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Mom convicted for role in son's suicide

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I just don't even know what to think about this.......


Monday, October 6, 2003 Posted: 4:22 PM EDT (2022 GMT)

MERIDEN, Connecticut (AP) -- A woman was convicted Monday of contributing to the suicide of her 12-year-old son, who hanged himself in his closet with a necktie after being picked on for months at school over his bad breath and body odor.

Judith Scruggs, 52, was found guilty of one count of risk of injury to a minor for creating a filthy home that prosecutors said prevented J. Daniel Scruggs from improving his hygiene. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

Scruggs was cleared of a second charge that accused her of failing to provide her son with proper medical and psychological care. She also was acquitted on a cruelty charge.

Experts said the case marks one of the first times in which a parent was charged with contributing to a child's suicide.

Prosecutors said they took no joy in bringing charges against a grieving mother, but felt a jury should decide whether Scrugg's actions contributed to the boy's death.

"There are those who may disagree, but it is our position that parents are responsible for the care and welfare of their children and must ensure their basic medical, emotional and psychological needs are satisfied," prosecutor James Dinnan said.

Defense attorney Reese Norris called the verdict an injustice.

"I hope the public will have an outcry that someone could be convicted of any charge ... in association with the suicide of her child," he said.

Judith Scruggs acknowledged Daniel would sometimes have body odor or bad breath and would soil himself to get out of going to school. She said she frequently told Daniel to take showers, but said she could not force him to do so.

Scruggs told police Daniel was afraid of bullies who had kicked and punched him, and he kept knives in his closet out of fear before killing himself in January 2002.

Prosecutors presented evidence that showed there was barely room to move around her home because of clothes, boxes, papers and other debris that littered the floor. The kitchen was full of dirty dishes and spills and stains. The bathroom floor and the bathtub were covered with clothes, and the toilet, sink and tub were soiled.

Prosecution witnesses also described a foul odor. To get an idea what it was like, one officer suggested sticking your head in a hamper full of dirty clothes and whiffing garbage at the same time.

Norris said prosecutors never provided evidence linking the condition of the home to the suicide. He portrayed Judith Scruggs as a loving single mother who worked two jobs -- one full-time as a teacher's aide in Daniel's school and the other part-time at a Wal-Mart.

Norris had called the boy's death a case "Bullycide." The suicide spawned a Connecticut law mandating schools to report bullies to authorities.
post #2 of 17
My knee jerk reaction is "No wonder her house was a mess her son just commited suicide!"

I am so flabbergasted I can't even come up with a response other than that.
post #3 of 17
I don't know what to think...

But I hope that boy is happy up above and will rest in peace.
post #4 of 17
Originally posted by valenhb
Judith Scruggs acknowledged Daniel would sometimes have body odor or bad breath and would soil himself to get out of going to school. She said she frequently told Daniel to take showers, but said she could not force him to do so.
I might be wrong, but I am a mother and I think it's horrible that this lady is being sent to prision. It sounds like she was aware of the problem and tried to deal with it. But she was also trying to be both parents, and maybe she was overwhelmed by all her responsibilities (messy house) and didn't have a good support system??????????

This poor lady is already going to suffer and feel guilty for the rest of her life because of her son's unfortunate death. I really don't think she needs a prision sentence on top of it!!!
post #5 of 17
If the child was harrassed daily, smelled bad and was generally filthy, where were the school officials? Teachers and other school employees NOTICE these things! Did no one speak up and say that he might need help? Did he fall through the cracks? If his mother is responsible, so are they for having fairly obvious signs for MONTHS that something was wrong with him and not getting him (and his mother) help.

This is wrong. Having her son commit suicide is punishment enough for neglecting him.
post #6 of 17
I feel that since the mother also worked at the school with her son she should have seen or at least heard of the bullying. She may have asked the child to take a shower, But isn't it a mother's job to Make your child learn the proper way of cleaning yourself?? Yes I agree that depression can cause people to stop cleansing them selves. but as a 12 year old boy he's still a child and a mother should still be in control. She didn't have the control, and she let the poor boy get bullied!!! So I feel that in a way she is resposable. maybe not for the actual suicide but for neglect.
post #7 of 17
I don't know. On one hand I think OMG how horrible that the boy was never taught to propertly care for himself. On the other hand I think...hmmm if he was 12 years old and people were picking on him because he was dirty he is old enough to take a shower. Then again, if the mother worked out the school wouldn't one of the teachers have said something to her??? I don't know! I think that her punishment was harsh, are there any other children in the picture? The women worked two jobs to try to support herself and her child. I don't know what to think. I hope the little boy Rests in peace, and I hope the mother will be allound time to heal instead of being thrown in prison!
post #8 of 17
what does a dirty house have to do with him commiting suicide?
how stupid is that!!
post #9 of 17
Ok...so it's jail for mum who had a messy house....

So what do the bullies get? Death sentence? Daniel was in fear of his life.

Seriously...this sentence doesn't make any sense and doesn't help better the situation. It adds confusion to an already difficult situation with no answers. It's a sign that the authorities need help in dealing with youth suicide and it is yet another wake up call to the education department that they do not have any real answers when it comes to students in need of help.
post #10 of 17
Originally posted by a_loveless_gem
Daniel was in fear of his life.

How do you know? Maybe he wasn't in fear of his life....maybe he was tired of being picked on. Maybe he thought he didn't deserve to live anymore......Have you ever had had thoughts of sucide? I have and the things the go through my mind is leaving this world that treats me like crap.....not worried about someone trying to kill me.

Yes something should be done to the bullies, But as for the mom...Read this story and tell me she possiable didn't play a part in his decision.

Let me tell all of you the story of my Sister in Law and her oldest son. She is a single mother of 3 boys. The oldest just turned 13, THe middle boy is 11 and the yougest is 6. Her house is never clean,Her children do not take showers, Baths, at least when she's with them. She is so wrapped up in finding a "dad" for the boys that she doesn't even notice when the Fridge goes empty. For 3 months I fed those boys I had them take showers and I was only over there every other day. The oldest boy got picked up by the cops over the summer for threating a little boy with a pocket knife. My sister in law couldn't have cared less.....She puts my newphew in his room for the nite. the next day he comes home with the cops on his tail again. this time for distruction of public property. One more incident and he gets a ticket. so I go over and talk to him about why he's doing what he's doing.........."cuz it's the only way mom will talk to me" "I'm tired of the other kids laughin at me" " I just want to know someone other then YOU loves me" I have only known this kid for 2 years! He is one of the smartest and kindess kids I have ever met! I ended up pulling my sister in law to the side and told her what he told me. Then I told her how I have felt for the past 2 years that I have known her and the boys.......That she is neglecting them. And if she really loved them then she would get her nose out of the damn internet and start talking and caring for her kids. I even told her that I was thinking about calling social services. Because of my interaction she spends at least 1 day a week with all the boys doing something fun and He rhouse is Clean again. As an incentive to keep all the boys out of trouble they get to spend a week with me doing fun things and going swimming with me and their uncle. Sometimes people are so wrapped up in other things they don't see what is happening to their children. I know this from experiance. My family was very much the same except I had a father in the picture. and he was my only salvation. and the only reason I am still alive today.

You guys seem to think that a messy house means nothing. But depending on the severity of the mess it is a sign of many things, Depression,Stress, laziness, and thoughtlessness. And those things can also tend to lead to child neglect.

I have spent my adult life trying to make up for all the depression and stress I had as a child. My father gave me hope for the future and introduced me to my saviour Jesus.
post #11 of 17
My argument(I can't speak for anyone else) is that a messy house by itself is not an indication of neglect. I hold with the saying "My house is clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy." My home is rarely "clean". My children on the other hand are usually clean(not always, they're kids for goodness sake and they will find the occasional mud puddle). They are happy, healthy, well adjusted little people. The ones that are old enough are involved with extra curricular activities. I don't see how I could ever be judged a bad parent, but I will admit that my house reaches disaster status every so often.

What I find curious is that the boy obviously had mental problems, but they didn't find the mother guilty of witholding medical treatment.
post #12 of 17
I would like to clear up the fact that with this case we dont' know all the facts and one can only guess at the other "clues" in this case. So we don't know what the mother did or didn't do we can only assume. So in all fair ness I belive that what was done was done on good faith by the jury.
post #13 of 17
There is a story in People magazine about this case. The boy soiled himself on purpose so he would not have to go to school, they say. And he finally refused to go to school, and was at home for the last 45 days. His mother worked 60 hours a week. It looks like, from that story, that the boy was a "misfit" in class, and the type to be bullied, a little different, smaller than the rest, they used the example that he wore a button down shirt and bow tie to school each day.

It sure looks to me like the problem was not caused by the messy house, but these are all signs of a family in crisis. Blaming the mother is just horrifying, there were all sorts of danger signs, and she obviously could not cope. She was a part time assistant at the school (one of her several jobs) so its not as if the school had no contact with her to try and intervene in an obviously difficult situation.
post #14 of 17
Originally posted by Sammie5
Blaming the mother is just horrifying, there were all sorts of danger signs, and she obviously could not cope. She was a part time assistant at the school (one of her several jobs) so its not as if the school had no contact with her to try and intervene in an obviously difficult situation.

you say blaming the mother is horrifying. But yet then you say she had all the signs of not being able to cope.....which IMO means that she is partially to blame. and when it comes to schools now a days they don't care what happens to a child just as long as it doesn't happen on school grounds. But yet that is IMO from experiances with some of the children I have had come through my class room at a Day care. I actually took more intrest in the children then the school did.....and sometimes the parents.
post #15 of 17
I don't think that an inability to cope, even with disastrous results, is a criminal offence. She needed as much help as he did. This looks like "blaming the victim", and responsible state agencies washing their hands of the whole matter. But of course, we don't know the whole story.
post #16 of 17
Kudos to you WillowsMom for trying to make a difference with these children! My brother is a preschool teacher and voices many of the same concerns and complaints you do about lack of parental involvement.

As a parent it's wonderful to see teachers taking a personal interest in children. I only wish there were more people like you. If there were we wouldn't be faced with issues like school shootings and this poor little boy. In this particular case I think it's a matter of passing the buck. Everybody dropped the ball on this boy. His Mom was I'm sure trying her hardest to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. Speaking as a former single mother it is the single hardest thing I've ever done in my life...caring for my children, working full time, and trying to keep the house presentable. Mom clearly underestimated the troubles her son was having. The school was most likely understaffed and missed it. Where was his father BTW? If Mom was taking care of him with no help from Dad that makes it all the harder for her. Again, I say that from experience...my ex paid minimal child support(still does actually) and was there when it was convenient for him(that's slightly better).
An absentee father can also take a heavy toll on a child (yet again from personal experience...my father left when I was 7 and we saw him I think 5 times after that, I haven't seen him since I was 11..which makes my younger sibling 9,8,7 when they last saw him.)

As with everyone else I'm working with the information available when forming my opinions.
post #17 of 17
Originally posted by chelle
what does a dirty house have to do with him commiting suicide?
how stupid is that!!

This is absolutly ridiculous, I would say the school officials are at fault also for not keeping their 'bullies' in check. I know plenty of kids from rich families that committed suicide, both parents were working, the kids had everything, so whose fault is that? That's the most absurd accusation I've heard in a long time. The bullies should also be responsible for this as well as the parents who are raising these 'bullies'. All ridiculous.
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