A federal agency is joining a group of disability self-advocates to call for hate crimes charges in the death of a teen with autism.
Advocates say that federal charges are warranted after 14-year-old Alex Spourdalakis of River Grove, Ill. was found dead, allegedly at the hands of his mother and a fellow caregiver.
According to local media reports, Spourdalakis was stabbed to death earlier this month. His mother, Dorothy Spourdalakis, and a caregiver, Jolanta Agata Skrodzka, were found semiconscious nearby after attempting to take their own lives. Now the two are charged with first-degree murder in the case, with prosecutors alleging that the boy’s killing was premeditated.
Officials with the National Council on Disability and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network are urging federal prosecutors to bring hate crimes charges, arguing that Spourdalakis’ murder was motivated by his disability.
“Alex Spourdalakis did not die because of lack of services, or because living with or raising a child with a disability is difficult… No, Alex Spourdalakis was killed; killed by those entrusted to care for and protect him,” said Jeff Rosen, chairperson of the National Council on Disability, in a statement.
Rosen’s group is planning to meet with the FBI to discuss the case. The council — which advises the president and Congress on disability issues — has also requested a meeting with the U.S. Department of Justice. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network has asked for meetings with both entities as well.
For the moment, however, federal officials have not taken any public steps related to Spourdalakis’ death.
“We are aware of the matter and are monitoring the case,” Dena Iverson, a Justice Department spokeswoman, told Disability Scoop.
Hate crimes protections for people with disabilities are relatively new. A 2009 bill expanded federal law to allow for prosecution in cases where crimes are committed based on a person’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Previously, hate crimes protections dating back to 1968 covered crimes committed based on race, color, religion or national origin.
So far, the new disability protections have been exercised just once, with the Justice Department filing charges earlier this year against five individuals accused of holding people with disabilities captive in subhuman conditions for years in order to steal their Social Security benefits.