Mother Suffocates Son Out of Fear of Autism

Photo by Paul Aiken / Pool Daily Camera

A six-month-old boy was suffocated by his own mother on June 1st, because she feared that he could be autistic.

Stephanie Rochester, a 34 year old mental health counselor, believed she saw signs of autism in her 6-month-old child Rylan.  She said that she wanted to enjoy her life with her husband, but knew that would not be possible if her son was diagnosed with autism.

An affidavit seeking Rochester’s arrest stated that she was suffering from postpartum depression, and she wanted to kill herself; although, she did not want to leave her husband to raise an autistic child by himself.  Rochester has been arrested on two counts of first degree murder and child abuse resulting in death

After a visit to the hospital because Rylan wasn’t eating and being overly fussy, Rochester’s husband, Lloyd, made a comment about not realizing how difficult raising a child would be.  When they went home and put Rylan in bed, Rochester put a plastic bag over Rylan’s head and a blanket over his face.  She eventually told Detective Mark Spurgeon that she had researched carbon monoxide poisoning deaths and believed that it would give Rylan a painless death.  She removed the bag after a minute, and Rylan was breathing regularly.  Rochester than went downstairs and had dinner with her husband.  Upon finishing their meal, Rochester went back upstairs and put three blankets over Rylan’s face.

When they went to sleep that night, Stephanie and Lloyd Rochester could hear Rylan whimper.  Lloyd, unaware of his wife’s actions, thought that Ryan was crying.

In the morning they discovered their son dead, and Lloyd grabbed the infant and drove to the hospital with his wife.  When they arrived, Rylan was pronounced dead, and Lloyd was informed of what his wife had done.

Rochester believed because of a short stint she had as a counselor for autistic children, that she could identify symptoms.  Rylan’s pediatricians insisted that he was progressing normally.

Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 8, 2010.

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