Alex Spourdalakis, a 14-year-old autistic boy living in River Grove, Illinois, was murdered by his mother and godmother in June of 2013. After trying and failing to poison him with an overdose of medication, they stabbed him in the chest repeatedly before slitting his wrists. This murder was premeditated and motivated entirely by Alex’s disability.
On Thursday, December 8, the prosecutors assigned to this case agreed to a plea deal that would let the two women plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter. They were sentenced to only four years in prison and are expected to be released this week for time served. If this happens, Alex’s murderers will walk free after only three and a half years actually spent in jail.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network condemns this plea deal, which sends a clear message that the judicial system finds Alex’s murder somehow more acceptable than the murders of others. The sentence they received will be no longer than the mandatory minimum sentence for crimes such as taking a weapon from a police officer, possession of certain drugs, some types of benefits fraud, some types of insurance fraud, and theft of property exceeding $10,000.
We note that the case of B. Liltz, who earlier this year received a four-year sentence for killing her disabled daughter Courtney, was used as a precedent by the defense in this case. As we have said for many years, when a victim’s disability is used as a reason to reduce a killer’s sentence, the harm it does goes far beyond that individual case. Each case in which a victim is denied justice contributes to the pattern of sentencing disparity and further entrenches this inequality in our justice system. When this happens, it sends a message that as a society, we tolerate these murders in a way that we would never tolerate others. This is a message that actively endangers disabled people.
Alex Spourdalakis was a teenaged boy violently killed by those who should have protected and cared for him. This sentence is an insult to Alex’s memory and sets a dangerous precedent for future criminal cases.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization run by and for Autistic people. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network seeks to advance the principles of the disability rights movement with regard to autism. ASAN believes that the goal of autism advocacy should be a world in which Autistic people enjoy the same access, rights, and opportunities as all other citizens. We work to empower Autistic people across the world to take control of our own lives and the future of our common community, and seek to organize the Autistic community to ensure our voices are heard in the national conversation about us. Nothing About Us, Without Us!