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Mother Charged With ‘Causing Suicide” Of Teen Son Sure Didn’t Prevent It

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suicide pillsLast month, a teenage boy took his life in Muncie, Indiana. It’s a tragedy that would normally bring sympathy and grief for the mother of the child. In this case, the death is the result of bad parenting and could rightfully lead to a mother’s imprisonment.

Sabrina Ann Howard‘s 16-year-old son ingested over 30 Xanax and 26 painkillers, later passing away at Riley Children’s Hospital. Now, the teen’s mother is being charged with causing her son’s suicide, as well as neglect of a dependent, in a bizarre and depressing case that I don’t think will ever bring vindication or justice. There’s no justice to be had for a 16-year-old who simply couldn’t bear to watch his drug-dependent mother waste away and therefore decided to end his life too soon.

Sabrina Howard said that she was a recovering drug addict, though police noted fresh track marks on her wrists at the time of her questioning. She said that she had questioned her son about stealing her medication around 8:30 am on July 10th, but that her son was groggy. After “sleeping” all day on the couch, she realized at 4:50 pm that he was not responsive and couldn’t be woken up. That’s when she finally called for an ambulance.

Other family members and files from the Department of Child Services filled in the story of this young man’s life. His mom was a drug addict. The fear of coming home to find his mother OD’ed weighed on him. He and his mother argued about her drug use. He had threatened to commit suicide in January and his mother refused to get him treatment against medical advice. There is no doubt that this boy lived a difficult and stressful life with a woman who was unfit to raise or support him.

Now, the young man is gone and the courts are attempting to charge his mother with a difficult-to-prove crime. In fact, the prosecutor in eastern Indiana says that he’s never filed such a charge in his entire career. Proving that a person caused another’s suicide involves proving intention. It’s easy to say that this woman did nothing to stop her son’s death, but did she actively seek it? That would be a hard thing to determine.

At first, I have to admit that I got a little tied up on the semantics of the charge. “Causing a suicide” sounds a whole lot like “Murder” to me. If you are the cause of a person’s death, does the person pulling the trigger really matter? Obviously it does in the legal system. But while my mind was quibbling over the wording, I thought about what else to charge this mother with. I have to admit, the idea of not charging her with anything was pretty despicable to me.

While the case is obviously complicated, it boils down to the fact that this mother was unfit to raise a child. She left prescription medications out where a suicidal teenager could get them. She did not get him the medical attention he needed when his mental health needs became both serious and obvious. She continued on with her own destructive behavior instead of seeking help. All of that led to the death of a young man, one who should be worrying about homecoming and studying chemistry. But he’s gone. He died before he could move out of the house and start a life of his own.

Should she be punished for that? Has she already been punished enough, now that she’s lost her only child? Those seem like impossible questions to answer. The lawyers admit that their case is weak. I think it’s possible that the situation is so tragic, we just want to make someone pay for it. We want there to be some form of justice for this boy. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that anything could accomplish that goal.

Sabrina Howard is charged with driving her son to commit suicide. I’m not sure if she made him do it, but it seems like she did nothing to prevent it. She did nothing to care of her child. I don’t know if that makes her a criminal, but it definitely makes her a failure of a mother.

(Photo: adziohiciek/Shutterstock)

1 Comment

  1. Lawcat

    September 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    While sad, this seems like a reaction to place blame for a tragic situation rather than actual justice. If she was a negligent mother, charge her with that. If she was abusive, charge her with that. But “causing a suicide” is a pretty vague charge with potential widespread implications and that I don’t agree with.

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