Friday, October 30, 2009

Edmonton, Ontario: Killer dad 'couldn't cope'

Family experienced severe behavioural problems with autistic son
Last Updated: September 30, 2009 3:16am

It was a "loving, caring" father who killed his 11-year-old autistic son before killing himself, according to family.

That message was passed through a social worker who tried helping the family cope with struggles that bring many parents to the edge.

"I wasn't surprised. It was a feeling of dread, like oh my god, it happened," said Karen Phillips, program director for the Autism Society of Edmonton Area, who worked directly with the suffering family.

"(The mother) said (the father) just couldn't handle it anymore. He couldn't cope. He was worried his son wasn't going to get what he needed.

"Something had to give here."

She broke down, saying, "the bottom line here is that I do worry. There are other families that I worry about. There's intense stress over the long term. It puts people at very high risk, so no, I wasn't very surprised."

The 39-year-old father locked himself in the basement of the family's home at 8403 138 Ave. and, somehow, committed the acts.

The causes of their deaths have not been released, at the request of the surviving mother to protect her remaining young son, said Patrycia Thenu, police spokesman.

However, cops are dubbing it a homicide-suicide.

The bodies were found by family just before 1 p.m. Sunday.

The 11-year-old threw thrashing fits and slept poorly, said Phillips.

In the spring of 2008, he had such a tantrum that his family took him to Royal Alexandra hospital.

"The family gets to the point of becoming unglued. They don't know what to do," said Phillips.

Royal Alex staff originally said it was the wrong place to take him, she said.

She notes that there are no emergency services for autistic people when parents lose control. Also, parents never really know if their child is freaking out because something is medically wrong with them.

The 11-year-old spent 20 hours strapped to a hospital bed, screaming, said Phillips.

It was the breaking point. After 10 years of home care, the family sought to have their son sent out for care.

"They were wondering what they were going to do now with his severe behavioural problems," said Phillips.

It took some time to find a placement.

Meanwhile, the family was stressed. The stress didn't break, even as a group home took the 11-year-old on weekdays.

"Mom has said it's kind of been an accumulation of stress that's built up over time," said Phillips.

Phillips urged that the government and community must step forward to offer parents of autistic children more support, especially for emergency relief.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mississauga, Ontario: Autistic-murder case: Mother upset by husband's plans to institutionalize their son, Tony Khor

Tony Khor, age 15

By Catherine McDonald, Global News, and Matthew Coutts, National Post

The Mississauga mother charged with murdering her autistic teenager was distraught in the days before the death because her husband was considering moving him to a care home, neighbours said yesterday.

Peter Varanelli, a long time friend and neighbour of the family, said Boon Khor wanted to move his son to a specialized care facility, but the mother could not bear the idea.

“Her son was her life. Period,” Mr. Varanelli said. “Maybe she should have just accepted that he needed to go to an institution. But she just couldn’t see it that way.”

Tony Khor, 15 (pictured at top), was found dead in a Mississauga hotel on Sunday. He was a low-functioning autistic unable to speak, often making noises in an attempt to communicate. He was found dead after a call from a room alerted police to his whereabouts.

Sources told Global News the boy had been strangled.

His mother, Seow Cheng Sin, 51, appeared in a Brampton court yesterday to face charged of first-degree murder. She is reportedly on suicide watch.

Police said Ms. Sin left the family home with Tony after an argument with Mr. Khor on Saturday.

Mr. Khor, pictured, broke down in tears after leaving his wife’s court appearance yesterday. He told reporters he and his wife had argued before she left and she threatened to divorce him.

“I said ‘I would never bring up a divorce, why would you bring it up? If you want a divorce, go ahead,’” said Mr. Khor, 51. ‘‘I never saw the signs coming .... She said if you divorce me I will kill myself. I should have known.”

Mr. Khor said the couple would often argue, but Ms. Sin would always return home after a cooling-off period. He said she was depressed, but ‘‘dedicated’’ to their son and should not have been charged with first-degree murder.

Neighbours in the family’s close-knit Mississauga neighbourhood described them as caring, seemingly able to manage the stresses of raising an autistic child.

The boy’s autism was so bad he could not speak, often spooking people who were not familiar with his condition, Mr. Varanelli said.

He said the boy relied on routine and would grow agitated around visitors no matter how often they came to visit.

The boy, Mr. Varanelli said, was getting big. He estimated the teenager was nearly six feet tall, and still growing. He already towered over his diminutive mother, leading the family to question how much longer she could care for him.

“He was getting big ... in a few years they were going to have to think about it.

A silver haired woman who lived up the street from the family had spoken to Ms. Sin on Friday about the possibility of moving her son to a home.

“From her point of view — never,” the woman said, declining to give her name. “But the husband thought they would have to at some point. He was worried that she might not be able to handle it for much longer.”

The woman said she had offered to help the woman in any way she could. She said they had moved Tony to a new school in September for more hands-on assistance. He was agitated by the move at first, but she said Ms. Sin felt he was settling in.

Students at St. Marcellinus School said they were told a classmate died in an accident over the weekend. The school’s flag was at half-staff.

Sunil Kapoor and his wife, whose yard is adjacent to the couple’s, were shocked to hear the news, describing them as an open, loving family.

The couple and their 15-year-old son were staples in the community, and often took long walks through the neighbourhood.

Mr. Khor works in the IT sector during the day, leaving much of the child-rearing to his wife, Seow Cheng Sin.

Mr. Kapoor said Ms. Sin lived for her son, picking him up from the bus stop and playing badminton with him on the family’s lawn, weather permitting.

“They would play badminton on the grass and go for walks. Usually the two of them, but sometimes the father too,” he said.

“And she loved him so much. Sure, he had issues, but she would take care of him. He never hurt anyone. He just had episodes.”

The family had lived in their Clansman Trail home for more than 20 years, neighbours said.

Tears welled in the eyes of a Chinese couple living in the neighbourhood as they heard the news yesterday.

Another young man walking his dog past said he had gone to elementary school with Tony. He was too stunned over his death to speak.

“He was a good kid,” he said.

Ms. Sin returns to court on Friday.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: CFHS student, Trevor Varinecz, killed suffered from Autism

Trevor Varinecz , age 16

NewsChannel is learning more about the shooting that left a 16-year-old student dead at Carolina Forest High School Friday morning.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge tells us that Trevor Varinecz was shot five times by School Resource Officer Marcus Rhodes.

One of those gunshot wounds was through the chest and that proved to be fatal.

Police say Varinecz stabbed Officer Rhodes in Rhodes' office at the school Friday morning. The officer responded by shooting Varinecz, who died about an hour later at Conway Medical Center.

Officer Rhodes was treated for stab wounds and released from the hospital around 12:30pm.

NewsChannel 15 did speak with Varinecz's mother, Karen, Saturday.

She told us about her son, saying, "he was a wonderful boy. We can't understand what happened... He was not violent, he was never violent. We just don't know what he was thinking."

She did confirm that her son suffered from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism that can effect a person's emotional and social skills.

Asperger's Syndrome is often considered a high functioning form of autism.

People with this syndrome have difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and often are clumsy. Motor milestones may be delayed. The main symptom is severe trouble with social situations.

Karen Varinecz noted how Trevor found it challenging to make friends.

Trevor's former cognitive behavioral therapist described to us how Asperger's Syndrome can effect a school-aged child.

James Garvey, high-functioning Autism specialist, noted how young children and teens "try to interact but it's just that they fail to interact appropriately. By the time -- when they get to middle school where the social demands are really heightened to be socially involved, they fail even more. So, they get picked on, they become victims and scapegoats and bullied."

State Education Department spokesman Jim Foster says Friday's incident was the first time a school police officer has killed a student on campus in South Carolina.

Solicitor releases school shooting video, SLED report

December 14, 2009
CONWAY -- The 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office released surveillance video and photos from the morning of the Carolina Forest High School shooting-stabbing incident that left one student dead.

Carolina Forest High student Trevor Varinecz, 16, died Oct. 16 after an altercation with Horry County Police Lance Cpl. Marcus Rhodes, the school resource officer.

Surveillance video shows Varinecz wandering through the school's hallways before he met Rhodes and Assistant Principal Frances Gaye Driggers.

According to a voluntary statement given by Rhodes to SLED, Varinecz asked to speak to Rhodes in his office.

Rhodes told SLED Varinecz asked him to close the office door for privacy, then the boy said he was paranoid.

He told Rhodes there was a spider in a corner of the office and asked Rhodes “to take care of it.”

When Rhodes complied and turned his attention to the office corner, he says Varinecz lunged at him with what appeared to be a large knife.

Rhodes said he shouted at Varinecz to drop the knife and yelled to Driggers for help.

Rhodes says he pushed Varinecz into a corner, tried to pull the knife away and began wrestling with Varinecz.

According to the report, both Varinecz and Rhodes had their hands wrapped around the knife. Varinecz then told Rhodes to give him his gun and said "I have no reason to live. Just shoot me."

Rhodes says he told Varinecz he would help him, but the boy seemed determined to kill himself.

Driggers and a few other faculty members by then were at the office door but Rhodes told them not to open the door, since he did not want Varinecz to get out of the room with the knife, according to the investigation.

Rhodes says he was surprised at how strong the boy was and how determined he was to continue the attack so he tried to “short circuit his pattern of thought” and he shot Varinecz in the leg. The investigation shows Varinecz was shot three times in the leg.

Rhodes said at that point, Varinecz became even more difficult to contain and said, "just shoot me."

After Varinecz got one arm free, Rhodes says he felt like he was losing control of the incident and he tried shooting Varinecz in the arm, but then remembered Varinecz stabbing him in the back. The investigation later shows Rhodes was stabbed at least seven times.

Rhodes said he knew Varinecz would have access to his gun, so in order to stop the attack on him or others, he decided he had to shoot Varinecz to end the attack.

According to the investigation, Rhodes shot Varinecz in the chest, pushed him away and the boy fell forward against a storage cabinet.

Rhodes says Varinecz slid down the wall to the floor. At that point a few school employees entered the office and Varinecz said "Thank you sir. Thank you," before losing consciousness

Rhodes says he tried administering CPR before he was relieved by another officer.

The investigation shows there were a total of 10 shots fired by Rhodes.

Five shots hit Varinecz and five missed.

The autospy showed Varinecz died from a single shot to the chest.

The report also said when the autopsy was done, a note was found inside Varincez's pants that read "Check Trevor’s folder on my PC for my last words."

That last word's document was not included in the report given by the solicitor's office.

Photos released by the solicitor's office also show evidence from the shooting-stabbing incident.

Rhodes was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident by the State Law Enforcement Division and Solicitor Greg Hembree last week.

Stay tuned to News 13 and to see surveillance video from the incident and more on the investigation reports, once those materials become available.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Seattle, Washington: Devine Farrier, 11, killed crossing a busy roadway


SEATTLE – State Route 99 is a busy roadway, with cars flying by. Eleven-year-old Devine Farrier was trying to cross it Saturday when he was hit by a one ton flatbed pick-up truck.

He died Sunday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

His family had reported the autistic boy had disappeared from his Sea-Tac home just 15 minutes earlier, and in that time he had wandered through the woods and onto the freeway without any shoes.

You may be wondering why an 11-year-old child was walking on State Route 99 all alone, but for parents of children with autism it’s something they worry about all the time. In fact, the National Autism Association found in a recent study that 92 percent of parents with children with autism consider those children at risk for wandering away.

Autism is a complex disorder that affects social interaction and communication. Lakeside Center for Autism in Issaquah educates and helps families and their children cope with the disorder.

It doesn’t surprise them that Devine walked away from home and onto a highway.

“It can be a common problem for most any of these kids,” said Dan Stachelski, Ex. Dir. Lakeside Center For Autism. “Part of the reason is they don’t have the internal motivation or internal feeling about being safe, about being protected by family members, about being connected to their parents to know that it’s not safe to leave their side.”

Protecting a child with autism can be difficult and expensive, from locks on doors to GPS systems, but the community can help as well.

“That’s what they need, they need help and this is an epidemic that’s not going anywhere,” said Stachelski.

Just a few days ago the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that one in every 91 children has a form of autism, and they believe that rate could continue to rise.