a cure for Katie's autism.

According to Schoenbein, McCarron took matters into her own hands after she and her husband attempted to investigate multiple schools for their child.

“But the treatment was not going to make the autism go away. So she found another way.”

After the killing, Schoenbein said, McCarron placed the trash bag that she used during the crime in a trash can at her mother's house, where Katie was killed, but later realized that police might find it there. She then took it and hid it in a gas station restroom.

Defense attorney Marc Wolfe said during his opening statements that McCarron's mental illness will be a big issue in the trial.

“She is a woman who has dealt with life stresses. What we have to ultimately remember is what happened on May 13 and what her state of mind was on that day, not what her state of mind was three weeks before or after the crime.” said Wolfe.

The first witness called to the jury stand was Paul McCarron, Karen's husband.

Paul testified that he met Karen in college as freshmen at the University of Illinois in the early 1980s.

According to Paul, during their courtship Karen never showed any type of mental illness even while going through the rigors of medical school.

However, later as a resident in a medical clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, Karen told Paul that she had begun seeing a psychologist due to the stress of working as a resident doctor and going to school.

Paul said that after two miscarriages, Karen finally became pregnant with Katie.

When asked to identify Katie in a picture by state prosecutor Kevin Johnson, Paul began to cry.

The weeping father said that just after Katie's first birthday, they began to notice that her speech was not developing as it should. Katie was later diagnosed with a mild case of autism. The McCarrons immediately sought therapy for their daughter.

After Katie attended a therapy school in North Carolina, Paul said the child began to show improvement. “She could identify people, colors, shapes and could say her ABCs. She showed considerable improvement,” Paul said.

Unlike many people with autism, Paul said, Katie did not shrink from physical contact with others. “Katie loved to be touched. She loved it when I tickled her tummy,” he said.

After Paul and Katie spent several months in North Carolina, where Katie received therapy, both Paul and Karen decided to move Katie back to Morton. While Paul was in North Carolina finishing his work as an engineer with Caterpillar Inc., Karen brought Katie back.

However, prior to Katie's return, Karen asked Paul what he thought about putting Katie up for adoption.

When asked by Johnson how he replied to this, Paul said, “No way in hell.”

On May 13, while in North Carolina, Paul received a phone call from Karen stating that Katie was not breathing and that paramedics were currently working on her.

Paul later received another phone call from his mother-in-law saying his daughter was dead.

After flying home that night, Paul found his wife locked in a bathroom. After kicking the door open he found Karen on the floor with cuts to her wrists and Tylenol pills on the counter.

Paul then asked what happened to Katie several times before Karen would answer him. “I hurt Katie,” Karen told him.

After asking family members to leave the bathroom, Karen told Paul, “You will never forgive me,” as she handed him her engagement ring.

She then told him that she suffocated Katie with a trash bag earlier that day at her mother's home just a few blocks away.

Paul then told his brother, Joseph McCarron, to call the police. After the Morton police arrived, Paul told them what Karen said.

While being questioned by the defense, Paul said his relationship had been “very strong” with Karen even while he was living with Katie in North Carolina and Karen was living in Morton with their youngest daughter.

In response to defense attorney Stephen Baker's question how Karen felt about Katie's autism, Paul said, “All Karen ever thought about was finding a cure for the autism.”

After Baker asked him if Karen had ever told him of any suicidal thoughts, Paul said yes, that she had done so shortly after she was prescribed an antidepressant by the psychologist who was treating her in Cleveland, years before.

Baker asked if he (Paul) ever told Karen she was too focused on finding a cure. Paul again said yes but also noted that Karen felt guilty about Katie's autism because of vaccines she received during her pregnancy.

After the murder, Paul filed for a divorce from Karen. Proceedings in that case are pending.

Lisa Hill, an occupational therapist with Easter Seals in Peoria was called to testify next.

Hill was a therapist who treated Katie prior to her leaving for North Carolina and shortly after her return.

The therapist said that after Katie's return from treatment in North Carolina, Karen insisted that Katie was not progressing.

However, Hill said that Katie was in fact showing improvement. “She was able to pick up on words that she wasn't able to do before she left our treatment a year and a half earlier.”

Both sides in the case are expected to hear from other witnesses on Tuesday at the Tazewell County Courthouse. The trial is expected to begin at 9 a.m.

McCarron Trial: Day 2
Reported by: Bret Lemoine - WMBD/WYZZ TV
Tuesday, Jan 8, 2008 @05:45pm CST From WMBD Peoria
WMBD/WYZZ TV – PEKIN -- There was dramatic testimony today in the trial of Karen McCarron, from a close friend of the defendant. Judy Rohdy testified she met McCarron in the spring of 2005, at a tent revival, worshipping god. Rohdy told the courtroom she had multiple conversations with the defendant the day McCarron’s three year-old daughter died.

McCarron told her that she was suicidal. Later, while McCarron was in the intensive care unit, another call was placed to Rohdy. This time, McCarron told her "I did a very bad thing, I killed Katie." Rohdy's husband also does ministry work, and McCarron asked Rohdy to have her husband "come and save my soul."

Jurors in the Karen McCarron murder trial also heard the 911 call placed after Katie McCarron was found unresponsive on May 13th 2006. Karen McCarron’s brother made the call to police. In the background, McCarron can be heard giving her daughter CPR. McCarron is accused of suffocating her daughter Katie with a plastic bag. Morton police officers, a paramedic and the deputy coroner also took the stand today. The jury has now heard from 15 out of 36 witnesses.

Jurors hear 911 call made after autistic girl's death
WAND-TV, Peoria
Associated Press - January 8, 2008 3:44 PM ET

PEKIN, Ill. (AP) - Jurors in central Illinois listened to the 911 call made from the home of a former pathologist accused of suffocating her 3-year-old autistic daughter on the day the girl died.

Prosecutors played about two minutes of the audiotape during the second day of Karen McCarron's murder trial. She's pleaded not-guilty by reason of insanity in the 2006 death of her daughter, Katie.

McCarron's brother, Walter Frank of Chicago, wiped tears from his eyes as he listened to the tape from the witness stand. Frank says he called 911 after hearing his sister scream that she couldn't wake her daughter.

On the tape, Frank could be heard telling the dispatcher "a 3-year-old is not breathing and my sister is doing CPR on her."

Prosecutors contend McCarron smothered the girl with a plastic bag hours earlier.

Information from: WEEK TV, Peoria, http://www.week.com

Photographs of Katie have been made available for public use by her grandfather. Download yours here: Katie McCarron Photos

Initial news reports on Katie's murder
Daughter's murder puts focus on 'toll of autism' With a cautionary note by us on that "toll of autism" thing.
'This was not about autism', grandfather says
Katie's father files for divorce, citing 'extreme mental cruelty'
Karen McCarron admitted to planning the murder
Karen was described as 'lucid' and 'very calm'
'I wanted to take the autism out of her'
Katie's grandpa testifies: Katie's mom wanted a 'perfect life'
More analysis of the Journal-Star articles.
Murder of Autistics (Archive)

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