Trial of Karen McCarron: Day 5—McCarron blames herself for letting her child be vaccinated

On the fifth day of her trial, former pathologist Karen McCarron testified that she blamed herself for her daughter’s autism. WEEK reports that

……..McCarron told her defense attorney that she felt responsible for Katie’s autism because she allowed her the child [sic] to get vaccinated.

Prosecutor Kevin Johnson took out a white plastic garbage bag similar to the bag that McCarron used to suffocate her daughter, Katherine “Katie” McCarron:

Using his fist as the little girl’s head, he had McCarron demonstrate how she killed the child.

When Johnson asked McCarron how long she held the bag over Katie’s head, McCarron replied for about two minutes until she stopped struggling and defecated on herself.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Katie died one to four minutes after her oxygen supply was cut off, according to forensic pathologist Violette Hnilica, who performed the autopsy on the child’s body.

The January 10th Pekin Times includes testimony by Illinois State Police crime scene investigator Sgt. Monica Harms from day 3 of the trial:

Harms testified that in the early morning hours of May 14, 2006, the Morton Police Department contacted her in regard to investigating two areas suspected to be part of a murder scene.

Harms said she first arrived at the McCarron house, located at 390 E. Idlewood Drive, in Morton. While at the home, she began investigating the scene with fellow investigator Sgt. Michael Oyer.

During the investigation of McCarron’s home, where Katie was found dead, Harms said that a Bible was found on the floor of the master bathroom upstairs.

The bathroom is where McCarron’s husband, Paul, found Karen McCarron sitting on the floor shortly after attempting to comment suicide the same night she killed Katie.

Inside the Bible, Harms found a hand-written note from Karen McCarron, believed to have been written at the time the attempted suicide took place.

However, the contents of the letter were not released to the court.

Also found on the bathroom counter were several pills, later identified as Tylenol.

The two investigators then went to the home of McCarron’s mother, Erna Frank, where Katie was killed. Frank’s house is located just a few blocks away from the McCarron home. However, no physical evidence was found.

On May 15, Oyer was called to a local gas station where police believed McCarron hid the trash bag she used to kill Katie.

After searching through garbage in a large trash bin at the gas station, investigators found a white kitchen trash bag that met the description given by McCarron during a confession.

Ann Midden, an Illinois State Police crime lab technician, testified that she received the white trash bag at the Illinois State Police Crime Lab where it was analyzed for evidence.

According to Midden, a DNA substance was retrieved after she noticed possible teeth marks on the inside of the bag.

Illinois State Police forensic scientist Debra Minton testified she received the DNA from Midden in order to analyze the substance.

After receiving a DNA sample from Katie’s body, Minton was able to conclude that the DNA found in the trash bag matched Katie’s.

When asked how sure she was the DNA was a match, Minton said that only 1 in 1.6 quadrillion people could have that type of DNA and that that one person was Katie.

While fingerprinting the bag, crime lab technician Robert Renea said he was also able to retrieve a palm print that was ultimately matched to Karen McCarron’s. The palm print was found on the outside of the bag.

Earlier in the day, the court heard testimony from McCarron’s mother-in-law, Gail McCarron – Katie’s paternal grandmother.

Gail testified she first met Karen McCarron nearly 20 years ago after her son, Paul, began dating McCarron in college.

“We loved Karen very much. It was nice to have another female around the house,” Gail said.

Shortly after Katie was diagnosed with autism in late 2003, Paul and Gail moved with Katie to North Carolina in order for Katie to attend a special school for children with autism. The three lived there for nearly two years.

Karen McCarron and her younger daughter, Emily, stayed in Morton so McCarron could continue working as a pathologist. She would fly to North Carolina regularly to visit.

Gail said at one point, after the three moved back to Morton, McCarron asked her what she thought about institutionalizing Katie.

Gail responded to her by saying, “Karen, please don’t do that. I would take care of her.”

Gail McCarron said Karen McCarron became very detached from Katie in the months leading up to the child’s May 13, 2006, death.

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    • mayfly

      The most harrowing account I’ve ever read. I’m sick from it. It’s as if one was exposed to pure evil.

    • feebee

      This is almost unreadable.

    • dkmnow

      When asked how sure she was the DNA was a match, Minton said that only 1 in 1.6 quadrillion people could have that type of DNA and that that one person was Katie.

      Now, I’m hardly inclined to “defend” McCarron, and my understanding of DNA testing is admittedly very limited. But from what I do understand, the claim above treads far beyond the merely implausible, taking us instead for a gay stroll through the enchanted woods of scientistic fairy-tale land.

      Projecting the possible consequences of such extraordinary claims, one is given to wonder where the prosecution’s real sympathies may lie…

    • Melissa

      I have tears in my eyes as I read this. I have avoided the coverage of the trial but today something made me click. This just sickens me.

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      This account left few details unsaid, it seems.

      @dkmnow—I thought the “1 in 1.6 quadrillion” was a rather……extravagant estimate. The facts say plenty on their own.

    • Bluejay Young

      For someone who would purportedly stop at nothing to find a cure, it looks like she didn’t pursue all the options. If she suspected that Katie’s autism had to do with vaccines, why didn’t she have her chelated? Not that chelation cures anything, but as a pathologist, she must have had contacts who could direct her to someone who really knew how to do it properly, perhaps at the U of I.

      Come to think of it, there has been an office (I can’t remember what it’s called) that specializes in abnormal child psychology and testing at the U of I since at least the 1950s. Why didn’t she have her evaluated there? Why didn’t she get second, third, fourth and a millionth opinions? What’s really going on here?

    • Portia Allen

      I think that she is just using the “Vaccines Cause” (which by the way I do not believe in) as a way to take some of the blame off of herself and just admit that she did not want to take care of a child with Autism.

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      McCarron had tried to suffocate her daughter 3 days earlier using a pillow, the Charlotte Observer reports. The article goes into more detail about Katie’s death.

      Thank you for writing here, Portia.

    • VAB

      To be frank, I think this is a little morbid and reposting at such length and in such detail could be mistaken for being voyeuristic.

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      I realize that. I have wanted to keep track of the facts. Having followed this case and the response in the popular press about it in the spring and summer of 2006, and remembering well how all the then-members of the Autism Hub posted about Katie McCarron and the sense of solidarity that ensued, I hope that that sense, and the events of Katie’s life can live on.

    • Kev

      VAB – there is nothing voyeuristic in what Kristina has done. She is making sure that the community she is part of is informed of a story that matters to us a great deal.

      She is also making sure that no one in this community can be unaware of Katie. It is hard to read and it should be hard to read. But it must be read.

      What the paternal McCarron family have been through this week is almost unimaginable in its potential for pain. To play down, or leave unsaid, what was done to Katie would be a dismissal of that pain and effort. Thank you Kristina.

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      In reading about the trial, I’ve had the feeling that many of us have wished that we didn’t have to read such things, but they happened, and they need to be remembered. I think.

      In reading Karen McCarron’s own testimony and the testimony of what she said about autism and her daughter, I’ve been struck by the sense that I’ve read and heard other parents saying similar things before, about “cure” for sure but also about parents wanting to “get autism out of their life” or “blaming” themselves for getting a child vaccinated—-as if they someone inadvertently “caused” autism in their child, and sometimes that self-blame turns into fervent beliefs about a certain cause of autism. People say these sorts of things regularly and, it seems to me, there’s the sense that “they don’t really mean it, it’s just words.”

      Today’s Peoria Journal-Star contains this exchange—-

      Defense attorneys Marc Wolfe and Steve Baker have entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.

      “When you were suffocating your daughter, did you think you were killing her?” Wolfe asked McCarron.


      “Who did you think you were killing?”


      And how many times have we heard statements like “I love my child, I hate the autism”—-what’s the real effect of such statements?

    • kyra

      it IS almost unreadable, it’s so disturbing in a way that makes me want to tear out of the house, screaming. but it did happen and i read your accounts because you are presenting them straight, with no added hype.

    • Autismville

      And how many times have we heard statements like “I love my child, I hate the autism”—-what’s the real effect of such statements?

      I am incredibly sincere when I say I would like a cure for Jack’s autism. We differ in that view, but that’s the way the world works … Many, many different perspectives and experiences out there.

      That said, today and every day I love him fiercely and would not love him an ounce more if he were cured. And I certainly would never, ever hurt my sweet boy.

    • Marla

      I can’t imagine or understand this mother’s perspecitve of her daughter. This is so sad and makes me feel sick to read. I do think it needs to be shared though. I would not have sought out this information on my own as sad as that is to say. I would not have even heard about it if it was not for the HUB. So, I am thankful to have others who are working to inform me. Then, if I want to look into it further I will.

    • Kristina Chew, PhD

      Jypsy at Runman blog posted a description of Katie posted here by her grandfather, Michael McCarron. It’s lovely and lovingly written; hope everyone will read it. This is an excerpt:

      I would like to say something about Katie. Some newspapers have reported that this was done to end Katie’s pain; let me assure you that “Katie was not in pain”. She was a beautiful, precious and happy little girl. Each day she was showered with love and returned that love with hugs, kisses and laughter. Katie loved music; she would fill in some of the words in children’s songs as my wife would sing along with the CD that would be playing, their own version of “karaoke” . She liked to dance, she loved to do the “hooky poky”. She loved being in among flowers and tall grass. She would say “I like grass”. She enjoyed the zoo and because of all of the drills and flashcards she could identify the animals. Which I thought was pretty amazing for such a young child. She was also the only little child in her non-autistic play group that could identify an octagon. My wife and son had a party for her the day they heard that from the teacher.

      Here is the rest.

    • M’sDad

      I also think Karen McCarron’s actions were unspeakably horrid, and I take Kristina’s point that it’s crucial to remember Katie and to understand that statements like “I hate the autism, I love my child” are in no way innocuous, since they reveal an unhealthy attitude and a lack of comprehension of autism as an integral aspect of an individual.

      That said, I also wonder (and this is *not* meant to be flippant or dismissive, just an honest dilemma) whether returning to the specifics of McCarron’s murder of her daughter is fruitful. I suspect that the fact that she killed Katie — or even *how* she did it — is not going to be at question in the trial: but I do think it’s valid to think about what might be a legitimate, productive solution to this dreadful situation.

      Is McCarron mentally unbalanced, or was she at the time? Is she just (as someone implied at some point on this forum) evil? Would putting her to death, or jailing her for life, truly serve as a deterrent to other parents who may be (???) considering similar actions? Or regardless, is it important to have her punished … for the sake of Katie’s memory?

      I really would value everyone’s opinion on this. Of course, it’s not up to us to decide — the jury will do that — but I do think it’s at least as valuable to reflect on “what now” (as well as remembering Katie’s life) than to dwell on whether/how (or even *why*) McCarron did what she did.

    • Maddy

      A bible?

    • stopautismquackery

      “Who did you think you were killing?”
      –Karen McCarron

      “I’m going to send a ballistic missile into the heart of autism”.
      –Bernie Rimland, Father of a son on the ASD spectrum

    • Kassiane


      Thank you for posting this. It’s hard reading but it SHOULDNT be easy.

      I still want to hug Katie.

    • Kev

      M’s Dad – no, I don’t think she is in anyway mentally unstable to the point of the instability being an explanation for Katie’s killing.

      She (Karen) was temporarily on meds for depression. I seem to recall reading the meds she was on have no history of increased suicide or violence risk. To me, the whole mental instability argument is just another shallow (and to some of us) insulting ploy.

      To me, the issue of deterrent is secondary. The primary issue is that Karen is punished for her act.

    • Pingback: Trial of Karen McCarron: Day 6()

    • Misshermuch

      I knew Katie very well. She was a beautiful child and I miss her everyday. She had a contageous smile and beautiful eyes. Her father and grandmother loved her very much and did everything they could for her, if only they had been given the chance to continue.

    • MathGuy

      It seems as if people are disputing the one in 1.6 quadrillion figure. It seems to me, that this is probably a known figure. I will admit that I have limited experience in biology, but I will assure you that I am a mathematician, with a background in criminal law. I do not find it all that hard to believe that the forensic investigator was able to check each of the 26 chromosones to check for a match. The investigator could then look at the chances of each chromosone matching. Say that the chance of each one is one in 5. the chances of one matching would be 1/5, two – 1/25, 3 – 1/125, etc. You could see how this number can get very large, very quickly. Thus, I don’t find it hard to imagine that 1 in 1.6 quadrillion is out of the question

    • http://autisimvox sus

      Karen M knew what she was doing.For Gods sake she was a pathologist….What goes around comes around and prison is just the place for her to be