Christopher DeGroot had autism. Because he reportedly would bolt from the apartment that he lived in with his parents Nicolaas and Agnes, they locked the windows and doors. Because they needed to go do things like feed their horses without their son, they left him alone in the apartment which was secured against his escape into traffic. Their 19 year old son who had severe autism was left alone in their apartment for several hours a day so they could go do chores. In my opinion,leaving a severely disabled man alone in an apartment without supervision is wrongon so many levels. Even if Christopher DeGroot possessed the knowledge of what todo during an emergency, the deadbolt on the door and the locks on the windows precluded any means to get out. And if he was unable to act during an emergency on his own behalf due to his disabling condition, he should have had a (hired if necessary) caretaker supervising him in his parents' absence.
On Sunday May 14th, 2006 the apartment did indeed catch on fire. Two family cats were saved. One firefighter was injured. 77K of damage was caused to the apartment building and stuff inside of it. Christopher, then 19, had to be airlifted to a hospital in Portland, Oregon. The burns covered 80% of his body. He died on Friday May 19th, 2006.
Nicolaas and Agnes reported to the police station as requested for questioning. They were charged with first-degree arson and first- or second-degree manslaughter. (Report of the manslaughter charges differ in degree). The fire was thought to be caused by arson, specifically by Nicolaas and Agnes DeGroot setting fire to paper in the middle of the living room floor and then leaving their son to burn while they left to feed the bloody horses.
Yeah, they had their day in court where they (via separate attorneys) were allowed to Alford plea the charges. An Alford plea means that the defendants admit that the State can prove its' case against them, but falls short of admitting any guilt on the part of the defendants. The original charges were pled down to criminal negligent homicide.
Two people testified that Nicolaas and Agnes De Groot were cool and devoted parents. Nice to their autistic son, caring about his needs, blah blah blah. The judge decided that the parents did not intend any bad vibes when they left their severely autistic son alone in the apartment without any supervision. He sentenced Nicolaas and Agnes DeGroot to six months in the county jail.This is a case that in my opinion should never have been allowed to be Alford plea'd.
Autistic kids do grow up to be autistic adults unless their uh devoted parents kill them.
Parents charged with first-degree arson and first- or second-degree manslaughter:http://democratherald.com/articles/2006/05/22/news/local/news02.txt
Alford pleas and a sentence to six month in the county jail: