Pondering a murder/suicide in Gray, Maine

By Mike Reynolds

When Daniel and Benjamin McLatchie were found dead in Gray, Maine on the afternoon of April 27, 2010, it was nothing short of horrific to hear the details spill out on the local news. An apparent murder-suicide, the Maine State Police refused to use that term to describe the death of a father and his 22-year-old autistic son. The facts remain clear: Dan McLatchie, a parent of an adult child with Autism, fearful of what may become of his son Benjamin  after he and/or his wife died, killed his son with a gunshot wound, before turning the gun on himself. A suicide note was found and Daniel McLatchie had called the police asking for assistance apparently moments before turning the gun on himself.  His wife was not home at the time. She was away at her job at work. She as a teacher for teaches children with special needs in at a local school. On the same day of as the murder/suicide, PBS had scheduled a full hour of Frontline, the critically acclaimed documentary series, to Autism. 

This murder of a child with Autism by a parent is not isolated. Before Ben McLatchie, it was nine- year-old Jeremy Fraser, and before him it was three-year-old Katie McCarroll, who was killed by her mother, Karen. It's an incredibly sad trend, one that isn’t really covered in the mainstream media. Groups like Autism Speaks, the largest autism advocacy group in the US (if not the world), at the very least perpetuate the idea and, at worst, use their fundraising pitch to make sure no one would want a child with Autism. Autism Speaks has hired a filmmaker who has stated in no uncertain terms she would kill her child if it had Autism (google it – there are dozens of bloggers who have discussed this).  Autism Speaks has changed its entire focus to being about “cures” and about how “difficult”, and “non-verbal” and “uncommunicative” people with Autism are. The people who disagree with Autism Speaks hurled have threats hurled at them and told they do not understand or have empathy for people with Autism. Autism Speaks used its  political weight to stall the confirmation of Ari Nee'man does to the National Council on Disability (NCD).  After a lengthy delay, Nee'man, who has Asperger's Syndrome, was recently confirmed, making him the youngest appointee in the history of NCD.

I've spent hours trying to figure out what the moral of this sad story is and I , honestly, am completely stuck. While Ben McLatchie may be the latest; his murder because he was autistic does have  one significant difference from previous similar cases.  This time, the parent who committed the murder also committed suicide;   From all reports, both parents were extremely devoted to Ben.  His father was a stay-at-home dad.  Maybe Dan did the unthinkable because it was unthinkable that his son might end up in a residential care facility when the father knew of the abuse that is often rampant in that setting. The only fact that I am sure of is that the worst fear of any parent is the thought of having to bury their child, that funeral homes do not give discounts based on disability, and or that the grief that the friends of the McLatchie family are experiencing is not lessened any less due to a diagnosis that a child may have had.