Terminal mom kills disabled son and herself
A woman in her 60s recently diagnosed with terminal cancer apparently shot and killed her disabled son, then killed herself, and detectives suspect the woman feared that her disease would leave her unable to care for her adult son, authorities and law enforcement sources said.
Both bodies were discovered about 8:30 a.m. Monday, when a neighbor in the 1600 block of Clarion Terrace in Fort Washington called to ask police to check on the family because something seemed amiss. Officers found both bodies inside and a crime scene consistent with a murder-suicide, said Deputy Chief Kevin Davis, who heads the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Bureau of Support Services.
He said officers recovered a handgun from inside the house, and they suspect it was used in the killings, which occured in the 24 hours before the bodies were discovered.
“It’s just a tragedy,” Davis said. “It’s just, you look back on it, and was there an opportunity to cry out for help in a way that’s different from this?”
Davis said the mother was “recently” diagnosed with a terminal illness, and her son, who was in his 30s, had been wheelchair-bound for several years.
“All that apparently played into this tragic murder-suicide,” he said.
A law enforcement source said the mother had cancer, and the son was paralyzed from the waist down. The source said detectives suspected the recent diagnosis may have motivated the mother to take her son’s life, then her own, out of fear that no one would be around to take care of the man if she fell ill or died of her illness.
The mother and son lived alone, but they had other local family members, Davis said. He said detectives were working to contact those family members Monday. He did not immediately release the name of the mother or her son.
Frances Swann, 73, who lives across the street from the two, said the father and husband had died earlier, and the woman cared for her adult son, making sure he was safely in a van and on his way to work every morning at a government job.
Swann said the woman was well known in the neighborhood for her beautiful landscaping work — she could almost always be spotted out working in the yard — though recently she had complained of feeling sick.
“She had the most beautiful yard in the neighborhood,” Frances Swann said. “She will be missed by all the neighbors.”
Swann said she talked to the dead son's brother Monday morning, and he told her what had happened. She said she last talked to the disabled son a little more than a week ago, and he said he was going to take his mother to the doctor.
News of what happened shocked the quiet community off Livingston Road. Some neighbors stood outside on their porches, peering down at the two-story brick home with a silver van in the driveway that was now roped off with yellow crime scene tape and swarming with homicide detectives and police commanders.
Doris Dixon, 54, who lives up the street, walked down to see what all the commotion was and was suprised to here that a woman who was “always pleasant” had just killed her son and herself.
“I’m just overwhelmed because she seemed like a really nice lady, and I never saw anything out of the ordinary,” she said. “I cannot believe that.”
Davis said police had never been called to the house before for any reports of trouble. Spokesmen for the county did not immediately return inquiries asking whether the family had any interaction with any of its social services agencies in the past.
(This post has been updated.)
Washington Post editors
June 7, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories: Homicide , Matt Zapotosky , Pr. George's
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