It is a disturbing story, the likes of which I have never seen in my time covering families, parents and the news that surrounds them. We’ve seen a shockingly high number of parental murder-suicide crimes this winter. But this is the first grandparent murder-suicide that I’ve ever come across. And my heart simply aches for everyone involved.
Debra Denison, a 47-year-old grandmother-of-two with an established history of mental illness, went to pick up her grandsons, Ashton and Alton Perry, from daycare. It was Alton’s second birthday, and Denison had asked her daughter specifically if she could pick up Alton and his 6-month-old brother before they met at the house for presents and birthday cake. Denison seemed calm and cheerful to the workers at the daycare center.
Instead of taking the boys home though, Debra Denison drove to a town miles away and fatally shot the two boys before committing suicide. She killed her infant and toddler grandsons, leaving behind a suicide note and a grieving family.
The family and friends of the young boys’ mother, Brenda Perry, have told the press that Denison suffered from multiple mental illnesses, from bipolar disorder to multiple personalities. The victims’ paternal grandmother explains that Denison had specifically convinced her daughter to let her pick up the boys on this day. In the slightly shaming and condescending way that only a mother-in-law can speak, Marcia White is reported as saying:
“Denison insisted on picking the children up alone even when their mother asked her to bring along another relative. White says Denisonâ€™s struggles with mental health were well known and Perry told Denison the boys were too much for her to handle.
White said Perry told her that Denison asked to pick the boys up to be with Alton on his birthday.”
Even if Marcia White told her daughter-in-law not to let Denison be alone with the boys, I really don’t feel like this is the proper time or venue to share that fact. Her daughter-in-law just lost her children at the hands of her mother. Let’s go for “as supportive as possible.”
This tragic story and the pain that must go with it is simply unimaginable. It’s needless to say that our hearts and prayers go out to Brenda Perry and her family. In response to the tragedy, she posted to Facebook:â€˜â€˜God (has) two beautiful angels helping him now. My boys are in an amazing place we got a few great angels watching over us. love you Ashton and alton.â€™â€™