EXPERT: SEVERE DEPRESSION, DESPAIR COULD DRIVE PARENT TO KILL CHILD — (THE ORLANDO SENTINEL)

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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL

November 4, 1994

Author: By Delthia Ricks of The Sentinel Staff

Violence against children is a growing tragedy, underscored in Central Florida by several recent murders of youngsters at the hands of their mothers.    Dr. Irving Kolin, a Winter Park psychiatrist, says there is no single profile of a parent who would harm a child, and there are dozens of reasons why someone could be pushed to such an extreme.

”One thing has to be understood,” Kolin said Wednesday. ”No psychiatrist can tell you about the case of someone that he (or she) has not examined.”

Mental and emotional conditions, such as extreme depression and family discord, can drive an adult to a heinous act against a child, he said.

”In severe depression we see the dynamic of people feeling hopeless and thinking of taking their own lives and if they have small children perhaps thinking of taking their lives, too, because they see the world as dangerous and not too great a place to be.”

Donna Brown, 37, thought she was protecting her daughters from sexual abuse when she smothered them in April last year at an Osceola County motel. She had driven nonstop from Fort Wayne, Ind., to give the children, ages 3 and 5, a final day at Walt Disney World.

”I just thought if they were in heaven they would be safe,” Brown said in court before being sentenced this year to 40 years in prison.

In August, Dorothy Board shot her three children, ages 4, 6 and 9, as they slept in their Sanford home. All three died. Board killed them and herself with a gun she had taken from her parents’ home.

Family members said Board, 27, had threatened to kill herself and her children on several occasions and that she was taking medication for chronic depression.

Christina Rubio of Orlando pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in September for fatally poisoning her year-old son with the medicine ipecac in 1990. She received probation earlier for the 1991 poisoning of her 4-month-old daughter, who nearly died.

Authorities called Rubio, 29, a classic case of Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy, a disorder in which parents secretly make their children sick. Experts say those parents want to become saviors or heroes in their children’s eyes by trying to make them better. They also seek to draw attention to themselves in hospitals.

National figures estimate 19 of every 1,000 children between the ages of 3 and 17 experience physical abuse annually by a parent or guardian. Upward of 2,000 children die each year as a direct result of such violence.

Kolin noted that psychiatric studies of people who have killed loved ones reveal that after the violence was committed, killers sometimes enter ”a dissociative state,” meaning they are unable to recall or believe they committed the crime.

Copyright 1994 Sentinel Communications Co.
Record Number:  9411040028