Mom shoots autistic son, herself in Sunnyvale


The murder-suicide has stunned the neighborhood as well as police. Everyone who knows the family describes them as kind, compassionate and devoted to their son.

Even strangers are marking the tragedy at the Sunnyvale home with flowers. Years ago when Elizabeth Hodgins son was very young and diagnosed with autism, she reached out to the non-profit called "Parents Helping Parents." She later became a volunteer there. "Her main focus was always helping George get the best education and services available to him," Trudy March Grable said.

Police say Tuesday night, Elizabeth shot her 22-year-old son George then killed herself. Her husband Lester arrived home from his job as a park ranger to find the bodies. "Probably some sort of family stressor that led to it, couldn't say for sure. Only she would know exactly what led to it, but the husband said there were ongoing medical issues with the son," said Capt. Dave Verbrugge with the Sunnyvale Public Safety Dept.

Years ago, Elizabeth shared the weight of her circumstances. The Mercury News published an editorial in 1995 in which she wrote about the fear, pain and anxiety she felt over her son's condition. She called the people she found at Parents Helping Parents her angels. Neighbors say they never saw any sign of trouble. "They seemed like a normal family, warm friendly people, great neighbors," said neighbor Heather Jauch.

That characterization does not surprise other women at Parent Helping Parents who also have special needs adult children and understand the pressure involved with decades of caretaking. "We want to look like we are managing it all. We want to be supermoms," explained Parents Helping Parents CEO Mary Ellen Peterson. For whatever reason, Elizabeth Hodgins did not feel she could carry the burden any longer. Those that knew her only wished she had sought support one more time.

"We sometimes just get through the moment together so that you can get out from under that black cloud that you might be feeling, where Elizabeth was clearly feeling at that time," Grable said.

Some grief-stricken loved ones went by the homes Wednesday afternoon to retrieve items from the house and the flowers left outside.

Parents that have special needs children who could benefit from further support or resources can contact Parents Helping Parents or the San Francisco Bay Area Autism Society.

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