Family Members' Violence Against "Mentally Ill" Stories

Family Members' Violence Against "Mentally Ill" Stories

#Story 1 -- Sarah Lawson killed by father because she had "Major Depression" and Bipolar

#Story 2 -- David Tarpinian killed by mother because he had "Schizophrenia"

#Story 3 -- Deborah Wilkes killed by her husband because she had "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder"


Story 1 -- Sarah Lawson killed by father because she had "Major Depression" and "Bipolar"

Editorial comment: Most women who cut themselves are abuse survivors. I wonder what else was going on here. No wonder AMI members are so afraid of abuse survivors.


The Electronic Herald

May 15, 2001 'Sarah said she wanted to die' by REBECCA McQUILLAN

THE first sign of Sarah Lawson's mental problems was an empty vodka bottle containing blood-stained bandages.

She was just 16. Yesterday, the court where her father, James, admitted helping her to end her life, was told that by then, she was already using alcohol and anti-depressants.

"She used to tell her mother she could not go to work without drinking half a bottle of vodka. She was 16 and on Prozac at the time," said Michael Lawson, QC, prosecuting.

Her father denied murdering Sarah, but yesterday, before the start of a trial at Maidstone Crown Court in Kent, changed his plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Sarah first tried to commit suicide in 1999, by taking a lithium overdose. It was after this unsuccessful attempt that Lawson first talked about helping his daughter, saying to his GP: "If Sarah was a cat or dog, someone would put her out of her misery."

One year later, he finally decided to act. It was April 2000, and came after a week in which Sarah had spiralled into despair, cutting herself and attempting to hang herself from a banister at the family home with her dressing gown chord.

The prosecuting barrister told the court: "Her father said he asked her, if she wanted to die, would she want him to help her. Mr Lawson said she could take some tablets and he could make sure she would not wake up."

Her parents made desperate efforts to get her hospitalised, but two days later, on Good Friday, April 19, she was sent home from a psychiatric ward for allegedly smoking cannabis.

In a police interview cited by the prosecution yesterday, Lawson described what happened next.

He had talked with his daughter for a couple of hours before the conversation turned to him helping her to commit suicide.

He said to police: "I felt the time was there. There was an inevitability about it. She had talked about it before and life seemed too cruel. Sarah said she wanted to die, obviously she had got to the end of her tether."

The court was told that Lawson had two bottles of anti-depressant tablets prescribed for his daughter. She opened one bottle of 30 tablets on to the table, while he opened another.

She drank the drugs in a glass of orange, and washed this down with several glasses of cola.

When she became drowsy her father took her upstairs and laid her on her bed and put on the ballad You Are My Hero, before laying down next to her.

But that was not to be the end. The prosecutor said the young woman woke up 15 minutes later and asked her father to get her some paracetamol. He responded by going downstairs and returned with a plastic bag which he put around her head and held around her neck.

It did not work. Instead, he placed a pillow over her face and used his hand to stop her breathing.

Later, he told his wife what he had done and at 4.30am on Easter Saturday, he called Worthing police station to say he had killed his daughter.

Philip Sapsford, QC, defending, said: "What Mr Lawson was really saying to the police was this. 'I could not fail Sarah, like everyone else had. I had to do it and Sarah is now at rest'."

The barrister added: "My client has also said 'I think I could have been under a diminished responsibility for several years. I lived and coped with it very well.

"I arrived that night with Sarah in a no-hope situation. The family were failed by the mental health service."

The court heard that Sarah had cut her arms during the weekend of April 12-13. A visit to a community psychiatric practitioner on Monday left her angry that nothing could be done. The following night she tried to hang herself.

The next night, Wednesday, the 22-year-old cut her arms again. Her increasingly desperate parents made an emergency appointment at Worthing Hospital the next day, but the duty psychiatrist did not take her in.

Her parents called their solicitor, pleading for something to be done and he spoke to the psychiatrist who then admitted Sarah to Homefield's psychiatric wing, in West Sussex. But on the afternoon of Friday, April 19, a hospital worker saw her allegedly smoking cannabis with another patient and she was thrown out.

Justice Robert Nelson yesterday adjourned sentencing Lawson until the probation service had assessed his case.

Lawson and his wife, Karen, also have a son, Jamie, 21, and have been married for 25 years. They are now separated, but Mrs Lawson supports him in helping their daughter to die.

Speaking after the hearing yesterday, Mrs Lawson, who has also suffered from depression, described her daughter as "generous, funny, intelligent and good looking" but described the young woman's life as "intolerable - deep, dark depression interspersed with short periods of remission".

She called for the authorities to investigate the level of care mentally ill patients receive and spoke of their despair at not being able to get the right treatment for Sarah.

"As time went on Sarah was getting worse and her GP gave her only a 50% chance of survival, yet still we got no help."

Criticising Worthing Hospital for ejecting Sarah, she said: "Both my husband and I had tried all that week to get her hospitalised because we knew the signs. She had tried to kill herself almost every day that week. But she was still ejected ... six hours later Sarah was dead."

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Story 2 -- David Tarpinian killed by mother because he had "Schizophrenia"

Editorial comment: The reporting of this tragedy is even more bizarre with all the sympathy going to the mother who killed her "mentally ill" son and then herself. After all, when she dies there would be no one to take care of him. I guess now she'll take care of him in heaven. Sheesh, talk about blaming the victim. The "mentally ill" son somehow seems to blame for causing his mother to shoot him and then her. Makes me wanna puke! Maybe we need strict outpatient commitment for parents like those who belong to NAMI?


Philadelphia Daily News

Friday, March 23, 2001

Cops: Mom killed mentally ill son, self

by Yvonne Latty and Nicole Weisensee Egan Daily News Staff Writers

Margaret Tarpinian was dying of cancer and she worried about what would happen to her schizophrenic son.

Even though he once held a job and could drive a car, she believed he needed care like no one but she could provide.

On Wednesday, she pulled out her 38-caliber Smith and Wesson and shot her only son in the head and then fired a bullet into her forehead, police said.

David Tarpinian, 37, and his mother Margaret, 65, were both found dead in his second-floor bedroom. Mother and son had shared a rowhome on Teesdale Street near Cottage in Northeast Philadelphia.

This was the fourth murder-suicide in a week.

Margaret Tarpinian left a note which said that she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and that her son was schizophrenic and suffering from an anxiety disorder, police said.

"She was very protective of him," a police source said.

Although she had a grown daughter and an estranged husband who was David's father, she didn't feel there would be anyone to take care of her son, police sources said.

"He [David] worked for a while at a banking outfit, but he couldn't keep that job because his mind was wandering," a police source said.

Family members told police that David Tarpinian appeared to be doing better recently, but Dr. Christian Kohler, an assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, said that schizophrenic symptoms can come and go.

"Typically, depending on how well the symptoms are controlled, they fluctuate," Kohler said. "People can do better for a couple of months and then worse - even though they're taking the same medication.

"People with schizophrenia deal very poorly with a change in their environment and any kind of stress can bring about a psychotic symptom, particularly in the people who are more ill."

Kohler said the mother's fears for her son's fate without her were very realistic.

Her death alone could have made his symptoms worsen.

"She was his main caretaker and he was nearly 40 years old and not able to establish independence," he said. "I would consider that [her death] . . .likely to bring on a worsening of symptoms."

Although people with mental illnesses can use their social security to access help, many don't function well enough to do it on their own, he said.

"People with mental illnesses may drift into a shelter system or become homeless because they are unable to access the help," he said. Margaret Tarpinian worked for the pharmacy at Rite Aid at Cottman Avenue near Frankford. She lived on the same street for more than 40 years, but was not very close with her neighbors.

"When she came home from work, she stayed in her house," said Ed Zajac, who lives across the street from the Tarpinians. "We had block parties, and she would never come out."

Zajac said David Tarpinian was very shy and would always walk with his head down.

"He was a quiet guy, but you would never think there was anything wrong with him," Zajac said.

Staff writer Dana DiFilippo contributed to this report.

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Story 2 -- Another report

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Friday, March 23, 2001


Ailing city woman, 65, kills her son, then herself

By Julie Stoiber and Thomas J. Gibbons Jr. INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS

She was part of the tight-knit staff at the neighborhood drugstore and a godsend to her elderly neighbor, to whom she delivered prescriptions and homemade bean soup.

Her son was a recent convert to the Roman Catholic faith and attended Mass every Sunday morning at St. Bernard Church, around the corner from the Teesdale Street rowhouse they shared.

Now, Margaret and David Tarpinian are dead, and those who knew them are in shock.

Police said Margaret Tarpinian, 65, who wrote that she had been diagnosed with cancer in a note found on the living-room television Wednesday night, shot her 37-year-old mentally disabled son in the left temple as he lay in bed. She then shot herself in the forehead.

In the note, the mother said there was no one else to care for her son.

Police were called to the Mayfair home by Margaret Tarpinian's sister, Florence Wade, on Wednesday. They found a .38-caliber revolver next to Margaret Tarpinian's body. Police speculated that the shootings occurred late Saturday or early Sunday, not long after the Tarpinians returned from dinner with relatives.

"It's such a shock to everyone," said John Heaney, manager of the Rite Aid on Cottman Avenue. "Everybody here was pretty close to Margie."

For the last week or so, Margaret Tarpinian, who had worked for Rite Aid for more than 20 years, had been off work while undergoing medical tests, Heaney said.

The murder-suicide, while difficult for those who knew her to accept, was not hard for parents of mentally impaired children to understand.

"I've known of several parents over the years who have said this is what they would do," said Mary Votel, director of advocacy and family services for the Association for Retarded Citizens of Philadelphia. "That is the biggest worry - what happens when you're no longer here."

"I understand it. Yes, I do," said Edith Sobel, who cares for a mentally disabled adult son in her South Philadelphia home. "To have him not have his loving care, to be at the mercy of strangers, I can understand why she would do that."

Those who knew the Tarpinians were devastated by the news.

"This is a tragedy," said the Rev. Charles Sullivan, pastor of St. Bernard, where David Tarpinian had studied for a year before becoming a Catholic around Easter last year.

He attended 8 a.m. Mass every Sunday, said Roberta Machese, the church's business manager.

"He was very faithful, very faithful," she said.

A worker at Rite Aid became so emotional she could barely speak when asked if she knew Margaret Tarpinian.

"Our hearts go out to the Tarpinian family, as well as our associates who were friends with her," Rite Aid said in a statement.

"It's difficult for the store associates there," company spokeswoman Sarah Datz said. "It was a very tight-knit group."

The Tarpinians' next-door neighbor, Joseph Kinney, said he believed David Tarpinian had lived with his father for a time but recently returned to Teesdale Street.

Kinney and another neighbor, Walter Karacz, said the Tarpinians, who had lived on the block for about 30 years, kept mainly to themselves.

"She used to bring my prescriptions once a month, and if she made a stew or soup, she always made sure I had some," Kinney said. "She was a beautiful lady."


Julie Stoiber's e-mail address is

------------------------------------------------------------------------ (c)

Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.

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Story 3 -- Deborah Wilkes killed by her husband because she had "Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder"

Posted at 3:58 p.m. EDT Monday, May 21, 2001

Clearwater man jailed in death of hand-washing wife

CLEARWATER -- (AP) -- A woman who suffered from an obsessive compulsive disorder that made her repeatedly wash her hands is dead and her husband was in jail today, facing a charge that he stabbed and strangled her.

Eric M. Wilkes told police that he could no longer stand the constant hand washing, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said. His wife Deborah Wilkes, 44, was found dead in the couple's home Friday morning.

Eric Wilkes, 31, was arrested on a first-degree murder charge and is being held without bail in the Pinellas County Jail.

At first, Wilkes told detective that he last saw his wife of six years on Friday when she dropped him off at work. He said he found her dead when he returned home that evening.

But Saturday night, investigators said, Wilkes changed his story. He told them he had planned to kill her because he was tired of the hand washing and stabbed and strangled her Friday morning.

Deborah Wilkes' father, James Doyle of Belleair Beach, declined Sunday to talk about whether his daughter had any disorder.

"That's a statement from Eric and we'll leave it at that," he said.

Investigators knew about past disagreements between the couple, but neither had been arrested for domestic violence.

Neighbor Tony Maltese said he had heard the couple arguing inside twice in the past few months but never saw any violence. He said the neighborhood is saddened by Deborah Wilkes' death but also relieved that detectives have made an arrest.

Studies have shown that between 2 percent and 8 percent of Americans suffer from an obsessive-compulsive disorder, said Clearwater psychiatrist John Mike.

People can have one trait, such as repeatedly locking doors or washing their hands. In more severe cases, they may follow a pattern of compulsive behaviors, from counting each tile they step on to showering several times a day or washing their hands until they are red and peeling.

"It's a miserable disease to have, because it complicates your life," Mike said. "It can take an hour to leave the house, because you keep returning to lock the door."

The disorder, which has been linked to low levels of serotonin in the brain, can be treated with medication and behavioral therapy.

"It can be severe," Mike said, "but obviously, none of that justifies harming someone."

Copyright 2001 Miami Herald

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