Carol Carr, a mother of two sons with
Huntington's disease, takes matters into her own hands by shooting
them to end their suffering in June 2002.
Carol Carr (born 1939) is an American woman
from the state of Georgia who became the center of a widely-publicized
debate over euthanasia when she killed her adult sons because they
were suffering from Huntington's disease.
Killing and trial
Huntington's disease first appeared in the mother
of Carr's husband. She passed it to a daughter who died from it, a son
who committed suicide when he learned that he had it, and Carol's
husband, Hoyt Scott. Eventually the disease left Hoyt, a factory
worker, unable to move, swallow, talk or think. He died in 1995. By
then Carol's oldest sons, Randy and Andy, both had the disease. On
June 8, 2002, Carr killed both men in the room they shared at a
Georgia nursing home.
James Scott of Hampton, Carr's only remaining son,
who also suffers from Huntington's, said his mother acted out of love,
and not out of malice. Watching the boys suffer in agony for 20 years
really took its toll on both him and his mother. "I sat there and
watched them with bed sores," he said. "It's just a miserable way to
live. They couldn't talk. They couldn't communicate with each other.
They would mumble."
Both men died of a single gunshot wound to the
head. After the shootings, Carol Carr, who was then 63, calmly walked
to the lobby and waited for police. When questioned by police on the
night of the shooting Carol Carr told them that she didn't want them
to suffer anymore. Despite what she did at SunBridge Nursing Home in
Griffin, James Scott still stands behind her. The lead detective on
the case told Lee Williams, the Griffin Daily News crime
reporter who broke the story, that he classified the murders as a
"mercy killing." James Scott agreed. "She gave it her all taking care
of them even while they were in a nursing home," Scott said. "She
would go there as much as she could. She would change their bed linen
and give them drinks."
Carr pleaded guilty to assisted suicide and was
sentenced to 5 years in prison. After serving 21 months, she was
released on parole in 2004. The parole board mandated that if Carr's
surviving son, James, should become ill with Huntington's disease, she
will be prohibited from serving as his primary caregiver. They also
stipulated that Carr must receive mental-health counseling during her
period of supervision.
Opinion and reaction
Many in Carr's hometown came to her defense. Brown
University Professor Jacob Appel was among those most publicly and
vocally critical of the case against Carr. He described Spalding
County District Attorney Bill McBroom's decision to prosecute as a
decision that "raises both ignorance and cruelty to new heights."
Mom who shot, killed disabled sons will
be paroled next month
By Carlos Campos - Atlanta Journal-Constitution
February 3, 2004
A woman convicted in the mercy killing of
her two ill sons will be released from prison in March after serving
21 months of a five-year prison sentence, the state Board of Pardons
and Paroles announced today.
Carol Carr shot and killed Randy and Andy
Carr in a nursing home bed in Griffin on June 8, 2002. The men
suffered from advanced stages of Huntington's Disease.
Carr, 65, will be released one month after
her earliest possible release date under Georgia law, said Heather
Hedrick, spokeswoman for the parole board. Carr, who is being held in
Metro State Prison in Atlanta, was interviewed by parole board member
Mike Light in January.
"Carol Carr has punished herself more than
the prison system will ever be able to punish her," Light said in a
Carr was convicted of two counts of
assisting in the commission of suicide. She received five years in
prison on one count and five years of probation on the second count.
Hedrick said prosecutors in Spalding County were comfortable with the
board's decision to parole Carr.
Parole board members placed a condition on
Carr's parole prohibiting her from residing with her remaining son,
James Scott, 40, who learned of his
mother's parole this morning, said he was "glad they voted to let her
go. It's been a long time and everybody's happy about it. The news is
just sinking in."
If he should become ill with Huntington's
Disease, Carr will be prohibited from serving as his primary
caregiver. The board also mandated that Carr must receive
mental-health counseling during her period of supervision.
Carr's attorney, Lee Sexton, said his
client got the news of her parole Tuesday from the warden of Metro
State Prison and "she was very thankful that the board saw fit to
release her short of the sentence imposed by the judge."
Mother Who Killed 2 Sons Enters Plea
Woman who shot the brothers suffering from
Huntington's disease will be sentenced for assisting a suicide. The
case drew wide interest.
By Ken Ellingwood - Los Angeles Times
January 30, 2003
ATLANTA — A Georgia woman who was charged with
murder after fatally shooting two adult sons suffering from
Huntington's disease pleaded guilty Wednesday to a lesser charge of
assisting a suicide, ending a case that drew national attention to the
ravages of the disease and prompted debate over the permissible bounds
of motherly love.
Under the plea entered in Spalding County
Courthouse, 64-year-old Carol Carr will serve up to five years in
state prison for violating a law that prohibits aiding in a suicide.
It was one of the first such convictions in Georgia.
In exchange, county prosecutors agreed to drop
murder charges against Carr, who turned herself in June 8 after
shooting her terminally ill sons, Randy Scott, 42, and Andy Scott, 41,
as they lay in a nursing home in the town of Griffin, about 40 miles
south of Atlanta. The two were in the advanced stage of the
Carr, who has been held without bail since her
arrest, will be eligible for parole in about a year. She had faced the
possibility of life in prison if convicted at trial on murder charges
that were handed down by a Spalding County grand jury in August.
The case was "difficult from everyone's
perspective," said Spalding County Dist. Atty. William T. McBroom.
"You have a woman that never has done any kind of criminal act. She's
64 and has health problems. But she's killed two people. You can't
condone that and let her go."
McBroom said a trial could have ended with a hung
jury if one or more jurors had sympathized with Carr. But he said Carr
also risked spending the rest of her life behind bars by facing a
jury. "Both sides gave up something," the prosecutor said of the plea
"It's a classic example of the old legal adage that
you should always temper justice with mercy," Carr's lawyer, Lee
Sexton, said after a court session. "She believes she was 100% right
-- it was her duty. But legally, she knew it violated the law."
The case underlined the toll exacted on patients
and their loved ones by Huntington's disease, a hereditary brain
disorder that erodes a person's ability to perform basic functions,
such as walking, speaking or even thinking clearly, and in the end
Carr provided a particularly poignant symbol. Her
husband, Hoyt, died of Huntington's in 1995 after a long struggle. A
third son, James Scott, 38, is showing early signs of the disease. The
disease had also struck the husband's mother, along with a sister and
"We are heartened that Mrs. Carr will not have to
face a trial for the murder of her two sons who suffered from
Huntington's disease," said Barbara Boyle, national executive director
and CEO of the Huntington's Disease Society of America. She urged
caregivers facing severe pressures to contact the society.
During grand jury hearings on the matter last year,
supporters gathered at the courthouse to urge authorities to have
mercy on Carr, who went to SunBridge Care and Rehabilitation and shot
both sons in the head with a .25-caliber handgun.
Carr had vowed she would not let the two sons
succumb in the same manner as her husband. She had once had helped
feed the two sons handfuls of anti-anxiety pills in an unsuccessful
attempt to end their lives.
Sexton said he hoped the case would inspire Georgia
lawmakers to legalize assisted suicide in cases of Huntington's
disease. Carr was "extremely relieved that she's no longer facing
murder charges," Sexton said. "There's an end to what she's going
Woman to Plead Guilty in Sons' Deaths
January 28, 2003
ATLANTA (AP) -- A woman who admitted fatally
shooting her two sons suffering from Huntington's disease will avoid
murder charges by pleading guilty to breaking Georgia's little-used
assisted suicide law, her lawyer said Tuesday.
Under the plea agreement, Carol Carr, 63, will be
sentenced to five years in prison and will likely be paroled about a
year from now after being held without bond since June, defense
attorney Lee Sexton told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"Carol Carr could not bring herself to walk into
that courtroom and say 'I murdered my children.' All she did was keep
a promise to them to end their suffering," Sexton said.
Sexton said Carr was "overjoyed" to reach a plea
Carol Carr had faced two counts of felony murder
and two counts of malice murder for shooting Michael Randy Scott, 42,
and Andy Byron Scott, 41, on June 8 in a Spalding County nursing home.
Both men were unable to communicate and bedridden in the advanced
stages of the nerve disease, which also killed their father.
It would be only the third time the 1994 Georgia
law banning assisted suicide was used.
Spalding County prosecutors would not confirm the
plea agreement, saying only that a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday
Sexton said he would ask the judge Wednesday to
drop the murder charges against Carr.
Carr shot her sons in the head and neck area and
then waited in the nursing home lobby to be arrested, police said.
When questioned by police, she repeatedly told them she shot her sons
because she didn't want them to suffer any more.
Huntington's disease is a degenerative genetic
nerve disorder that causes involuntary body movement, dementia and
death. The hereditary disorder has no effective treatment or cure.
Symptoms typically begin to appear between 30 and 45.
Carr's surviving son, James Scott, 38, said after
his brothers died that his mother didn't want to see them suffer long,
"My father died from it -- a long, agonizing death,
years and years of just sitting in the bed dying, and they were doing
it, too," said Scott, diagnosed with Huntington's disease in the
"We all went to probate court in Clayton County
back in 1995, and we all signed living wills saying if we got in my
daddy's shape, then we didn't want to live any more."
A Deadly Disease Destroys Patients and Families
By Sara Rimer - The New York Timas
June 24, 2002
As far as Carol Carr's family knows, Huntington's
disease, a fatal genetic disorder that destroys its victims' minds and
bodies as it ravages their families, first appeared in her husband's
She passed it to her daughter, Roslyn, who died of
it, and to two sons: George Scott, who committed suicide when he
learned he had it, and Hoyt Scott, Carol's husband.
By the time Hoyt learned he had the disease, he was
in his 30's and he and Carol had already had three sons. Carol, who
had a low-level phone company job, devoted most of her adult life to
caring for Hoyt, a factory worker, as over the course of more than two
decades the disease left him unable to move, swallow, talk or think.
When her husband died, in 1995, her oldest sons,
Randy and Andy, who were in their 30's, had the disease. Mrs. Carr
turned her life toward their care, doling out medicine, feeding and
bathing them, getting them to the bathroom, coping with Randy's
violent moods. When she could no longer do those things by herself,
she placed her sons, reluctantly, in a nursing home. Relatives say she
was consumed by guilt for having brought them into the world.
On June 8, she killed her boys, shooting them as
they lay in bed in the room they shared at the nursing home. Family
members say she could no longer bear their suffering. Mrs. Carr, 63,
has been charged with two counts of murder, but her surviving son,
James, 38, who is in the early stages of the disease, says
Huntington's had killed Randy, 42, and Andy, 41, long before his
mother ever fired the gun.
Mrs. Carr's lawyer, Virgil Brown, said: ''I see no
evidence of malice aforethought. I see only love.''
To those who have the disease, or love someone who
does, this is not incomprehensible.
Susan Caldwell, for example, felt compelled to
attend the Scott brothers' funeral, and afterward to offer comfort to
James Scott. In 1985, her mother, Glenda Caldwell, 42, sensed the
onset in herself of the disease that had killed her father and did not
want to risk her children's developing it. She fatally shot her
19-year-old son, Freeman, and shot at Susan, then 18, but missed.
The violence that tore through the Caldwell and
Carr families is unusual. The despair, experts say, is not.
Huntington's afflicts about 30,000 people in this country; an
additional 150,000 have the gene but not the symptoms. Those numbers
do not include the family members who suffer, too, coping not only
with the burdens of caregiving but with watching helplessly as the
disease erodes its victims' personalities.
''They've changed in so many fundamental ways --
they're no longer themselves physically, emotionally or mentally --
but there are enough remnants left that you're reminded every day of
the loss of the person you love,'' said Dr. Steven Hersch, a
neurologist who established the Huntington's Disease Society of
America's Center for Excellence clinic at Emory University in Atlanta,
where he worked with Carol Carr and her family, who live in Hampton,
about 35 miles away. Carol Carr and her relatives say she could tell
by the look of misery in her sons' eyes that they had had enough. But
they were no longer able to speak or communicate, and doctors say it
would have been impossible to know what they wanted.
Because Huntington's is a genetic disease, Dr.
Hersch said, there is always the fear of who in the family might be
struck by it next.
That is the fear that overcame Glenda Caldwell, her
daughter said. Over dinner at a restaurant near her home in suburban
Roswell, Susan Caldwell, 35, a software engineer, told her mother's
story. ''My brother had gone out with friends,'' she said. ''He came
home, walked through the door, and she shot him three times.
''I was asleep. I remember hearing my door open. I
turned my head. She fired into my bed, close enough for the bullet to
graze my cheek, leaving powder burns. I jumped up and turned on the
light. She fired again. The gun did not go off, nobody knows why.''
Her mother was sentenced to life in prison. ''I
hated her for killing my brother,'' Ms. Caldwell recalled. ''I was the
prosecution's star witness. Without me, there would have been sympathy
But after a severe depression and a couple of
suicide attempts, Ms. Caldwell came to understand her mother's
suffering. ''My mother and Carol Carr were two women who both felt
total despair,'' she said, adding that she could not condone what Mrs.
In 1992, Mrs. Caldwell was found to have
Huntington's disease. In 1994, this time with her daughter testifying
on her behalf, Mrs. Caldwell was retried and found not guilty by
reason of insanity. Unable to take care of her mother alone, Mrs.
Caldwell spent the final years of her life in a nursing home.
As the disease advanced inexorably, mother and
daughter drew close. ''She smoked and she loved Cokes and Little
Debbies,'' Ms. Caldwell said. ''I would take her 12 packs of Cokes,
boxes of Little Debbies and her cigarettes. I would light cigarettes
and put them in her mouth. She pretty much felt that smoking wasn't
going to be the thing that killed her.''
Susan Caldwell buried her mother in March. ''It was
only the last year that was unbearable,'' she said.
Ms. Caldwell learned eight years ago that she had
the gene for the disease. ''I know it's there and now I can focus on
all the things it hasn't yet taken,'' she said.
So she has hiked the Appalachian Trail and driven
to Alaska by herself. She snorkels, goes in-line skating, meditates
and spends time with her friends. She visits her neurologist
She has only the earliest signs of the disease,
occasional memory lapses and clumsiness. She is hopeful about her
future. Dr. Hersch, who knows her from the Emory clinic, says she has
reason to hope.
Since the discovery of the gene 10 years ago, a
number of promising treatments are being tested that could slow the
progress of Huntington's, said Dr. Hersch, who now runs the
Huntington's clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
While it is too late for those for whom the disease
has advanced, Dr. Hersch said, ''Susan Caldwell may well have a
Mom Charged With Murder of Dying Sons
By Erin Hayes - ABCNews.go.com
June 10, 2002
Tragedy brought a mother to the breaking point.
Carol Carr, 63, was charged today with two counts
of malice murder in the death of her two adult sons. Authorities in
Georgia said she fatally shot them over the weekend with a
small-caliber handgun in the nursing home where they were receiving
care for a debilitating disease. She could face additional charges and
is currently in custody in the Spalding County Jail.
She reportedly told the police she shot her sons
because she didn't want them to suffer anymore. "At this time, it
looks like her motive was a mercy killing," said Lt. Joe Estenes, a
police investigator in Griffin, about 35 miles south of Atlanta.
Huntington's disease had left her two sons, Andy
Byron Scott, 41, and Michael Randy Scott, 42, helpless — they were
unable to walk, feed themselves or even think clearly. And the nursing
home they were in made matters worse, according to the family.
Their brother, James Scott, 38, was furious about
the quality of their care. "I went down to see them Thursday, they
were laying there naked and laying in pee."
The family says Carr was at her wits' end. "She was
depressed all the time," recalled her niece, Debbie Henry. "She just
didn't know what else she could do for the boys. It's just a sad
An Entire Family Afflicted
Not only did her sons suffer from the degenerative
disease, but Carr had also lost her husband to Huntington's disease.
The disease is inherited and can afflict an entire family. By
mid-life, some sufferers find it drains their bodies and minds of
"Huntington's disease is actually one of the most
diabolical of all diseases, because it affects everything that makes
you human," said Nancy Wexler, a professor of neuropsychology at
Columbia University in New York who has spent years researching the
disease, searching for a cure.
Wexler's own mother died of Huntington's and she
understands how a family could come to the breaking point. "This is
one of the all time cruelest diseases in the entire world, in the
entire planet," she said. "It is just appalling and has devastating
deadly impact on every person that comes in contact with them."
Wexler points out there is hope: research and new drugs
are on the horizon to help with Huntington's symptoms.
Carr, however, had already lost hope. "I'm so
sorry, I'm so sorry," she said, repeatedly in court today, as a judge
read the two murder charges against her.
It's a double tragedy for her remaining son, James,
who is in an early stage of Huntington's as well. And the one person
who best knew how to help him through it may now be spending the rest
of her life in prison.
Carol Carr, shown disshelved during her first
hearing in the deaths of her two ill sons.
Carol Carr at a hearing in June, 2002.
Andy Byron Scott, shown left, and Michael Randy
James Scott, Carol Carr's surviving son.