Rachel Capra Craig
is a Canadian woman who was accused of the murder of her
fourteen-year-old daughter, Chelsea Craig, but, on 20
February 2002, was found not criminally responsible because of a
Chelsea Craig had Rett syndrome, which rendered
her unable to speak, breathe normally, feed herself or use the
toilet. Rachel Capra Craig decided to kill herself and Chelsea
with an overdose of prescription drugs.
She told psychiatrists she killed Chelsea to
protect her from being sexually abused by her father. (Experts
determined that the accusations of sexual abuse were false.)
Psychiatrists concluded that Capra Craig was suffering from
paranoid delusional disorder.
Murderer Mom Kills Self After
Leaving Psychiatric Institution
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 8, 2002
MONTREAL, QUEBEC -- The mother who killed her
14-year-old daughter with a "poison cocktail" last year has taken
her own life.
It was the third time Rachel Capra Craig is
known to have tried committing suicide.
On March 19, 2001 Rachel gave her daughter,
Chelsea, a deadly mixture of drugs, and then drank some of the
mixture herself. Chelsea died in the family's home, but her mother
survived to face charges of first-degree murder.
Chelsea had Rett syndrome, a condition that has
some of the same characteristics as autism, yet only affects
girls. Most girls who have Rett syndrome, including Chelsea, do
not talk and are not able to walk.
Rachel said she decided to kill her daughter
because she experienced paranoid delusions and believed Chelsea's
father was sexually abusing the girl. An autopsy revealed no
evidence of sexual abuse.
A few weeks after Chelsea's death, a
psychiatrist found Rachel coherent enough to stand trial but a
judge ordered her to stay in a psychiatric facility until her
In February of this year, a judge ruled that
Rachel was not responsible for her daughter's death after
psychiatrists said her problems were likely caused by a
combination of a family history of mental illness, her own history
of abuse and the stress caused by Chelsea's disability. "Even the
most psychologically healthy among us would have difficulty with
this," said psychiatrist Dr. Renee Fugure.
The psychiatrists made it clear they did not
believe that Chelsea's death was a mercy killing like that of
Tracy Latimer, who was gassed to death by her father, Robert,
because she had mental retardation and cerebral palsy. Robert
Latimer is serving a life sentence in Tracy's murder.
"This is not a Latimer case. This is not a
mercy killing," Dr. Fugure told the court.
During her first unsupervised weekend out of
the facility last month, Rachel called 911 after she tried
committing suicide again.
Even though hospital officials knew of her
attempt, she was allowed a second unsupervised outing on the
weekend of June 22. Her body was found at the address she had
given to hospital staff.
"I don't know what might have gone wrong," said
her husband James Craig. "I knew how desperately unhappy she was
being confined to an institution. I hoped that being given her
liberty would make her happier and therefore she'd be less in
"I just wish they'd be given more opportunity
for a reasonable life while they're in these locked wards or
institutions and that they be given more aggressive care when they
seem to need it."
Mother found not responsible
in death of disabled daughter
February 20, 2002
A Montreal-area woman wasn't criminally
responsible for killing her disabled teenage daughter last year, a
judge ruled on Wednesday.
Rachel Capra Craig, 47, was in Quebec Superior
Court on Wednesday, charged with first-degree murder in the death
of 14-year-old Chelsea last March.
But after hearing testimony from psychiatrists
about her mental state at the time of the killing, Justice Fraser
Martin ruled she "is not criminally responsible for the death of
her daughter by reason of mental disorder.
Chelsea died after her mother gave her a lethal
dose of prescription drugs. Rachel Capra Craig was also found in
the family's Pointe Claire, Quebec, house with an overdose of the
same poison cocktail.
Capra Craig's lawyer Marc David
said his client gave her daughter the drugs. The defence
contended, however, that she couldn't be held criminally
responsible. The crown and the judge agreed.
Psychiatrists who examined her concluded that
Capra Craig was suffering from a paranoid delusional disorder.
Dr. Renee Fugere testified that Capra Craig
wanted to protect her child from the girl's father, who she
believed was sexually abusing her. An autopsy found no evidence of
sexual abuse and experts determined the accusations against James
Craig were false.
Police found a suicide note in Chelsea's
bedroom signed by Rachel Capra Craig saying she wanted to donate
her savings and insurance money to charities.
Psychiatrists concluded she wanted to kill
herself, but decided to kill her daughter as well when she
realized the severely disabled girl would be left in her father's
Chelsea Craig suffered from an extreme case of
Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that affects mainly girls.
The condition prevented Chelsea from speaking, feeding herself,
breathing normally or using the toilet. She had severe food
allergies, could not be in the sunlight for more than a few
minutes and often had diarrhea.
Montreal mother on death watch
Rachel Capra Craig ordered to undergo
By Gary Dimmock - The Ottawa Citizen
March 22, 2001
Grieving father 'doing the best he can'
MONTREAL -- Jim Craig sat statue-still as guards shuffled his wife
into the courtroom to face first-degree murder charges in the
death of their disabled daughter.
The couple did not look at one another
throughout the hearing.
Rachel Capra Craig, sat handcuffed in the
prisoner's dock with a blank stare while the court went through
the motions. No plea was entered yesterday.
The accused child killer, 46, will remain in
jail awaiting psychiatric tests to see if she is fit to stand
trial. Depressed and suicidal, police say Mrs. Capra Craig brewed
a "poison cocktail" of drugs, administered the lethal mix to her
14-year-old daughter, Chelsea, tucked the girl into bed before
drinking the cocktail herself. Police say Mrs. Capra Craig
collapsed minutes before her husband returned home from work on
Yesterday, Mr. Craig, a Radio-Canada
International announcer, had little to say publicly. Privately, he
spent the morning finalizing funeral arrangements for young
Chelsea, whose neurological disorder -- Rett Syndrome -- left her
with the mind of an infant and robbed her of the ability to speak
coherently. She had trouble walking and still wore diapers.
The death of his little girl and the criminal
charge against his wife has clearly devastated Jim Craig, 57. His
brother, Robin Craig, told the Citizen the family is doing
everything it can to help. "He's doing the best he can right now,"
Robin Craig said.
In the courtroom, grieving friends of the
family cried softly when Mrs. Capra Craig entered. Others
comforted Mr. Craig, expressing sympathy and inquiring about this
Saturday's funeral at Eglise de la resurrection in Pointe-Claire,
Que., a quiet neighbourhood in this city's West Island.
After spending a night in hospital under police
guard, doctors released Mrs. Capra Craig, telling detectives she
had fully recovered from an overdose and could attend the brief
The accused whispered to her defence lawyer,
Marc David, but otherwise didn't utter a word.
She stood once when Judge Michele Toupin read
the charge, then slowly stepped back and took her place with
others accused of other crimes.
Mrs. Capra Craig appeared tired and pale and
jail guards have placed her on a 24-hour watch for fear she may
try to kill herself again.
The Craig family, which neighbours describe as
quiet and reserved, has drawn unusual attention from the media. A
mob of photographers filmed Mr. Craig's every step yesterday. The
grieving father was teary-eyed and haggard.
Yesterday, the Quebec Rett Syndrome Association
urged parents of afflicted children to seek help for children who
suffer from the disorder, and for themselves. Mrs. Capra Craig had
enlisted a community health nurse to help care for Chelsea.
Rett Syndrome afflicts almost exclusively
females. While children born with the syndrome appear normal in
the first 18 months of life, motor skills soon deteriorate. Its
victims do not suffer pain. Some girls affected by the rare
condition may appear autistic, with a sudden incapacity of social
In the hours before Chelsea's death Mrs. Capra
Craig stood outside her tidy red-brick home, waiting to help her
daughter off the school bus. The stay-at-home mother and her
daughter, described as shy and physically disabled, went for their
last walk around the neighbourhood. An hour later, Mr. Craig
arrived home to find his girl dead in bed, and his wife barely
conscious at the bottom of the stairs.
This Saturday morning, friends and family will
honour the life of young Chelsea while her mother sits alone in
jail, awaiting trial on charges that could condemn her to life in
Montreal mother charged in disabled girl's death
Police believe depressed woman served 14-year-old 'poison
cocktail' before drinking it herself
Gary Dimmock and Jean-Francois Bertrand - The Ottawa Citizen
March 21, 2001
POINTE-CLAIRE, Que. -- With her mother's help, 14-year-old
Chelsea Craig took her last long walk on Monday afternoon, slowly
making her way around their quiet neighbourhood on Montreal's West
The school bus had just dropped her off in front of the
family's tidy, red-brick home.
Rachel Capra Craig had stood waiting for her only daughter, a
teenager whose severe neurological disorder -- Rett Syndrome --
left her with the mind of an infant and without coherent speech.
Described as shy and physically disabled, Chelsea was almost
always seen at her mother's side.
Together, for the final time, they struggled along Elgin
Avenue, then back home and upstairs just after 4 p.m.
In the girl's bedroom, police allege that Mrs. Capra Craig,
severely depressed, brewed a "poison cocktail" of drugs. Seconds
later, police believe, the mother administered the lethal mixture
to Chelsea and tucked the girl into bed. Then, police say, she
drank the "cocktail" herself.
Mrs. Capra Craig, 46, is charged with first-degree murder and
is recovering from the overdose in hospital under police guard.
After poisoning herself in what detectives are calling a botched
murder-suicide, Mrs. Capra Craig staggered down the stairs and
collapsed at the bottom.
Minutes later, her husband, Radio Canada International
announcer Jim Craig, arrived home from work to find his wife
barely conscious. She couldn't get up or speak, let alone explain
In a panic, Mr. Craig ran to a neighbour's house and called
911, police say. Paramedics rushed to the two-storey home, where
they discovered the dead girl and began treating her mother.
On a gurney, Mrs. Capra Craig appeared confused and covered in
sweat as paramedics wheeled her to a waiting ambulance outside.
Police detectives later questioned Mr. Craig while forensic
investigators searched the home for evidence. They could be seen
combing the girl's upstairs bedroom while patrol officers cordoned
off the street.
After interviewing Mr. Craig, 57, detectives concluded that his
wife had been suffering from bouts of deep depression. Homicide
detectives have yet to determine a final motive behind the
killing, saying only that Chelsea's mother had been under intense
The stay-at-home mother had enlisted a community health nurse
to help care for her daughter. Chelsea still wore diapers, and
because her disorder had robbed her of muscle control, the girl's
hands were in perpetual motion.
Rett Syndrome is a neurological disorder that afflicts almost
exclusively females. While children born with the syndrome appear
normal in the first 18 months of life, motor skills soon
Chelsea Craig was in what doctors call the final phase of the
syndrome, highlighted by limited mobility. At this stage, patients
suffer from seizures and unusual breathing patterns that interfere
with body movement.
Neighbour Chad Barnes, 21, thought nothing when he noticed the
ambulance across the street. "She used to have seizures and the
ambulance had been there two or three times last summer," he said.
The allegation that Mrs. Capra Craig, in a depressed state,
killed her own daughter has devastated the quiet, middle-class
neighbourhood on Montreal's West Island.
Next-door neighbour Ron McCune called it a "sad, sad case."
Like other neighbours, he described Chelsea as a shy girl who
could always be seen "clinging" to her mother or the visiting
She typically played in the back yard though lately she was
rarely seen outside except to catch the school bus.
Darlene Berringer knew Chelsea nearly a decade ago when the
girl attended Giant Steps School in Westmount. She remembers a
five-year-old child who was "a joy" despite her disabilities.
"For us she was just a delightful child, who wanted to learn
and develop and grow and was open to all kinds of new things,"
said Ms. Berringer. "Our eyes light up when we think of her."
Giant Steps has a special program for children who suffer from
"She was more atypical -- she was intellectually handicapped
and had a seizure disorder," Ms. Berringer added. "It's hard to
have a child with a problem, but there are such pleasures in the
In the year Chelsea spent at Giant Steps, staff were amazed by
how quickly she progressed.
"She wanted to be nurtured and she gave back. For us, she was a
joy to have."
When Chelsea took her last walk around the block Monday, she
and her mother were accompanied by the girl's pet bull dog, named
Neighbours and detectives paint the Craig family as "quiet and
ordinary," perhaps betraying the turmoil they endured trying to
cope with Chelsea's illness.
Detectives say Mrs. Capra Craig is not yet fit to be
At Chelsea's high school, where she'd been attending classes
for the past year, grieving students and teachers placed her
photograph in the lobby. The picture shows a young girl with dark
hair rolling a basketball on a desk.
In a note below the photograph, the students and teachers
expressed sympathy to the girl's family and friends.
Today, her mother is scheduled to enter a plea on the
first-degree murder charge. If she isn't able to attend court,
prosecutors said yesterday the suspect can enter her plea from her
Reseau Tva, LCN / Rachel
Capra Craig, 46, shown being carried out of an ambulance
in an image taken from television, was charged with first degree
murder in the death of her disabled daughter, Chelsea, 14, who
consumed what police called a 'poison cocktail.'
remove Chelsea's body from their home in Pointe-Claire, Que.
(Reseau Tva, LCN)
This picture of 14-year-old
Chelsea Craig appeared on a poster at the Lindsay Place High
School that Chelsea attended.