Couple Charged with Setting Fire to Kill Autistic Teen Son

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe)

ALBANY, OREGON--A couple has been arrested and charged with starting a fire in their apartment, then locking their son, who had autism, inside to burn.

Christopher Air DeGroot, 19, died in a Portland hospital Friday afternoon from injuries he sustained during a May 14 fire in his parents' apartment.

Albany Police said evidence at the scene indicated that the fire had been started with paper on the living room floor, most likely by Nicolaas Dirk DeGroot, 45, and Agnes Elizabeth DeGroot, 48.

"Christopher DeGroot was unable to escape the fire because he had been locked inside the apartment by his parents earlier that morning when they left him alone," a police statement read.

Police reported that the parents had installed on the door a dead bolt that required a key to unlock it from the inside, and that they had also placed locks on the windows which Christopher would not have been able to unlatch.

The DeGroots were charged Friday with first-degree arson and first-degree manslaughter. They were being held in the Linn County Jail Monday on $500,000 security.

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May 25, 2006 - InclusionDailyNews Department | Email this story


Comments (newest comments at bottom)

I sure hope that the mother and father both get the death penalty. How any human being can deliberately set a fire to a person is beyond my 25 years of police experience.
Burning to death is one of the most horrific ways that a person can die. Its a very painful and slow death.
I wish the parents would be given the same punishment as this poor child had to endure.

Posted by: AJ on May 25, 2006 11:31 AM

I swear to God, if anybody tries to defend these people or imply that this was somehow humane . . .

Yet it's the same damned thing as the Katie McCarron case and thousands of others. No different in principle. Not at all. I hope that folks are able to recognize that.

And Kassiane, I know you'll hone in on this case any minute. I'd like you to know that I sent a link to your comments on the McCarron "tragedy" (agreed it's a tragedy, but of course that's taken a number of ways) to an enormous list of friends and fellows, disabled and non-, because I think that your statement, "Someone like me was killed for being like me", gives the most poignant perspective on the real horror of the case. Thank you very much.

An aside -- and perhaps not the most tactful place to put it -- but I hope everybody's watching the new X-Men movie Friday! I know it's nerdy, but there is quite a bit of commentary there on the idea of "cure" as genocide that may be easier for folks to swallow since it's presented in fabulous superhero fashion. Professor Xavier is like the Booker T. Washington of the mutant movement, whereas Magneto is more of a Huey P. Newton . . .

Posted by: Evonne on May 25, 2006 02:24 PM

First-degree MANSLAUGHTER? Why is it never MURDER when disabled people are involved?

Posted by: Elisabeth on May 25, 2006 02:50 PM

Is it open season on people with autism all of a sudden? First Katie McCarron, and now this. And here I am getting ready to visit my Mom next month...

Please note that these are hate crimes. These people were killed for no other reason than that they had autism. But the death penalty? Nah. Throw the scum in a dank, rat-infested cell all the way at the back of the jail and slip a moldy breadcrust under the door every couple of days.

Posted by: Mark Romoser on May 25, 2006 02:53 PM

Chalk another one up for utilitarian "thinking."

Believe me, there are people in the world who would justify this atrocity in the name of "quality of life."

Posted by: Susan Nunes on May 25, 2006 08:35 PM

Yes, I'm here and opinionated. Heh.

I hope they fry. Like, dipped in a deep fryer. That will never happen, I will settle for death penalty. And I know people in Oregon (and am not too far either in the scheme of things) who can give them heck like a lot of people are giving the prosecutor in the McCarron case heck.

Evonne-I'm glad you thought my words were worth sharing. And I have a couple quites from the XMen previews in my board signatures for message boards that are parent/autistic mixed.

Hate crimes, yes. And I don't think AutismSpeaks and their disgusting video showing only the negative is innocent. I bet if all the computers involved were subpoenaed they'd find it in the history (theres a 3rd murder, Alison Davies jumped off the bridge with her son Ryan, who had Fragile X and autism).

Much blood is on their hands. And it looks like it's up to a bunch of people with autism and other disabilities to stop the discrimination.

If only disabilities could be included in the "hate crimes" description. That's certainly what the killings are...

Posted by: Kassiane on May 26, 2006 12:37 AM

I have a son who has autism. I could not imagine life without him and he is so loving and kind. How could someone do this to their own son? They should get the death penalty and it is first degree murder. I pray for those people they need it and God will handle them! I believe he is safe in the arms of Jesus.

Posted by: Dana Rankin on May 31, 2006 02:03 AM

I am shocked and dismayed that a parent would purposely murder their child. My child has autism. And while he flaps and laughs and sings and learns about his world I find myself thinking how lucky I am to have such a loving son who always makes me laugh and feel alive.
Yes, he is autisic, and at times it hard to reason with him.I want to pull my hair out! We get through it. All kids disabled and non-disabled drive their parents nuts. We as parents drove our parents nuts. It seems like a rite of passage. Part of growing up is learning.
Where would I be if my grandparents had murdered
my parents.That's right folks both of my parents are disabled. When will these parents finally learn to accept us as we are instead of the cure the cure the cure?
I realize that it is not always easy sailing when you have a child with autism. I would tend to believe as I have already said that any parent would have these days. I know I was difficult at times growing up.
There is no such thing as a mercy killing, only murder.
Every person everywhere has the right to live, to be included and to be loved!
I truely do not understand how a parent can stand there and murder their precious child,a part of them,the future.What has this world come to?

Posted by: Tara Parrish on June 2, 2006 01:50 PM

I am a parent of a child who is not only autistic but medically-fragile. I can't imagine why parents would harm their child because mine is my inspiration. I became an advocate after fighting both the medical then educational systems that were supposed to be helping our family. My child has completely changed my life... for the better.

Posted by: Lauren Agoratus on June 7, 2006 01:05 PM

My daughter, who had autism and epilepsy, died two years ago at the age of 17. She had a seizure and died in her sleep, without warning. To say that the loss devastated our family is a huge understatement. I lost my beloved daughter, my greatest teacher and role model and my direct connection with my beloved disability community.

What I wouldn't give to have her back...To think that there are people deliberately killing their children is beyond belief. The world has lost some of its light.

Posted by: Michele Rowe on June 10, 2006 11:30 AM

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