When little Katie McCarron was diagnosed with autism, her parents wanted to do all they could to help her. They even moved house just so she could attend a specialist school. But on Mother’s Day 2006, Katie’s mum, Karen, placed a plastic bag over her daughter’s head, killing her. But what made the ‘caring’ mother do the unthinkable?

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Karen McCarron had a picture perfect life. A doctor, she and her husband, Paul, had two beautiful daughters – Katie and Emily.

Katie, their eldest, was diagnosed with autism in 2004, aged just 2. In September of that year the family decided to move from Illinois, USA, to North Carolina. The move was made so that Katie could attend a specialist school for autistic children.

Paul and Karen wanted the best for their daughter and they hoped she’d thrive at her new school. But after 20 months, they decided to return to Illinois. While Paul stayed in North Carolina to complete work commitments, Karen cared for the girls with the help of her parents.

But on Mother’s Day 2006, Karen did the unthinkable… She put her youngest daughter down for a nap, and told her mother she was taking Katie for a drive to ‘calm her down’.

Instead, Karen drove her daughter to her parents’ empty home nearby and placed a plastic rubbish bag over her head. She then watched as 3-year-old Katie struggled to breathe, suffocating her to death.

Twisted Karen then returned home with her lifeless daughter and carried her up to bed, telling her mother Katie was already asleep. She then carried on with her normal day activities, at one point even going to the local shop to buy herself an ice-cream. She also dumped the bag she used to kill her daughter in a bin at a petrol station. 

Later that day, Karen went upstairs to ‘check on’ Katie. She then let out a piercing scream, and told her mother she’d found Katie not breathing.  Katie was rushed to hospital and pronounced dead. But doctors found Karen’s behaviour odd. She seemed unusually calm and didn’t embrace Katie – not the usual actions of a mother who’d just lost her child.

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Back at home, Karen locked herself in the bedroom and attempted to end her own life by taking an overdose of pills. When Paul arrived home, he had to break into the bedroom where he found a suicide note beside his wife.

She was still alive and made a confession. She admitted to Paul that she’d killed Katie. Distraught, Paul called the police and Karen was taken to hospital. She survived her suicide attempt and lived – unlike her innocent daughter whose life she’d cruelly cut short.

In 2008 Karen McCarron appeared in court where she pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. She claimed she’d begun having thoughts about killing her daughter a year before. And on that day in 2006, ‘they were intense.’

In a taped confession while she was hospitalised, she admitted she killed Katie in an attempt to ‘fix’ her. ‘Maybe I could fix her this way,’ she said. ‘And in heaven she would be complete.’

She told police she felt like a failure because of her daughter’s autism and was sad and hurt because Katie couldn’t interact with her very well. ‘I loved Katie very much, but I hated the autism so, so much,’ she admitted. ‘I hated what it was doing to her. … I just wanted autism out of my life.’

Prosecutors argued she was a selfish woman though who just wanted to be free of her burden of a daughter. Witnesses even testified that she was embarrassed by Katie. Jurors deliberated for nine hours before finding the 39-year-old guilty of two counts of murder, obstructing justice and concealment of a homicidal death. She was sentenced to 36 years in prison.

Response to the case was divided with some arguing the difficulties parents face with raising an autistic child.  But for Karen McCarron, who not only had family helping with Katie, but the help of two care assistants, it would seem lack of support was not an issue.

Katie’s grandfather, Michael McCarron, agreed. In a Press interview he said: ‘This was not a question of there’s no place to turn, there’s no support. This was not a murder about autism.’