Last week, Alex Spourdalakis, a 14-year Autistic boy living in River Grove, Illinois, was murdered by his mother and godmother. After failing to kill him with sleeping pills, they stabbed him in the chest repeatedly before slitting his wrists. This murder was premeditated and motivated entirely by Alex’s disability.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network condemns unequivocally and without qualification the murder of Alex Spourdalakis and calls on the United States Department of Justice to prosecute his murder under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The law allows the federal government to prosecute as a hate crime acts of violence when “the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person.” Alex’s murder clearly fits within the intent and purpose of that law.
Many in the media have attempted to excuse Alex’s murder or sympathize with his killers, citing the challenges of his disability and the need to improve the quality and availability of service-provision. Such justifications are not unusual in the aftermath of such atrocities and they remain as inappropriate as ever. Alex Spourdalakis’ murder is the latest in a long strand of similar killings by family members and caregivers. His death is not about services, nor is it about the difficulties associated with his disability. Prior to murdering him, Alex’s mother was offered and refused services from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. In truth, Alex’s murder is about a reprehensible and repulsive ideology all too common within our society that preaches that it is better to be dead than disabled. As long as our society treats the lives of disabled people as worth less than those of the general population, more disabled children and adults will be subject to acts of violence and murder. As a result, we call for the prosecution of Alex’s killers to the fullest extent of the law.