Posted at March 19, 2012 | By: | Categories: Keeping You Informed | 18 Comments

On the Murder of George Hodgins

Robert Miller
Executive Director
National Fragile X Foundation


Dear Friends in the Fragile X Community,

On March 6th, 2011 George Hodgins, a 22-year old autistic man living in Sunnyvale, California, was murdered by his mother. While there is no evidence that the young man had FXS, that really doesn’t matter. This is about a tragedy and the way some think about those with a disability.

Zoe Gross, an autistic self-advocate, wrote a powerful editorial asks us all to think about what happened in a different way than some of the media have approached the story.

Last Tuesday, George Hodgins was shot and killed by his mother, who then killed herself. George lived here in Sunnyvale and he was 22 years old. I didn’t know George, but I can’t stop thinking about him. Maybe it’s because we have a lot in common — we lived near each other, we were the same age, we’re both autistic, although we led very different lives. I would like to have met George, but I can only mourn him. And I can try to make sure that his story isn’t forgotten.

In the wake of this tragedy, I read a lot of articles that asked the readers to imagine how George’s mother must have felt. But I didn’t see a single article that asked the reader to empathize for George, to imagine how it feels to see your mother point a gun at you. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how hard it must be to live with an autistic relative, but I didn’t see anyone talking about how terrible it be to die knowing that your parent, who you love and depend on, has decided to hurt and kill you.

Because he was autistic, George is being erased from the story of his own murder.

The story of George Hodgins’s death is being discussed and presented as a story of a mother who snapped, and the story of other parents who have felt the same way. It’s being told as a story about a lack of services for families with special-needs children, as though a lack of services is a justification for murder.

When disabled people are murdered by their families, this is the story people want to hear. It’s the same story that we saw in newspapers after Katie McCarron was murdered, and after Jeremy Fraser was murdered, and after Glenn Freaney was murdered, and after Zain and Faryaal Akhter were murdered. The story goes like this: it is understandable that someone would kill their disabled relative if they don’t get help to care for them.

I don’t think this is a true story.

Why is the story being told this way? Because we live in a world that doesn’t acknowledge the value of our lives as disabled people. Because so many people in our society can’t imagine a disabled person living a fulfilling life, so they don’t see the tragedy and the wasted potential when one of our lives is cut short.

As disabled people, we have to take a stand against this kind of thinking. We have to get the word out that our lives matter, that our lives are our own stories and not just the stories of our non-disabled parents and relatives and caretakers. We have to let people know that they are missing part of the story.

Because the story of George Hodgins’s murder is also the story of the disabled community losing one of our own. It’s the story of the other disabled people who were murdered by their family members, and it’s the story of the society that thinks so little of people with disabilities that these murders are all too often justified as “understandable.” Most of all, it’s George’s story — the story of a young man who enjoyed hiking, who was always looking to learn new skills, who had his whole life in front of him.

Now George is gone, and only his memory remains, and already that memory is being distorted by people who want to tell his story and leave him out. That’s not going to happen tonight. We’re here to remember the real story.

Here is her call for action:

It’s obvious that many in our society still regard the murder of disabled people as unimportant, or even desirable. But I’ve also learned that disabled activists can also have an effective on public perception, if we can find a way to get our voices heard.

On behalf of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, I am asking you join us in taking action. On March 30th, help us organize a nation-wide day of mourning for disabled people killed by family members and caregivers. Our goal is to hold vigils in cities across America to memorialize murder victims. Through your help, we hope to amplify our message: that disabled people deserve to live fulfilling lives free of violence.

If you want to help us take a stand against the violence facing our community, please write to me at zgross@autisticadvocacy.org.

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Comments

  • Wow! There is help available, group homes, respite care. My brother Mickey is hard to handle and my mom was always worried that a care giver might hurt him. He is being well cared for in his group home and I look after him. There are other options!!! If we continued more services beyond High School, this would never happen.

  • This tragedy in Sunnyvale really hit home for me, too. I am a mother and caregiver of an adult child with Fragile X Syndrome/Autism. My sister’s THREE adult children also were born with the same disabilities and her youngest is a severely autistic 22-year-old, like George Hodgins was before his mother took his life. My sister’s family is also a client of a Regional Center, just like George Hodgins family was, and like the Hodgins, my sister is NOT getting the basic services she needs, like RESPITE, “relief from caring for a disabled child.” Respite is a basic service provided by the 21 Regional Centers in CA, but my sister’s Respite was taken away by an Administrative Law Judge who ruled that her son’s Protective Supervision hours provided by IHSS (In-Home Support Services,) could be traded for Respite. However, in my sister’s case, she receives the maximum Protective Sup. hours allowed by law, and they still only cover a fraction of what her son requires. He doesn’t sleep through the night, so he requires 24/7 supervision! Since they lost respite, my sister and her husband are seriously considering moving their son into a group home, which will cost the State of CA 1000 times more $ than what Respite costs. So, that judge’s decision will inadvertently burden our already dire state budget woes, if/when my sister and her husband make that decision.

    I’ve been a Parent Advocate for 14 years and have just about had it with the broken service-delivery system for the disabled in California! In the wake of my sister’s loss of Respite and the George and Elizabeth Hodgins murder-suicide in Sunnyvale, CA, I’ve decided to create a non-profit org dedicated to providing Respite on an Emergency, as well as a regular basis, for families affected by autism: “Respite 4 Caregivers of Severely Autistic Adults” or “R4COSAA” I hope you’ll visit my page on the Causes.com site… and if you feel to, please join us in the cause to end these preventable, heart-breaking tragedies from occurring by offering hands-on and heartfelt assistance to families affected by autism. Thank you! I look forward to your feedback. :-) Kerrie

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