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The Patriot Ledger
By Tamara Race
Posted Sep. 18, 2007 at 12:01 AM
BROCKTON Quincy, MA – Helen Kirk, 33, pleaded innocent at her arraignment in Wareham District Court on charges of strangling her 3-year-old son Justin on March 7 at their home in Carver. She was ordered held without bail pending 30 days of psychiatric observation at Taunton State Hospital.
BROCKTON – Most saw the shining bright smile of a happy 3-year-old in Justin Kirk’s face. His mother saw the devil and strangled him because of it, according to police reports. “I was following the signs. Justin is the devil,” Helen Kirk, 33, told her sister and a Carver police officer as she sat handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.
That was Tuesday morning after Justin was found dead in his bedroom. Police said Kirk was handcuffed for her own protection and was later taken to McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont. State pathologist Richard Evans determined yesterday that Justin had been strangled, and Kirk was arrested at the hospital. Kirk pleaded innocent today at her arraignment in Wareham District Court. She was ordered held without bail pending 30 days of psychiatric observation at Taunton State Hospital. She sobbed loudly as she was led away in handcuffs. Kirk’s brother, Jewel Knight, said today at the courthouse that she was upset about the death of a cousin in Iraq. The cousin, Marine Staff Sgt. Jason Lehto, 31, of Warren, Mich., died Dec. 28 in an accident in Anbar province, according to the Defense Department. Knight said he had not noticed any changes in his sister’s behavior recently and she appeared normal and happy when he saw her last week. Knight and his fiancee were with Kirk at McLean Hospital last night when police arrived to arrest her. He said she was in tears, and he gave her a hug. As police led her away, he said he promised to stand by her. Knight said the family is shocked and cannot explained what happened. “Helen was overprotective, if anything, of her son,” he said. “That’s my baby sister and I love her and I’ll stand by her no matter what.” Plymouth attorney Jack M. Atwood is representing Kirk, whom he said has been having mental problems. “It’s a terrible tragedy,” he said today before the arraignment.
Kirk, her two children and her sister, Charlene Cribben, have been living at the family home in Carver. On Tuesday morning, according to police reports, Kirk entered the room Cribben shared with Kirk’s 14-year-old daughter, Heather, and calmly said, “Police are coming, I called the police. I’m a bad person.” The police reports then depict the following: Cribben noticed a cut and some blood on Kirk’s wrist. “What did you do? What do you mean you’re a bad person?” Cribben asked. Kirk repeated the phrase so many times without explanation, Cribben grew suspicious and went to Justin’s room. The boy was lying in bed on his back with the covers pulled up to his chest. His eyes were closed. His face blue. He was not breathing. “What did you do to him?”
Cribben yelled to her sister. Cribben laid the boy on the floor and tried to revive him while calls were made to 911. Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz said Cribben, who was staying at the family’s home at 289 Meadow St., was awakened around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday by what appeared to be a choking sound coming from Justin’s bedroom. When Cribben went to investigate, the door to the boy’s bedroom was closed. Seeing a light shining under the door, she assumed her sister was caring for Justin. Cruz said Cribben returned to bed and was awakened at 5 a.m. by Kirk, who told her there was a problem with Justin. That’s when Cribben went into Justin’s room and found him lying motionless on his bed, he said. Kirk then made two 911 calls five minutes apart, Cruz said. In the first call, he said, she told police that someone in the home wasn’t feeling well, but an ambulance wasn’t needed. When Kirk made the second call at 5:05 a.m., she asked for an ambulance, and a third call was made two minutes later by her daughter, who said Justin not breathing. Meanwhile, police arriving at the home found Kirk in the driveway. When officers went inside, they found Justin lying face up on the floor of his bedroom. Cruz said Cribben had attempted to revive her nephew. Rescue workers took over resuscitation efforts while police questioned Cribben, Heather and Kirk. The boy was taken to Jordan Hospital in Plymouth, where he was pronounced dead at 6:04 a.m. Cruz said an autopsy showed that the cause of death was “asphyxiation due to neck constriction.”
“We are looking into what may have been used,” Cruz said. “It could have been hands. We are still looking at evidence that was taken at the scene.” Kirk did not respond to police questions at the scene, according to a police report. She was handcuffed and placed in the back of the cruiser after she became agitated. Heather told police her mother was acting ‘weird’ the day before the murder, “like when she was put in an institute.”
She wasn’t talking and seemed sad, the girl said. Cribben told police her sister had a breakdown two years ago and was hospitalized for two weeks. She said that breakdown was related to her sister’s then impending divorce. Cribben told investigators Kirk had taken the antidepressant Zoloft in the past and sought counseling, but was doing neither now. According to the police reports, Cribben said Kirk was tired from working nonstop since Friday. However, a spokeswoman for the nursing home where Kirk worked said she hadn’t been there for three days.
Cribben also reported that Kirk had said both Sunday and Monday nights that she was “bad” and a “bad mother,” and that she should be doing more with her life.
Kirk told her she feared her ex-husband, Joseph Kirk, would take the children away, although Cribben knew of no pending custody matters between them.
Officers took Kirk to the Carver police station for questioning. After she was read her rights, she muttered something about ‘‘signs’’ and asked for a lawyer, according to police reports.
She was then taken to Jordan Hospital and later to McLean for a psychological evaluation.
As police arrived at Jordan Hospital, Kirk said, “Oh, no. Oh, no. I screwed up. I screwed up.”
Joseph Kirk, the children’s father, who lives nearby, went to the scene.
He asked about Justin’s condition, telling them, “I know she killed him.”