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Kelly SILK





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - History of mental problems
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: June 10, 1999
Date of birth: 1967
Victims profile: Her husband, Charles Silk, 39, and two of her children, Jennifer, 3, and Jonah, 17 months old
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife - Smoke inhalation
Location: East Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut, USA
Status: She poured a flammable substance over herself and set herself afire

Connecticut Woman Kills Self, Husband, 2 Children

June 11, 1999

EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - A woman who had a history of mental problems stabbed her husband to death Thursday and set the family's home on fire, killing herself and two of the couple's four children, police said.

Kelly Silk, 32, killed her husband, Charles Silk, 39, and also attacked a third child, Jessica, 8, before setting fire to the house. Jessica escaped to a nearby house to call for help. A fourth child, a 6-month-old boy, was transported to a burn unit in Boston.


A Family Decimated

Officials Look For Answers In East Hartford Murder-suicide

By Christine Dempsey -

June 11, 1999

EAST HARTFORD — Friends say Kelly Silk had a history of mental illness, and police are looking into whether she was suffering from postpartum depression when she killed her husband, two of her four children and herself early Thursday morning.

The question today is: Did her depression push Kelly Silk over the edge?

What happened inside the bedroom at 38 Passaro Drive early Thursday that caused her to stab her husband, Charles C. Silk, with a kitchen knife?

After killing her husband, Kelly Silk, 31, descended upon her 9-year-old daughter, Jessica, who had come into the room. She stabbed and slashed Jessica more than 60 times, police said.

Then, authorities said, she poured a flammable substance over herself and set herself afire.

She died of asphyxia from a flash fire, according to the state medical examiner's office. Her death was ruled a suicide.

The fire quickly spread to a bedroom occupied by two more of her children, Jennifer, 3, and Jonah, 2. They died of smoke inhalation and burns, according to the medical examiner's office.

Because there weren't enough ambulances at the scene, two police officers transported two of the children to the hospital. Police Chief James W. Shay said one child died in a police officer's arms.

Joshua, 2 months old, shared the parents' bedroom and suffered burns. He was in serious condition in the burn unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Still alive but bleeding, Jessica got out of the house and went across the street to the home of Chad Prigge, assistant pastor at the family's church. Prigge said he was awakened about 1:30 a.m. by the young girl's cries.

''I looked out the window and saw someone running to the door, and I saw a strange light,'' Prigge said. ``My wife answered the door and it was Jessica and her hair was ablaze.''

Prigge said his wife, Sara, told the girl to drop and roll and got water to put out the fire. Prigge said the girl told him, ''My mommy had a nightmare.''

Jessica was in serious condition at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford.

Officer Gary Cooper, one of the first officers to respond, said he watched firefighters carry one child after another out of the house. ''It was probably the most horrific scene I've seen,'' he said.

The family was religious and active in the Truth Baptist Church in South Windsor. A family friend described the Silk family as ''born-again believers."

Neighbors described Kelly Silk as an upbeat person who seemed cheerful, but police and friends also said Kelly Silk had long struggled with depression. The family had said she was suffering another bout after the birth of her last child.

Shay alluded to that during a morning press conference: ''We're looking at things like postpartum depression,'' he said.

In May 1998, police were called to the house and told Silk suffered an overdose of Prozac, an antidepressant.

''I knew she was depressed,'' said Joe Amato, a member of Truth Baptist Church who described himself as Charles Silk's best friend. ''I don't think she sought help at all.''

When Charles Silk told Amato about his wife's condition, Amato said he recommended that she see a doctor.

Kelly's mother, Marilyn Mullen, committed suicide at home when Kelly was 7, said Roger P. Morgan, a Stonington lawyer who was the executor of Kelly's father's estate. Kelly Silk's father, Edward F. Mullen Jr., a pipefitter and East Hartford native, never remarried and raised his three children, Kelly, Kimberly and William, in a house at 55 Mohawk Drive. Kelly Silk's grandfather, Edward F. Mullen Sr., was an assistant fire chief in Hartford for 42 years.

Kelly Silk's sister and brother-in-law, Kimberly and Gary Wilson, said they first learned of the deaths from a television news report. After a day talking to police, gathering with relatives and visiting the hospital, Gary Wilson stood on the front porch of his home and slowly shook his head.

''It's a very sad and regrettable situation,'' he said. ''Now our concern is for the children.'' He said he and his wife have had no contact with the Silks in recent years.

''What made her do it? Nobody knows at this point,'' he said. ''There are so many questions and not enough answers.''

Funeral arrangements probably will be made today. Wilson said it was still uncertain who would take custody of the surviving children.

Charles Silk was a devout Baptist. ''He really loved God a lot,'' said Cesar Feliciano, a member of Truth Baptist. ''Charlie loved his wife. He was the perfect man to be with her, to deal with her. She loved him.'' He said the couple met at a singles meeting and married in a civil ceremony in December 1995. Jessica was Kelly Silk's child by a previous relationship.

Along with photographs of his children, Charles Silk had religious sayings and quotations at his work station at The Pyne-Davidson Co., a Hartford offset printing company, said Dan Davidson, the company vice president. Charles was hired there as a cutter operator and inventory supervisor three years ago, he said.

Feliciano said Charles Silk used his printing skills to make vacation Bible school fliers for the church, and also taught Bible lessons.

Davidson said Charles Silk was a quiet man who didn't talk much about his private life, and often came in a little early so he could get out to help drive his children around.

Beverly Goldberg has lived on Mohawk Drive for 35 years, a few doors south of the house where Kelly Silk grew up. She said Kelly Silk was depressed after her father died of cancer in 1994, but remembered her best from more pleasant times.

''She always seemed happy to me,'' Goldberg said.

Charles Silk filed for bankruptcy in 1994, with liabilities of $17,029 -- mostly credit-card debt -- and assets of $3,000. The case was discharged on May 12, 1994. He was working as a production manager for Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance.

About a hundred members of Truth Baptist Church gathered for a prayer service Thursday night to remember the Silks.

''Words can't express the grief that is felt tonight,'' said church member Paul Creech of Hebron, who led the assembly in prayer. "This family that is gone from us has touched each and every one of us here.

''We just don't understand. We don't have answers. We have to come to [God] and ask for the peace that passes understanding."


'Postpartum' Theory Offered In Tragedy

By Andrew Julien -

June 11, 1999

The horror of Kelly Silk's rampage in East Hartford sparked an immediate quest for answers: What could drive a woman to turn on her own child and husband?

One of the possible answers offered has been that Silk suffered from some form of postpartum depression. The condition, more severe than the so-called baby blues, affects as many as one in every 10 new mothers and generally is not associated with violence.

A far more rare and extreme form known as postpartum psychosis can, however, spark more dangerous behavior.

''She may have become so psychotic that she was frightened by all the world around her,'' said Dr. Angela Cappiello, a psychiatrist with the Hartford-based St. Francis Care system. ''The person that you love becomes the person that you want to destroy.''

Still, experts said Thursday that it would be premature to jump to the conclusion that postpartum depression played a role in Silk's behavior.

''In the typical postpartum depression, women do not hurt themselves or anyone else,'' said Dr. Neill Epperson, an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine. ''Was she psychotic? Did she have a personality disorder? Did she have substance abuse problems? There are a lot of questions we don't have answers to.''

That doesn't mean the stress Silk was facing on a daily basis didn't play a role. Even if Silk was not suffering from a clear case of postpartum depression or psychosis, psychological experts said, it is possible that other problems she may have had were aggravated by the stress of caring for a newborn baby in a household with other small children.

That stress is, in fact, one of the factors clinicians suspect is at the root of postpartum depression, which can have a range of effects including sluggishness, sleeplessness and memory loss. Hormonal changes are another suspected culprit.

''If she had a pre-existing problem, she didn't have to have postpartum depression to become more severely distrubed,'' said Dr. John Goethe, director of the Burlingame Center for psychiatric research and education at Hartford's Institute of Living.

There are a variety of treatments for postpartum depression, including support groups, therapy and medication.


Her Scars Will Be Slow To Her

By Stephanie Reitz -

June 12, 1999

EAST HARTFORD — Awakened by screams, 9-year-old Jessica Silk could tell that her father was dead when she walked into her parents' bedroom about 1 a.m. Thursday and saw the knife in her mother's hand.

Then, Kelly Silk turned on her. She was terrified and thought her brothers and sister were dead, too. Jessica said it felt like her mother cut her ``about a thousand times,'' she later told police.

Bleeding and splashed with gasoline, Jessica ran from her home on Passaro Drive with her dark hair aflame and her golden retriever at her heels.

She was huddled in a blood- stained blanket at a neighbor's house when police officers found her minutes later. Across the street, firefighters and police tried to help what was left of her family in the burning house.

Jessica's world had been ripped apart.

Today, she lies in carefully guarded privacy at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, her face bandaged and tender where stitches closed her wounds.

Her future is filled with uncertainty. No one knows yet who she'll go home with when she is ready to leave the hospital.

Within minutes Thursday, most of Jessica's family was dead. Police believe Kelly Silk, 31, killed her husband, then set herself aflame shortly after 1 a.m., possibly because of depression and other psychological problems.

The resulting fire killed Jessica's mother; her 3-year-old sister, Jennifer; and 2-year-old brother, Jonah.

Her surviving sibling, 2-month- old Joshua, is many miles away at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, fighting to recover from serious burns.

James Bump, her father's uncle, said Friday that Jessica seemed surprisingly adultlike as she described the violence she had witnessed and endured.

''She wanted to cry, but she held it in. It's so embedded in her,'' he said after visiting her Thursday at the hospital, where her condition had improved Friday from serious to fair.

For now, she seems to be coping, he said.

''It's times later you have to worry about,'' he said. ''I don't want her to think the world is no good.''

The horrific events of Thursday morning clashed with the outward image of Kelly Silk and her deeply religious family. The Silks' lives revolved around Truth Baptist Church in South Windsor, where they were admired for their dedication to God, community and each other.

For a long time, Kelly Silk prepared regular Sunday meals each week for older church members and other friends; she stopped after Joshua's birth, though, telling friends she was depressed.

Lynn Holmes was among those friends who grew worried and stopped by to visit.

''I had heard a few times that she went through bouts of depression,'' Holmes said.

Silk told Holmes she was concerned about her family's plans to move to North Carolina. There is a for sale sign on the family's front lawn. What would happen, she wondered, to the elderly people she fed and cared for?

Holmes recalled that, every Sunday, Charles Silk, 39, would sit with his arm across the back of the pew, his hand on his wife's shoulder.

''She'd sit in church with those children and hug and kiss them and rub their hair,'' she said. ''She loved her children and her husband.''

But all was not well in the Silk family. Friends and relatives talked about Kelly Silk's depression and the family's struggles with its finances.

Kelly Silk had been estranged from her sister, Kimberly, for several years. Charles Silk had his own problems. His first marriage, to Sally K. Welch, ended in divorce in early 1994, sometime after Charlie told family members that she had attacked him while he slept. After the divorce, Welch moved to California and committed suicide.

Charles also had been estranged from his mother and half-brother for more than a year, a fact they attributed Friday to his relationship with Kelly and the church -- and to his mother's role in sending the state Department of Children and Families to the Silk home.

Charles' mother, Gayla Sanborn, was worried about the family and about abuse she said she witnessed in late 1997. She told her sister-in- law, Teena Bump, James' wife, about her concerns. Teena Bump said she called DCF because of concerns about Kelly Silk's mental condition. Social workers investigated, but determined that the concerns were unfounded.

Kelly Silk told investigators that she had had problems with depression ''in the past,'' according to statement released by the department Friday, ''but neither her statements nor her behavior indicated that those issues were a current problem.''

The department closed the case, but Sanborn was cut off from her son and his family. She learned about the deaths from a neighbor; Charles Silks's half-brother heard a news report on the radio.

''I wish I could have talked to him before this happened,'' Sanborn said Friday. ''I never saw Jonah, and I've got to bury him.''

Sanborn said she wants to raise Jessica and Joshua.

Several neighbors and friends were emphatic about Kelly Silk's kindness and love for her family.

''The woman who committed this crime is not the Kelly Silk that I knew,'' said Maurice Dumas, who lives nearby. ''I've never seen that girl do anything but help people.''

Although Charles Silk seemed more fervent in his Christian faith than Kelly, she sometimes would leave a pre-printed message from the Bible under Dumas' dishes when she dropped off meals, something like, ''Do you believe you've been saved?"

She never tried to hide her depression, either, Dumas said. She told him she was on Prozac, an antidepressantmedication.

''I honestly believe somewhere along the line this medication wasn't being administered,'' he said.

Jessica was well-known in the neighborhood and at church. When she sang in her church's youth choir or attended classes at Emmanuel Christian Academy in Newington, Jessica was always neatly dressed and groomed. She had an engaging, gap-toothed smile, and her resemblance to her mother is clear, friends say.

''She was always active. Sometimes she'd get in trouble, but most times she was like any other kid,'' recalled Mindy Johnston, who often baby-sat for Jessica at junior church a few years ago.

Jessica is expected to stay in the hospital at least through the weekend, and probably into next week. The state Department of Children and Families has not taken custody of her.

''What the department has been doing is assessing whether or not we need to do that, and we are looking into whether there are relatives who are able and appropriate to take care of her,'' said Donna Jolly, a spokeswoman for the department.

James Bump said the date of the funeral is still uncertain because little Joshua's condition is touch-and- go. A spokeswoman at Massachusetts General Hospital said Joshua is still in serious condition; she would not say whether he has had visitors.

Connecticut Children's Medical Center spokesman Tom Hanley said that Jessica has had ''limited visitors,'' and that some people have dropped off gifts for her at the front desk.

But because of the nature of her condition and questions about her guardianship, the hospital was cautious about releasing more information.

''Our top concern is her well-being and recovery,'' he said. ''She needs quiet, rest and time to heal."


Against a Parent´s Will

After a murder and arson, an East Hartford church family took in one of the surviving children. Now, the DCF says the family is unfit to care for him.

By Dan Levine -

March 25, 2004

Nearly five years have passed since the Silk family home in East Hartford went up in flames, the work of a mentally unbalanced mother. Kelly Silk stabbed her husband to death, doused herself and her daughter in gasoline, and then set the fire, apparently intending to murder her entire family.

Two of the Silks' four children survived the June 10, 1999 inferno, including the girl Silk drenched in gas. And just as the tragedy can only be described as seismic, the legal ramifications of those horrific events are still shocking the court system.

In their wills, the Silks left custody of their children to Chad and Sara Prigge. Chad Prigge was a minister at Truth Baptist Church in South Windsor, an independent evangelical group described alternately as a congregation and as a cult, according to a December 13, 2001 civil complaint the Prigges have filed against the state.

The Silks belonged to the church and lived across the street from the Prigges, who rescued the children the night of the fire.

"Chad ... and Sara Prigge awoke to screams for help and a blaze of fire coming toward their house," the complaint says. "Sara recognized the person as Jessica, threw water on her, and had her roll on the front lawn to put out the fire in her hair."

After the murders, the Prigge couple attempted to gain custody of the youngest Silk child, 4-month-old Joshua (the older daughter went to live with her biological father).

Despite the Silks' wishes expressed in their will, the state Department of Children and Families ultimately awarded custody of Joshua to another family who were not members of Truth Baptist Church.

That decision -- and the DCF's decision methods -- prompted an array of legal challenges. First, the Prigges challenged the custody order directly. Though a Superior Court judge harshly criticized the DCF's methods -- including destroying evidence sought under subpoena -- he upheld the agency's decision, saying the child had already formed a bond with the adoptive family. That family had been awarded temporary custody pending the court's decision.

The state Supreme Court decided against the Prigges, ruling that wills are not ultimately binding when it comes to child custody.

But the DCF's actions prompted a separate civil suit from the Prigges, claiming that former commissioner Kristine Ragaglia and other DCF employees discriminated against the family due to their religious beliefs. And a Waterbury Superior Court judge recently resisted the state's attempts to have the lawsuit dismissed in its entirety, ruling that many of the Prigges' claims are specific enough to be considered at trial.

"We know the families we serve are very diverse," says Gary Kleeblatt, a DCF spokesman. "We are very aware of the need to respect those differences. We train for it, and we emphasize them."

But according to the couple's legal complaint, the DCF took a dim view of the Prigges immediately following the fire. A DCF investigator began interviewing witnesses, some of whom described the church as a cult that reportedly did not believe in taking medication, and said the
Prigges employed corporal punishment.

The DCF based its custody decisions on these allegations, "despite overwhelming evidence" that they were false statements, the Prigges' complaint says.

Shortly after the fire, Prigge called DCF caseworker Kelly McVey and declared his intention to pursue custody of Joshua, his complaint says. McVey took notes of the conversation, but when those notes were subpoenaed, she destroyed them, the complaint says. In their place, a typewritten version stated that Prigge was unsure about whether he wished to pursue custody.

"Neither the defendants nor any other DCF representative has ever conducted an inspection of the Prigges' home or interviewed the Prigges," the complaint says.

"Social service agencies cannot make placements solely on the basis of religion," says Phyllis Bossin, a Cincinnati-based attorney who is chairwoman of the family law section for the American Bar Association. "They can't have a policy to refuse to send a Catholic child to a Jewish home."

Nevertheless, every custody case turns on the best interests of the child, Bossin says. And even though parents can express a preference for who gets custody of their child -- as the Silks did in their will -- it is still only a preference, she says.

That means the Prigges have no real rights to Joshua, making their chances of prevailing against the DCF very difficult, Bossin says.

"I don't think they're going to win this suit," she says, adding: "There's not a lot of law on their side."



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