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An elderly Florida woman who cared for her disabled grandson is facing second-degree murder charges after giving him a fatal overdose of drugs this past weekend. Lillian Parks, the 87-year-old woman, told police that she purposely overdosed her grandson over worries about who would care for him after she died.
Bradenton police arrived at the Carlton Arms apartment complex around noon on Sunday to respond to reports of a deceased individual. It was there that they discovered the lifeless body of 30-year-old Joel Parks. According to police, it was Joel Parks’ sister who found the body in their grandmother’s apartment.
Family and neighbors specified that Joel Parks was not physically disabled. They said he suffered from some mental issues that were a result of an accident that he had as an infant. This left him with the mind of a child and therefore required constant supervision and care. Parks lived in a group home during the week and then stayed with his grandmother on the weekends, as his father was deceased and his mother estranged.
Neighbors say that when they saw the ambulance pull into the Parks’ drive they had assumed it was for Lillian given her age and were shocked to discover that it was instead there for Joel.
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Some speculate wether this could be a case of euthanasia — the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering due to the fact that Lillian Parks has no criminal history. In fact, she has only had one traffic ticket, which occurred 16 years ago back in 2003. Public records show that Parks is a former nurse, having held a license in the state of Tennessee from 1977 to 1983. Police are awaiting a toxicology report to determine what was given to Joel and whether the drugs used to kill him were legal, given her medical background. There were no signs of physical trauma or evidence to indicate a violent death.
While police were on the scene, Lillian Parks made multiple comments indicating that this was the best outcome for Joel as she feared she would die soon. Bradenton Police Captain Brian Thiers said that Lillian continuously voiced concern over her medical condition and was worried about who would be caring for him in the event that she passed away. Parks is now in protective medical custody for evaluation of any existing mental or physical health issues.
Captain Thiers said a judge signed an arrest warrant for Ms. Parks on second-degree murder charges this past Wednesday; however, there is no timeline for when she will be released from medical evaluation to be taken into police custody.
Law enforcement is at the mercy of medical staff right now but at the end of the day, she took a human life. Take out all the variables in this. Take out her age, his disability. She took a human life, and she did it on her own. That’s how we are looking at this. It’s a second-degree murder charge.”
According to Captain Thiers, this is a difficult case for detectives. “Partly we feel bad for an individual who feels that the only option is to take another human being’s life because they’re so worried about their care after they’ve gone,” he said. “But, again, she took a human life,” he added. “We don’t discriminate based on age or race — anything. We have to look at it from the totality of the circumstances. And, at the end of the day, we have to protect his rights, too.”
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Sadly, this tragic story is just one of many. Peter Berns, chief executive of The Arc, a national advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, notes that cases like this occur with some regularity.
“We hear too frequently of parents or caregivers who murder their family members with disabilities or individuals they are caring for,” he said. “It’s tragic that this happens with the frequency that it happens. It is plain and simple a horrible crime. And there is, like most murders, no justification for it whatsoever.”
He said he believes this case should be prosecuted to the extent of the law. “Even if the person wasn’t receiving services, murder is not the solution,” he asserted.
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