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Mother Who Creates Child Death Raises Concerns of Responsibility

By Carol Forsloff     Apr 30, 2009 in Crime
Child cruelty, killing, rape and endangerment have regularly been on the news. In a case out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a mother starved her disabled daughter to death. Cases like this raise questions about public responsibility.
On April 29 Andrea Kelly was convicted and sentenced 20 to 40 years in prison after she pled guilty of the starvation death of her daughter. Social workers and city officials were said to share in the tragedy.
The child, Danieal Kelly, was 14 years old and weighed just 42 pounds when she died. After the hearing the defense attorney Richard Q. Hark talked about the culpability of the authorities as much as that of his client. He said, “if anyone at the Department of Human Services actually showed up, the child would have been removed from the home eight to nine months earlier."
Danieal was described as a healthy child whose health had deteriorated when she returned to her mother’s care following a breakup between her father and stepmother in Arizona. While living with her mother she lost half of her body weight and lived inside the house without going to school or having fresh air. She had cerebral palsy and was unable to walk. During her last days alive she suffered in an August heat wave with flies and maggots around open sores with just enough strength to ask her brother for water.
Andrea Kelly admitted culpability in Danieal’s death. Only one of her ten children attended the trial. Those of minor age were put into foster care following Danieal’s death. The case isn’t ended with Kelly’s sentence, however. The remaining defendant includes social worker Julius Murray, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter, a misdemeanor in this case. She was employed for MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, a contractor paid for by the city to help the Department of Human Services (DHS) provide services to families in need.
This case raises questions about the types of parents who kill and how public health and human service officials might be able to determine in advance those who could become violent or neglect or kill their own children. These, according to experts, are some of the main reasons parents kill: (1) altruistic, (2) acutely psychotic, (3) accidental filicide (fatal maltreatment), (4) unwanted child, and (5) spouse revenge filicide.1 Altruistic filicide is murder committed out of love to relieve the real or imagined suffering of the child. Altruistic filicide may be associated with suicide also when a mother doesn’t want to leave her child without a mother in a world she sees as cruel.
Recently the country has seen a number of cases where children have been killed by their mothers, some very high profile as in the case of Casey Anthony in Florida who is alleged to have killed her child Caylee. This too makes the public wonder about motive.
In view of the professional clues, however, certain characteristics seem to give rise to the behavior and perhaps should be looked for by families and authorities before other children are killed. Certain stressors or signs of mental illness like narcissism or psychosis might send up alarms for social workers and others that might make a difference in tragic cases like these. It is likely one of the reasons the court is examining potential guilt not just for the mother but the social worker who was said to have had opportunities to check for these signs and save a child’s life.
More about Caylee anthony, Killing child, Starvation
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