Earlier this evening, I was standing in the cold in Farragut Square along with few dozen other members of the local disability community for the Washington DC vigil as part of the National Day of Mourning for disabled people murdered by family members or caregivers.
|Me (Lydia Brown) speaking at the vigil.|
Hi, my name's Lydia Brown. I'm a student at Georgetown University, and I'm also Autistic. And I'm here to take a minute to talk about the reason that we're here tonight.
We're here tonight as a result of the very real civil rights struggle that we still have left to fight. When people tell me in the hallways at Georgetown, "but don't you have rights? Didn't they pass the ADA? I thought you could get the accommodations you wanted in school; you're going to be able to get a job; I mean, there's special ed;" that doesn't mean much to me, when all of the time, people like us are being killed for what they are. And when in the popular media the most common response to a disabled person's murder is, “what a relief it must be that society and their family no longer has [sic] to bear the burden of caring for them,” that type of rhetoric tells me exactly where we still are and the kind of fight that we still have, the kind of challenges that we still face.
As Jeff [Rosen] was just talking about now, the problems that we have as disabled people do not exist because of the ways that we think or the ways that we move or communicate, but those problems exist because of the societies in which we live. And when the societies in which we live are ones that devalue our lives, that dehumanize us, that tell us over centuries of history that our lives are not worth living, that our lives are not worth fighting for, and that our lives are tragic and not our deaths, then that is a world that we have to fight against. That is a mindset that has to be changed before we can have full equality in this society.
And so we're here tonight to take a few minutes, to pause, and to remember those people that we have lost from our community—to remind ourselves, to remind the world around us that their lives were valuable, that they lived rich and rewarding lives, and that their murders were tragedies. We are here to reaffirm our commitment to the fight that we still have. We are here to reaffirm the unity of our community in standing against the history of violence and murder against members of our community, and to remind us that there is still much work to be done. Thank you.
And thanks to the LeadOn update, there's a video of this (captioned, naturally):
|Ari Ne'eman speaking at the vigil. |
Image description: Tall, young white man with short dark brown hair and glasses in the front, facing the side, wearing a long dark coat. Behind him is a wooden tripod bearing a poster that reads, "Mourn for the dead ...and fight like hell for the living," followed by tiny print illegible that gives the names and ages of victims. Beside that tripod is a table with a bright blue tablecloth and dozens of small electronic tea-light candles, with a young white woman kneeling toward the table. She is wearing a huge fluffy bright blue coat and a lime-green knitted hat. Beside her is her multicolored bag. They are all on a grassy area.
Of the first image above: Young Asian woman with short black hair and glasses, wearing a dark blue overcoat and a light beige pantsuit, and an ochre-colored shirt, with a gray-haired man's head visible in the foreground.
And this is the list of those who were killed that Melody Latimer, ASAN Director of Community Engagement, read aloud (names and ages). About two-thirds of the way through, she was moved to tears, and two other vigil attendees took positions beside her as she continued, visibly fighting the urge to sob.
This list is incomplete. In addition to these names, we mourn today for countless others in our community who died at the hands of those who were supposed to care for them, and whose names we may never know.
Tracy Latimer, 12 years old, gassed by her father, 1993. Wilkie, Saskatchewan. Robert Latimer served 7 years in prison for second-degree murder.
Charles-Antoine Blais, 6 years old, drowned by his mother, November 1996. Montreal. Danielle Blais pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to live in a halfway house for one year. She was then hired as a spokesperson for Montreal’s autism society.
Casey Albury, 17 years old, strangled by her mother, 1997. Feilding, NZ. Janine Albury-Thompson was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to four years in prison, but her sentence was reduced to 18 months.
Pierre Pasquiou, 10 years old, pushed into the sea by his mother, 1998. Saint-Brieuc, France. Anne Pasquiou was given a three-year suspended sentence and served no jail time.
Daniel Leubner, 13, burned alive by his mother, September 1999. Cayuga County, NY. Michelle Davis was sentenced to 6 years in prison for manslaughter and arson.
James Joseph Cummings Jr., 46, stabbed to death by his father in the institution where he lived, November 1999. Red Bank, NJ. Mr. Cummings Sr. was sentenced to five years in prison.
Gabriel Britt, 6 years old, suffocated by his father, March 2001. Summerville, South Carolina. Terrence Britt served four years in prison for unlawful conduct toward a child.
Johnny Churchi, 13 years old, strangled by his mother, 2001. Hamilton, Ontario. Jadwiga Miskiewicz was sentenced to time in a psychiatric hospital for killing her son.
Angelica Auriemma, 20 years old, drowned by her mother, who first tried to electrocute her to death. December 2013. Brooklyn, NY. Ioanna Auriemma served three years in prison for killing her daughter.
Scarlett Chen, 4 years old, drowned by her mother, July 2004. Toronto. Xuan Peng, her mother, pled guilty to manslaughter, but was released after 30 months in prison. At the time of her release, the court ruled that she “doesn’t represent a threat to children.”
Tiffany Pinckney, 23 years old, locked in a basement and starved to death by her sister and brother-in-law, 2005. Mississauga, Ontario. Allison Cox was sentenced to 9 years in prison for manslaughter; Orlando Klass was sentenced to 2 years house arrest for criminal negligence.
Ryan Davies, 12 years old, pushed off a bridge by his mother in a murder-suicide. April 2006. Romiley, UK.
Christopher DeGroot, 19 years old, died of severe burns after he was locked in his parents’ apartment alone during a fire, May 2006. Albany, OR. Police suspected that Agnes and Nicolaas DeGroot deliberately set the fire, but the court allowed a plea deal and sentenced them to six months in jail for criminally negligent homicide.
Katie McCarron, 3 years old, suffocated by her mother, May 2006. Morton, IL. Karen McCarron was sentenced to 36 years in prison for first-degree murder, obstruction of justice, and concealing a homicidal death.
William Lash III, 12 years old, shot by his father in a murder-suicide, July 2006. McLean, VA.
Lakesha Victor, 10 years old, starved by her mother, August 2006. Hinckley, MN. Ludusky Sue Hotchkiss was sentenced to 32 months in prison, followed by 16 months of supervised release, for second-degree manslaughter.
Marcus Fiesel, 4, wrapped in heavy blankets by his foster parents and left in a closet to suffocate while they went out of town, August, 2006. Union Township, Clement County, Ohio. Liz Carroll, the foster mother, was sentenced to 54 years to life for murder, involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping, felonious assault, and endangering children. David Carroll accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 16 years to life for murder and gross abuse of a corpse.
Ulysses Stable, 12 years old, throat slit by his father, November 2006. The Bronx, NY. Jose Stable was charged with second-degree murder.
Criste Reimer, 47, thrown from a balcony by her husband. Kansas City, MO. August 2007. Stanley Reimer was sentenced to life in prison, but will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years.
Jared Greenwood, 26, died of infected bed sores after being left in place and neglected by his mother. Bloomfield, NM. Sandra Greenwood was sentenced to serve two and a half years in prison for second-degree neglect. September 2007.
Francecca Hardwick, 18, locked in a burning car with her mother in a murder-suicide, October 2007. Barwell, Leicestershire, UK.
Naomi Hill, 4, drowned by her mother, November 2007. Connah's Quay, Flintshire, UK. Joanne Hill was sentenced to life in prison but will be eligible for parole after 15 years.
Shellay Ward, 7, starved and neglected by her parents, November 2007. Hawks Nest, New South Wales, Australia. Sharyn Ward was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Shellay’s murder. Blakeley Ward was sentenced to 16 years in prison for manslaughter.
Maxwell Eyer, 2, beaten to death by his father, December 2007. Alton, MO. Johnny Garcia, Maxwell’s father, was sentenced to 44 years in prison for first-degree murder. Maxwell’s mother and Garcia’s girlfriend both received 5-year sentences for child endangerment, as they knew that Maxwell was in critical condition but did not receive help.
Calista Springer, 16, chained to a bed and abandoned in a fire by her entire family. February 2008. Centreville, MI. Anthony and Marsha Springer were convicted of torture and first-degree child abuse. Marsha was sentenced to 18 years and 9 months up to 50 years in prison for torture, and 95 months to 15 years for child abuse. Anthony was sentenced to 25 to 50 years for torture, and 10 to 15 years for child abuse.
Courtney Wise, 17, starved to death by her mother, February 2008. St Catherines, ON. Astrid Hueller was sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter. The sentence includes pre-trial custody, so after the verdict she faced an additional five years in prison.
Ethan Scott Kirby, 3, beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend, August 2008. Conroe, Texas. Chase Cannon was sentenced to 50 years in prison for murder, and will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years.
Tom Inglis, 22, died after his mother administered an overdose of heroin to him, November 2008. Dagenham, Essex, UK. Frances Inglis was sentenced to life in prison for murder, and must serve a minimum of nine years.
Christian Clay Jenkins, 14, given an overdose of oxycodone by his father. November 2008. Oak Hill, West Virginia. Henry Clay Jenkins was sentenced to life in prison with a possibility of parole for first-degree murder and child neglect resulting in death. However, the judge made a “mercy recommendation,” meaning Jenkins will be eligible for parole after serving 18 years.
Lexie Agyepong-Glover, 13, left in a frigid creek by her mother and died of drowning and exposure. January 2009. Manassas, VA. Alfreedia Gregg-Glover was sentenced to 26 years in prison for felony murder, felony child abuse, and filing a false police report.
Jeremy Fraser, 9 years old, died of recurrent leukemia after his mother withheld the medication that would have saved his life. March 2009. Salem, MA. Kristen LeBrie was convicted of attempted murder, child endangerment, and two counts of assault and battery. She was sentenced to forty years in prison.
Shylea Myza Thomas, 9 years old, starved to death by her aunt, who then hid her body in order to continue to collect money she received for Shylea’s care. March, 2009. Flint, Michigan. Lorrie Thomas was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison, and a fine of $11,538, for involuntary manslaughter, tampering with evidence, child abuse, and welfare fraud.
Pamela Camille Hall, 59, stabbed by her son-in-law, April 2009. Bassett, VA. James Miller was sentenced to life in prison.
Lloyd Yarbrough, 62, fed an overdose of prescription medication through his feeding tube by his wife, May 2009. Austin, TX. Katherine Yarbrough was sentenced to 10 years probation for “injury to a disabled individual.”
Peter Eitzen, 16, stabbed by his mother, July 2009. Blackiston, Australia. Beverley Ellen Eitzen was charged with murder but was acquitted because the judge found that she had been suffering a “major depressive episode” at the time of the murder.
Jeremy Bostick, 11, gassed by his father in a murder-suicide. Edmonton, Alberta. September 2009.
Tony Khor, 15, strangled by his mother, October 2009. Mississauga, ON. Seow Cheng Sin was charged with murder, but the case has not yet gone to trial.
Betty Anne Gagnon, 48, tortured to death by her sister and brother-in-law, November 2009. Edmonton, Alberta. Her sister and brother-in-law were charged with “unlawful confinement,” manslaughter, and assault.
Walter Knox Hildebrand Jr., 20 years old, died of a seizure induced by his brother’s physical abuse. November 2009. Willows, CA. Stuart Allen Hildebrand was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and “causing pain, suffering, or injury to an elder or dependent adult.”
Laura Cummings, 23, raped tortured to death by her mother and brother, January 2010. North Collins, NY. Eva and Luke Wright Cummings were charged with second-degree murder, predatory sexual assault, unlawful imprisonment as a hate crime, and “endangering a disabled person’s welfare.”
Jude Mirra, 8, forced by his mother to overdose on prescription medications. February 2010. New York, NY. Gigi Jordan has been charged with second-degree murder.
Ajit Singh, 12, forced by his mother to drink bleach. February 2010. London, UK. Satpal Kaur-Singh plead guilty to “manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility.”
Gerren Isgrigg, 6 years old, died of exposure after his grandmother abandoned him in a remote area. Wiley, Texas. April 2010. Darlene Phillips was sentenced to 28 years in prison for murder, but will be eligible for parole after having served 12 years.
Leosha Barnett, 17, starved to death by her mother and sister, May 2010. Fort Worth, Texas. Kyreshi Stevenson, Leosha’s sister, was sentenced to 5 years in prison for injury to a child. Tasca Johnson, their mother, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for injury to a child.
Glen Freaney, 11, strangled by his mother. May 2010. Cardiff, Wales. Yvonne Freaney was acquitted of murder but admitted to “manslaughter by diminished responsibility,” and was allowed to walk free.
Payton Ettinger, 4, starved by his mother, May 2010. Greensburg, Indiana. Courtney Ettinger Tressler was sentenced to 10 years in prison for neglect.
Christopher Melton, 18, gassed by his mother in a murder-suicide, June 2010. Columbia, Maryland.
Rylan Rochester, 6 months old, suffocated by his mother because she believed him to be autistic, June 2010. Superior, Colorado. Stephanie Rochester was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to an institution.
Kenneth Holmes, 12, shot by his mother in a murder-suicide, July 2010. The Bronx, NY.
Zain Akhter, 5, and Faryaal Akhter, 2. Strangled by their mother, July 2010. Dallas, TX. Saiqa Akhter has been charged on two counts of capital murder.
Emily Belle Molin, 85, hit and run over with a car by her son. Darby Borough, PA. August 2010. Steven Frederick Molin was sentenced to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder.
Rohit Singh, 7, beaten to death by his father, September 2010. Bathinda, India. Gurmeet Singh was charged with murder.
Zahra Baker, 10, murdered and dismembered by her stepmother and perhaps her father, October 2010. Hickory, North Carolina. Elisa Baker was sentenced to a maximum of 18 years in prison for second-degree murder. Adam Baker was “voluntarily deported” to his native country, Australia.
Chase Ogden, 13. Chase and his sister Olivia were shot by his mother in a murder-suicide. Colorado Springs, CO. October 2010.
Karandeep Arora, 18, suffocated by his parents, October 2010. Sarita Vihar, India. Parents then committed suicide.
Chad Jackson, 25, starved and neglected by his mother, July 2011. Grand Junction, MI. Yodi Jackson is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree felonious abuse.
Julie Cirella, 8, poisoned by her mother, July 2011. Long Island, NY. Veronica Cirella is charged with murder.
Noe Medina Jr., 7 months, thrown 4 stories by his mother, August 2011. La Habra, CA. His mother, Sonia Hermosillo, was charged with murder.
Benjamin Barnhard, 13, shot by his mother in a murder-suicide, August 2011. Kensington, MD.
Jori Lirette, 7, decapitated by his father, August 2011. Thibodaux, Louisiana. Jeremiah Lee Wright, Jori’s father, was found unfit for trial and sent to an institution.
George Hodgins, 22, shot by his mother in a murder-suicide. March 2012. Sunnyvale, CA.
Daniel Corby, 4, drowned by his mother. March 2012. San Diego, CA. Patricia Corby was sentenced to 15 years to life for second-degree murder.
Melissa Stoddard, 11, suffocated in restraints that her father and step-mother routinely used. December 2012. Sarasota, FL. Both were charged with “aggravated child abuse with great bodily harm.”
And today, the day of the vigils, Betty Anne Gagnon's murderers pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on April 19.