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.