Is a drug-addicted mom to blame if her child commits suicide?
An Indiana mother was arrested this week for allegedly driving her 16-year-old son to suicide in July. Sabrina Ann Howard, 40, has a history of drug addiction, and prosecutors say her negligence and drug-addled lifestyle led her distraught teenager to end his own life. Here, a brief guide to the tragic tale:
Howard's son died on July 11 in Riley North Children's Hospital in Carmel, Ind., after allegedly ingesting a dangerous cocktail of prescription medications — 30 Xanax pills and 26 tablets of an unspecified painkiller. Howard, a former morphine abuser who allegedly may still be using, claims she confronted her son at 8:30 a.m. on July 10 for stealing her pills. She says her son was "groggy," and he subsequently ambled over to the couch to sleep the rest of the day. At around 4:50 p.m., Howard found her son unresponsive and was unable to wake him up. It was then that she reportedly called an ambulance.
What evidence suggests he killed himself?
Files from the Department of Child Services and comments from family members paint a picture of a young man who was deeply afraid of coming home only "to find his mother OD'ed," says Lindsay Cross at Mommyish. He and his mother fought frequently over her rampant drug use, and in January, the boy reportedly threatened to commit suicide if his mother continued to refuse treatment. "There is no doubt that this boy lived a difficult and stressful life with a woman who was unfit to raise or support him," says Cross.
What crime is the mom being charged with?
Prosecutors are charging her with negligence, but also for directly causing her 16-year-old to kill himself. The state of Indiana has a "causing suicide" law that was written in 1976. The problem? It's barely been used since. Indiana University law professor Fran Lee Watson tells the Associated Press that she can't recall the obscure rule ever being invoked in her 30 years of experience.
Will Howard be convicted?
The law applies to "a person who intentionally causes another human being, by force, duress, or deception, to commit suicide." The challenge for prosecutors will be proving that she intentionally drove her son to kill himself. "They have to show that by duress she intended to bring about his suicide as opposed to failing to get him medical care," Watson tells the Associated Press. Well, however this ends, says Cross, it's a "bizarre and depressing case that I don't think will ever bring vindication or justice."