|Criminal charge||first degree murder, obstruction of justice, and concealing a homicidal death|
|Criminal penalty||36 years in prison, 30 months of supervised release after her prison term and a $25,000 fine|
|Spouse(s)||Paul McCarron (c. 1995--Paul filed for divorce in 2006)|
|Children||Katherine McCarron (July 22, 2002-May 13, 2006)
Emily Marie McCarron
|Parents||Edna and Walter "Robert" Frank|
|Conviction(s)||January 17, 2008|
|Autism rights movement|
Early life, education and career
Karen Frank-McCarron was born Karen Frank to Erna and Walter "Robert" Frank in Germany. She graduated from Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois. Karen Frank met her future husband, Paul McCarron, when they were both students at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. She graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois in 1995 with a Doctor of Medicine degree. Frank-McCarron was a patient of a psychologist while she was a resident doctor at a medical clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
Frank-McCarron, a pathologist, worked at Methodist Medical Center and Proctor Hospital, both in Peoria, Illinois. She volunteered as a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria.
In 2005, Frank-McCarron was a patient of a psychiatrist who treated her for depression. She had been prescribed antidepressants but apparently stopped taking them in early 2006. At trial, it was admitted into evidence that the psychiatrist she had been seeing from about August 2005 to February 2006 did not observe any delusional thinking in Frank-McCarron.
Trial and conviction
Frank-McCarron and Paul's first child was Katherine (born July 22, 2002), diagnosed with autism in 2004. In September of that year, Paul and Katherine moved to Apex, North Carolina to live with Paul's mother. This move was made so Katherine could attend The Mariposa School in Cary, North Carolina, a special education school for children with autism and related conditions. Paul and Katherine returned home to Illinois on holidays. Frank-McCarron, who was a pathologist with the Peoria-Tazewell Pathology Group, stayed in Morton, Illinois with their younger daughter Emily, and visited North Carolina occasionally.
After 20 months, Paul decided to return full-time to Illinois with Katherine. Paul McCarron took Katherine to their home in Illinois on May 3, 2006. On May 7, 2006, Paul returned to North Carolina to fulfill the last three weeks of his work commitment. (Paul was an engineer for Caterpillar, Inc.) Katherine remained in Illinois under the care of her mother and maternal grandparents, along with her younger sister. In addition to her mother and grandmother and grandfather, Katherine had two paid, full-time caregivers in her home in Illinois. On the afternoon of Saturday, May 13, Mother's Day 2006, Frank-McCarron killed Katherine by suffocating her in a plastic bag. After killing her daughter, Frank-McCarron went to the grocery store to buy ice cream for herself. Hours later, Frank-McCarron told relatives what she had done. In the early morning of May 14, Frank-McCarron cut herself and took a non-fatal dose of Tylenol.
While awaiting trial, Frank-McCarron was free on home confinement on $1 million bond.
Frank-McCarron went on trial on January 7, 2008. Prosecutors said that before suffocating Katherine, Frank-McCarron suggested institutionalizing her then-3 year old daughter and putting her up for adoption. After a week-long trial, she was convicted of first degree murder, obstruction of justice, and concealing a homicidal death on January 17, 2008. Frank-McCarron was sentenced to 36 years in prison, 30 months of supervised release after her prison term and was ordered to pay a $25,000 penalty to the state of Illinois.
Frank-McCarron's parents Walter and Edna sued Frank-McCarron for money they loaned her for attorney fees during her January murder trial, and her parents won the lawsuit against her in December 2008.
In 2010, Frank-McCarron appealed her conviction to an Illinois appellate court but the appellate court upheld it. In August 2011, Frank-McCarron filed a petition for a new trial. In November 2011, her petition for a new trial was denied.
Media coverage and activist response
News articles and weblogs have emphasized the difficulties in raising a child with autism, and some mistakenly suggested that Frank-McCarron may have been stressed by lack of support and dealing with Katherine's autism--even though at the time of Katherine's murder, Katherine had two paid, "full-time caregivers" in addition to being in a home with Frank-McCarron, Walter and Edna Frank and her younger sister. Katherine's paternal grandfather, Michael McCarron, said:
|“||This was not about autism. This was not about a lack of support.||”|
Some autistic people rallied in favor of a conviction of Frank-McCarron, and Katherine's death garnered intense scrutiny within the autism rights movement and among disability advocates. Autism Hub held a memorial on May 24 and the disability rights group Not Dead Yet led the charge to reveal the facts of the case. The local media responded to advocates that criticize them for sympathic reporting towards alleged perpetrators.[how?]
- Brogadir, Josh (May 17, 2006). "Police: Mother confesses to suffocating daughter: Autism has impact on families". HOI 19. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- Hayes, Jessica (July–August 2006). "Katie McCarron" (Press release). Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- Reynolds, Dave (January 9, 2007). "Board Suspends Dr. McCarron's License Indefinitely". Inclusion Daily Express. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- Associated Press (January 17, 2008). "Karen McCarron guilty: Jury finds woman who killed autistic daughter guilty on all charges". HOI 19. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
- Sampier, Kevin (December 26, 2008). "McCarron loses suit to parents". pjstar.com. Retrieved December 28, 2011.
- Reynolds, Dave (May 24, 2006). "Grandfather Says Girl's Murder Had Nothing To Do With Autism". Inclusion Daily Express. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- Liss, Jennifer (July 11, 2006). "Autism: the Art of Compassionate Living". Wiretap Magazine. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- Reynolds, Dave (June 30, 2006). "Police Accuse Mother Of Trying To Poison Daughter; Media Softens Approach Toward Victims". Inclusion Daily Express. Retrieved 2007-11-08.