Jillian McCabe of Seal Rock, Oregon was arrested Monday evening and charged with aggravated murder, murder, first degree and second degree manslaughter after throwing her son London, 6, off of the Yaquina Bay Bridge to his death.
The fall was 133 feet, and the Coast Guard estimated that even if the boy had survived the fall he could have only survived about 20 minutes in the frigid water below.
McCabe and her family have been through some troubling times. London was severely autistic and non-verbal and her husband was diagnosed with MS in 2013. The family had made several pleas for financial assistance through online donation sites, and McCabe’s family has stated that she seemed unstable.
McCabe called 911 herself and told the dispatcher what she had done and waited for police to arrive and arrest her.
Mental illness may have played a role.
A probable cause affidavit obtained by KGW in Portland said that McCabe told police that voices in her head told her to throw her son off the bridge. There are some who would say that the unimaginable stress of raising an autistic child coupled with economic problems might be enough to send someone over the edge.
As the father of an autistic child and a tradesman who saw his livelihood go into the toilet when the economy crashed, I’m not one of those people.
At 6 years old my son could barely speak. Temper tantrums and mood swings brought new challenges on a daily basis. My wife and I dealt with the situation by learning something called acceptance and practicing what we’ve come to affectionately call “infinite patience.”
I feel for Jillian McCabe, and certainly her situation is unique to her, but I find the end result unfathomable. When the economy crashed we did whatever we had to do to survive. Public assistance, temp jobs, digging through trash for metal to scrap, you name it, we did it.
Add to that the inevitable change in routine of an autistic child who couldn’t have the things he had grown accustomed to, because we couldn’t afford them, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Our disaster response was love and understanding. Our younger daughter ended up in therapy and there were days we were sure we weren’t going to make it. Remembering those times makes my eyes swell.
Autism doesn’t have to end in tragedy.
What Jillian McCabe did, whether it be a past-the-breaking-point collapse of judgement due to mental illness or the easy-way-out will undoubtedly come to light as the story develops. All I can do is pass along my experience to the parents of the one in eighty-eight children born with autism in this country.
You are not alone. It’s never hopeless. You can persevere.
My son is 16 now and a high school sophomore. His speech has developed right along with his personality. While being his father still poses challenges on a daily basis, not a day goes by that I regret having him, and never once have I considered hurting him.
Autistic children didn’t ask for the hand they were dealt, and they count on us as parents, friends, neighbors and mentors to assist them in their transition into the world at large. Jillian McCabe failed at that. I hope for her sake that mental illness can be determined to be the mitigating factor in her decision.
If you find yourself in her situation and you feel that all hope is lost and you absolutely have to end a life, please…Leave the innocent child at home and walk yourself to the bridge.
I apologize if my take on this story seems harsh, but this is by far the most difficult article I’ve ever written.