Saturday, August 18, 2007

Murder Most Foul

I was the first one to volunteer to go on a two-week [school integration busing experiment]. It was the best two weeks of my life, as far as my years K [through] 6 are concerned. I could not wait until the list came out to see if my birthday was selected as one to be bused. …when it wasn't, I was still thrilled that we were going to have a group [of black children] attend Riverside Elementary… where I attended. …all the friendships I made back in the 60's… we are still friends to this day; and even though I don't have an opportunity to see anyone that often, my life is still much richer from those friendships.*

I felt like I was reading her personal diary; it was so intimate. I could hear her voice in my head. Like so many of us, she is concerned about race relations. She seems nice. From her 60s references, I guessed her to be about 10 years younger than me. I thought we might be friends. Unfortunately, we will never meet. Her husband threw her off a fourth floor balcony August 14, 2007. Criste Reimer died on contact with the cold hard pavement.

Her husband, Stanley Reimer, said she did not have insurance and he could no longer afford her care. Court documents reveal he felt financially desperate because of his wife’s medical problems; so he walked her to the balcony of their fourth-floor Kansas City apartment, kissed her, and then threw her to her death.

It will come as no surprise to those of us who are documenting the recent murders by family members or healthcare providers, that Criste had disabilities. Several in fact… she had uterine cancer, was partly blind, traumatic brain injury, knee surgeries, neurological disease, hypothyroidism and hydrocephalus. She was also on a host of medications. It is no reason for murder.

The husband readily admits that he threw his wife of 18 years over the balcony because she cost too much. The state of Missouri charged him with second-degree murder.

Second-degree murder is 1) an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable "heat of passion" or 2) a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life. [Emphasis Added]

In most states, first-degree murder is an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or "lying in wait" for the victim.

You make the call.

For several months Criste lived at her mother’s home. In mid-July, Stanley came to visit and said he was taking his wife out for dinner. According to Criste’s sisters, she never returned to her mother’s home. In a newspaper interview they also reveal that Stanley tried to keep Criste from calling her mother and sisters.

This is not a story about the country’s healthcare crisis. It is about a man who murdered his wife because she got too expensive and became too much of a burden to him. Like millions of others, he could have declared bankruptcy; he could have divorced her; he could have become an advocate of universal single payer healthcare; he could have taken their story to the legislature. He had options.

They were not without resources. The online Kansas City Star is covering the murder. The reader comments under the articles describe where they lived as “affluent”. Stanley was an accountant for Nelson-Atkins Museum; it is not a minimum wage job. My gut tells me there is much more to this story. Time will judge that assumption.

She is not alone.

  • Daniel Benoit –June 2007 – Murdered by his father.
    Daniel was seven when his dad, Chris, an all-star professional wrestler killed him by first sedating him and then choking him to death. Daniel’s mother, who was also murdered, wanted Chris to stay home and help her with their child with autism. Daniel’s frailty embarrassed Chris; plus taking care of Daniel took too much of his time.

  • Emilio Gonzales –April 2007 – Public outcry and a judge’s order kept doctors from taking Emilio’s life.
    Emilio was 18 months old when caregivers threatened his life. They planned to remove his ventilator at Austin’s Children’s Hospital. Texas’ Futility Law would legally allow them to do that, if they believed he would not recover from his illness. The law allows it even over his parents’ objections. It would most assuredly cause his death. They say it is because they do not want to child to suffer. However, just think of all that money the state could save.

    Emilio died in May 2007, but not because he had his respirator removed. It does not justify or begin to explain why doctors would want to remove his respirator. Does removing the respirator fit under the doctors’ moral obligation to “do no harm” to this child?

  • Nyakiambi Whitten – April 2006 – Butchered by her mother.
    Nyakiambi was 34 years old when her 57-year-old mother stabbed her daughter to death with a butcher knife, put her in a car and drove it off an embankment. She had cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities. Nyakiambi’s mother killed her because she was “worn out“.

  • Katie McCarron – May 2006 – Suffocated by her mother.
    Katie was three when she was murdered; it was one year earlier, when a doctor diagnosed her with autism. In May 2006, her mother, Karen, a physician, suffocated her. Karen said Katie would not take her afternoon nap. That is when she gathered up Katie and her sister and drove to Grandma’s house; she let them play a few minutes, and then killed Katie. She hid the evidence at a gas station. She later confessed that she put a white plastic bag over Katie’s head and held it there until she died; then recanted her confession. Katie’s mother "wanted a life without autism”. Katie died because she asked too much of her mother.

  • Ruben Navarro – January 2006 – Murdered by a doctor.
    Ruben had adrenal leukodystrophy. He mom acquired a disability too and could no longer care for him. She put him in a nursing home where he received neglectful care. He had a cardiac arrest and sent to a hospital. They told his mother he would die if removed from respirator, which they would do after five days. The California Donor Network got her permission to remove his organs and the transplant doctor, to hasten death gave him 200 milligrams of morphine, 80 of Ativan and poisoned him with Betadine.

The murders we know of are just the tip of the iceberg; many more escape our attention. There is no doubt that the societal view of disability is “better off dead.” Social constructs in our society are set up around that belief. “Do no harm” does not apply to anyone with a disability.

Deborah Kendrick, a Cincinnati-based writer and advocate believes, “[It is] akin to the old Jim Crow South, where no real investigation [was] warranted when a black was murdered by a white.”

It is not enough that we yell at one another about neglect and murders by medical staff and families. We, as advocates, need to take this conversation out of our community and into the streets.

Not Dead Yet is doing a stellar job of bringing these issues to the forefront. Nevertheless, it is not enough. They need, we need, more people - choirs across the country singing out - screaming out against the exterminations of our brothers and sisters with disabilities by the people they should trust the most.



*I got the passage from Amazon.com. Criste wrote it in reaction to Patricia Raybon’s book, My First White Friend: Confessions on Race, Love and Forgiveness.

Read a related article here

1 comment:

stacey said...

thanks for posting, am going to link this entry on my blog tomorrow morning.