Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A mom's accused of murdering her son with cerebral palsy. Why blame his special needs?

It's a particularly gruesome murder: A man with cerebral palsy was found dead in Westerlo, New York on Monday; he'd been beaten in the head with a hammer and stabbed in the heart with a knife. Gabriel Philby Zetsche, 22, lived with his mother, Tracey Zetsche, who has been charged with second-degree murder. Police say she lived with her son's dead body for days.

The motive isn't yet known. But what's clear is the question on people's minds: "Actually, we were told that him and his mother were very close. I've been asked a lot about cerebral palsy and everything else," said Sheriff Craig Apple.

People are wondering whether the stress of caring for an adult child with cerebral palsy got to be too much for this mother.

To me, this is something you'd likely wonder if you're not the parent of a child with special needs.

Because as parents of kids with special needs, we know.

We know that parenting a child with special needs has stress: Big stress, small stress. Caregiving stress. Money stress. Juggle-it-all stress. Stress about today. Stress about what tomorrow might bring. Ongoing stress. An undercurrent of stress. Stress that I can't even imagine, for parents in dire circumstances.

But we also know that parenting a child with special needs brings much joy, too. And pride. And laughter. And satisfaction. And other typical job benefits of parenting.

We know how full of life our kids can make us feel. Lucky, even.

Yes, this we know—though others don't. Some think parenting a child with disabilities is so consumingly stressful it could lead a mother to murder her own child.

Details of the case are still unfolding. It's been said that Gabriel Philby had mild CP and lived a "normal" life. A reporter unearthed that Zetsche was having money issues. It's yet to be seen what kind of mental issues she had.

This woman bludgeoned her own son. She stabbed him in the heart. She lived with his lifeless body for days. Cerebral palsy stress or no stress, she had other mental problems for which she obviously needed help. It wasn't just the special needs that might have made her do it. Maybe it wasn't the special needs at all.

Gabriel Philby Zetsche died a terrible death. May he RIP. But please, world: Quit assuming that parenting a child with special needs is always that bad.

Image: Screen grab, abc local video


  1. Amen! I couldn't have said it any better myself.

    Thabks for your true words. We Appriciate you.

  2. Sorry, Ellen, I think you are in denial on this one. I too love my son and could never imagine doing something like this.
    I do not know the details of this case but I would not be surprised if special needs played a part.
    You cannot judge other people or underestimate the stress of taking care of an adult with severe disabilities without appropriate government services, babysitting or any other relief/support.
    I am in no way condoning, but unfortunately this is not the first time this has happened, and probably not the last.
    We love our children but we are not superhuman and sometimes we need help and do not know how to get it.

    1. Sadly the reporters will embelish stories to make it more appealing to the reader. Gabriel was not severely disabled. He had mild disabilities and suffered from mild siezures. He did not need a baby sitter. He was very kind and he and his mom were very close. I find it almost impissible to believe that his cpndition played a role in his death.

    2. Ruchi- the media will lie. Most parents of children with extra needs DONT murder their children. Its far more likely she had depression or other mental health problems. There is NO way CP led her to think I'm murdering my child as well.

      Honestly the media should know better. Once again, they leap to crazy conclusions and make themselves look stupid. Sigh- when will they ever learn NOT to? Whatever happened to journalistic integrity?

      Kathryn is right. This will only create more intolerance.. sigh again.

  3. This is just one deserves to die that way - disability or not. Especially not by the hands of his own mother. I do not understand this kind of malice. I'm actually glad I don't.

  4. Ruchi, I think you missed my point. No matter what kind of stress you're under from raising a child or caring for an adult with special needs, you still need to have OTHER mental issues to do something like this. What bothers me is when people think it's just the stress of caring for a child or adult with special needs that could drive someone to do this.

  5. This breask my heart. A special needs son or not she took her own sons life. Here in Australia she would get 25 years for her crime. In the States you guys are much more tougher. Hope she gets the book thrown at her. Grrrrr

  6. I agree - it is clearly a case of someone with some severe mental health issues who could even contemplate killing her own child (special needs or not!) Many days, the most pleasure I get is from the wonderful things my Jackson says and does!! To take that away from myself would be to extinguish one of the biggest lights of my life!

  7. I absolutely agree with you. Killing anyone, especially one's own child in the way that she did cannot be due only to the stress of parenting a child with special needs. Yes it is stressful! Yes we want to quit some days, but most of us do not harm or kill our children with disabilities. Other factors, such as mental illness are involved.

  8. Blaming the CP will only create more hate twords special needs in the world.

  9. On a lighter note, when my son with special needs does things where he risks his safety or life, I have been heard saying, "Garrett, look little dude, I have invested way too much love, time and money in you for you to go hurt yourself and ending it now!" Seriously!! All of your points are well taken by me. I can see so many points here. But the bottom line for those of us who are in my special needs son's life is that we feel like we have invested so much and we would never want to ruin him or all that love, time and work!!!!!
    Blessings to each of you, regardless of your view!!

  10. It sounds similar to one of those stories where a mom who has severe postpartum depression/psychosis kills her newborn. But as with postpartum depression, you may not have had a prior history of mental illness. I think we need to be careful not to make any simplistic assumptions about what led to this (e.g. it was the special needs or it was completely unrelated mental health problems)

  11. Mental illness--psychotic break, maybe? Hard to know if the CP even came into the equation. She might have thought her son was something else entirely owing to a break with reality.

    The woman needs to go to the mental hospital for life, I think.

  12. Can't believe this. I had a little brother with CP that passed away at 32, and after 6 yrs we still miss him terribly. I can say though, that there is NO help at all you receive from the system. We had to fight to have phys therapy for pain control - insurance does not pay unless it's curative, or you've just had surgery. My mother even had to fight the school district for him to receive regular education, ie English, Math, Science - they did not want to provide this since he would never go to work in life. Heart breaking all around.

  13. Look at our law. In the USA mother's can kill their children and the law says its ok. It's called post partum. This mother is should get the death penalty but watch she only gets about 2 years. This is the USA, mothers can get away with murder. We as people are quick to take a defense for the mother. their are services available in every state. regardless of the cuts.


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...