bath tubThere's some sad news out of San Diego. A mother has been sentenced to 15 years for drowning her autistic son in the family bathtub. Patricia Corby said she was planning to commit suicide after killing 4-year-old son Daniel. Instead she drove to a police station and turned herself in for what prosecutors would eventually term second-degree murder.

Now she's headed for prison and no one, not even Corby's own family, seems to want to have anything to do with her. The boy's father told her he hates her with all his "heart and soul." An aunt called Corby "evil."

Their reactions aren't uncommon. Sometimes families rally around their loved one, loving the sinner while hating the sin. Others strike out in anger, in hatred.

Patricia Corby murdered a child. It's an act that's particularly heinous.

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And yet, in situations like this, those of us on the outside tend to look for a reason, don't we? Not an excuse, necessarily, but an explanation. How does a mother kill her own child? Is there some extenuating circumstance?

Corby was the primary caregiver for her son who had reportedly been making developmental strides since his autism diagnosis, but not enough for her. Investigators said she was severely depressed and frustrated:

She felt like her whole existence was dedicated to her child. She felt like she had no life. She wanted Daniel to be normal.

Coupled with Corby's plans to commit suicide herself, her decision to turn herself in, her family's huge bills for Daniel's autism treatments, the description isn't of a cold-blooded killer but a woman with nowhere to turn. It's hard not to feel a least a modicum of sympathy. That's not excusing a criminal; it's being human.

This is where we are caught, as humans, wondering what to think. It is human to show mercy. But is there is room for sympathy for a killer when a child is dead? If this woman's family can't continue to love her, can anyone forgive her?

Here are the words of the victim's father:

I hate you with all my heart and soul. You killed our handsome little boy who is without sin ... he had an IQ of 100 ... you hit him on the head and drowned Daniel ... You are a selfish person. To you I say adios.

This is a man grieving the loss of his little boy at Patricia Corby's hands. The same goes for the little boy's aunt. Here's what she had to say to Corby:

You did the most selfish and heinous thing. You murdered him in cold blood. Part of our hearts stopped beating the stars went out in the sky.

The trials and troubles Corby went through before she made the choice to take her son's life may make her a sympathetic figure, but these people will never be able to recover from the loss of a little boy they loved. The question is whether you can sympathize with both or only one.

How does the family's judgment of Corby affect what you think of the woman who drowned her child?

 

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