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Mother convicted of suffocating autistic girl

An Illinois woman who claimed she tried to "fix" her 3-year-old autistic daughter by suffocating her with a plastic bag was convicted of murder Thursday after jurors rejected her insanity plea.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman who claimed she tried to "fix" her 3-year-old autistic daughter by suffocating her with a plastic bag was convicted of murder Thursday after jurors rejected her insanity plea.

The defense had argued Karen McCarron was deeply depressed and became delusional the day she killed her daughter in 2006. But the prosecutor called McCarron a selfish woman who wanted to be free of autism.

In a videotaped confession played during the trial, McCarron told police she could no longer deal with her daughter's illness.

"Maybe I could fix her this way, and in heaven she would be complete," she told police during the interview two days after Katherine "Katie" McCarron's death.

Some witnesses testified during the trial that McCarron was embarrassed by her daughter's condition.

Jurors deliberated for nine hours over two days at the Tazewell County Circuit Court in Pekin before finding the 39-year-old Morton woman guilty of two counts of murder, obstructing justice and concealment of a homicidal death.

McCarron, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, was immediately taken into custody. She faces up to 100 years in prison when sentenced on March 6.

Defense attorney Marc Wolfe said jurors reached the verdict despite "overwhelming" evidence McCarron wasn't in her right mind when she killed Katie.

"I don't believe that the verdict rendered by the jury is consistent with the evidence," said Wolfe, adding it was too early to consider an appeal.

Her husband, Paul McCarron, testified during the trial that his wife had seen psychiatrists in the past and struggled with suicidal thoughts while taking antidepressants.

Psychiatrists disagreed
Two psychiatrists who testified — one for the defense, the other for the prosecution — disagreed over whether Karen McCarron knew what she was doing when she killed her daughter. But they agreed that she was severely depressed at the time.

"At the end of the day this woman had a diagnosis from both experts of mental illness," Wolfe said after the verdict. "It's a very real situation."

McCarron smothered Katie in her parents' home in Morton. She then brought Katie back home, carried the little girl past relatives as if she was asleep and laid her down in a bedroom. McCarron, apparently panicked, told family a while later that she couldn't wake her daughter.

Emergency workers found the little girl not breathing.

Police didn't consider McCarron a suspect until emergency workers were called to the house early the next day to treat the woman for an overdose of over-the-counter drugs.

Prosecutor: Verdict ‘proper and just’
The verdict was "proper and just," said prosecutor Kevin Johnson.

"It's pretty hard to argue your client's insane when she's doing a pretty good job of running around and trying to hide her tracks," Johnson said. "The cover-up, the lengths she went to try to hide this, the façade she put on."

Johnson said McCarron was "eerily calm" when she acted out how she killed Katie, including the use of the bag, during the trial.

"I had her show me exactly what she did and she just did it," he said after the verdict. "She wasn't happy to be having to do it, but she didn't have any problems doing it."

Paul McCarron has filed for divorce. A woman who answered the phone at his home and identified herself as a family member said, "We feel like justice has been done."

A woman who answered the phone at Karen McCarron's mother's home declined to comment.