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Rachel Capra CRAIG





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Parricide - Poisoner
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 19, 2001
Date of arrest: Same day (suicide attempt)
Date of birth: 1954
Victim profile: Chelsea Craig, 14 (her disabled daughter)
Method of murder: Poisoning ("poison cocktail" of drugs)
Location: Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada
Status: Found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder on February 20, 2002. Committed suicide after leaving Psychiatric Institution in July 2002

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 mental disorder.

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 court date.

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 danger."

"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

CBC News

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 care.

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 psychiatric exam

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 Monday afternoon.

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 court hearing.

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 interaction.

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 prison.


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 Island.

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 what happened.

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 pressure.

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 deteriorate.

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 nurse.

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 Rett Syndrome.

"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 child too."

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 Penny.

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 questioned.

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 hospital bed.


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.'


 Officials 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.



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