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Carol CARR

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: "Mercy killing" - Killed her adult sons because they were suffering from Huntington's disease
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: June 8, 2002
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1939
Victims profile: Her two sons, Andy Byron Scott, 41, and Michael Randy Scott, 42
Method of murder: Shooting (.25-caliber handgun)
Location: Spalding County, Georgia, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty to assisted suicide and was sentenced to 5 years in prison in January 2003. Released on parole in March 2004
 
 
 
 
 
 

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 statement.

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.

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 degenerative disease.

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 agreement.

"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 proves fatal.

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 brother.

"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 through today."

 
 

Woman to Plead Guilty in Sons' Deaths

Wxia-tv

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 agreement.

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 morning.

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, painful deaths.

"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 mid-1990s.

"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 mother.

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 for her.''

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. Carr did.

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 regularly.

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 different fate."

 
 

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 situation."

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 control.

"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.
(Marlene Karas/AJC)

 

Andy Byron Scott, shown left, and Michael Randy Scott.

 

James Scott, Carol Carr's surviving son.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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