Saturday, March 12, 2016

On The Murder of Cynthia Busch

Image of Dr. Martin Luther King with the following quoted words: "We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. " - MLK Jr., Eulogy for the Martyred Children (1963) 
On March 10, 2016, 24-year-old Cynthia Busch was shot to death by her mother, Barbara Busch, on the couch in their basement. Ms. Busch then turned the gun on herself.

The Fairfield Twp Department of Developmental Disabilities did not respond when asked if they had visited the family recently.

Because I am one of literally thousands of parents globally who care for children with intense support needs with no respite except his father, and I'm fortunate enough to network globally with other parent care providers in countries with fewer supports and services than we have here, who are overwhelmed, exhausted, and go through cycles of depression, I can't tell you how angry I am when with one glance at the disabled victim any public entity reporting a crime concludes that this act occurred because the murderer was tired of caring for the victim.  Leading with this excuse for murder is an insult to all of us out here loving our children and doing our best to care for them regardless of adversity. It is an insult to all those care providers who lovingly care for their clients though full lives. Most importantly it is an insult to people like my son, a kind and courageous human being in his own right, and all those neurodivergent people who deserve better than to be thought of as burdens on care providers.  It sends the wrong kind of message. It functions as a passive form of enabling people to absolve those who commit this most heinous crime as if it is a legitimate excusable act. Then, like 6-year-old London McCabe's mother Jillian, people think it is okay to premeditate and murder their neurodivergent children.

No one should project personal ableist feelings about what it is like to care for disabled offspring when learning about a victim's disabilities. If parents love their children they ensure those children have an avenue of care after they are gone or when they realize they are no longer able to care for them alone. Barbara Busch had a boyfriend, friends, and neighbors who knew her and Cynthia for over 15 years. And yet they did not help her transition Cynthia to a safe place to be cared for and help her to seek professional support for clinical depression? Parents who love their disabled offspring don't murder them.  Bullet wounds are a painful way to die. You don't shoot someone you love! There was no love or mercy involved in this crime. Responsible community reporting demands that it be made clear that murdering a severely disabled person is neither an act of love or an act of mercy.

This perverse slant on reporting her murder erased Cynthia Busch's 24 years of life  by making her scenery in her own murder. Worse, her existence as a disabled person with intense needs was presented as the implied cause of her own death.  What actually happened to Cynthia Busch was a variant of domestic violence. Let us all consider looking at things from this perspective for a moment. Over a year ago my family moved out of a county here known for ridiculously high rates of domestic violence-related murders. A man in that county recently confessed to  shooting the mother of his child, a beloved elementary school teacher, and their two-year-old child to death.  No one anywhere looked and the lifeless body of the toddler and reported, "well clearly the child support...just looking at the challenge of dealing with a toddler... he was clearly overwhelmed." We would all be horrified if anyone in journalism, law enforcement, social services, any neighbors or friends of the victims said anything of the sort to apologize for the obscene crime committed.

Why is it okay to report murders of disabled victims with headlines like "PD: Fairfield woman killed adult daughter, self because she was tired of caring for daughter (Barbara Busch must have been overwhelmed)?"
©WCPO Cincinnati news headline screenshot
What if Cynthia wanted to live and was unable to express this? What if she loved her life as she was living it and was happy in her life? Does it take that possibility to make readers feel that the murder was more unjust and horrific? There are countless disabled adults who write, blog, speak, and have books about spending years of their lives without being able to communicate while understanding everything that occurred around them. Martin Pistorius is a prime example. He heard his mother say to him one day "I hope you die." She regrets that she said it now, and regrets more that he had become so objectified in her eyes that she believed he could not hear or understand what she was saying to him. Had a caring, observant nurse not insisted Martin's parents get him re-accessed and had his mother not put assistive technology to communicate within his reach, he would still be trapped in his own body without a voice in his own life. Instead, he is working, married, happy. We will never know what Cynthia could have accomplished. Because even in death, her personhood is dismissed. The injustice of this should enrage us all.

The police investigation concluded the murderer was overwhelmed. Did the neighbors think well she must have thought it through and decided this was for the best? Really?

1. Please stop enabling people by passively saying when people kill their loved ones it is understandable if they are severely disabled because the care for disabled victims overwhelmed the murderer. 

2. Treat 24-year-old domestic violence murder victims like adult victims of murder by an abusive perpetrator. Investigate this as if this victim were the most beautiful woman in the world with everything to live for, and her life was snatched away from her because that is the reality here.

3. Report on how the murder victim ended up in harms way. If the carer's boyfriend, neighbors, and the DDA knew her state of mind and level of fatigue, why was nothing done to help Cynthia receive care from an alternate provider until her mother was in a better headspace? 

4. How did the police reach the conclusion that the reason for Barbara's murder of Cynthia was because she was tired of caring for her? 

5.  Seek true causation by asking the right question: Why is this happening with intellectually disabled adults and children so much?

The answer to these questions might prevent another murder.

Each life has meaning and Cynthia's life should have been hers to live to the best of her ability. Life is not a privilege based upon how able one is or how one can live it independent of others' care and support. We depend on strangers every day. We put our lives in their hands. Remember the suicidal young pilot who flew a plane into a mountain with passengers on it? We all recoiled from the wrongness of that. We didn't say, "he was tired of flying" or "he was overwhelmed." Everyone began demanding airlines globally do something to insure that all pilots be verified to be fit to fly airplanes without deliberately crashing them to kill the passengers onboard them.

Cynthia put her faith in the mother who brought her into this world and cared for her all her life. Barbara Busch did not call 911 and say "I am a danger to myself and my disabled daughter. I am overwhelmed." She chose to commit a violent act, and in doing so violated that trust in the same way Andreas Lubitz chose to harm others and himself. The passengers on  Germanwings Flight 9525 had the same value as Cynthia Busch did. All had an equal right to live.

When we understand that, we can end this cycle of murder-suicides.

One last thing. Call things what they are. However wonderful Barbara Busch's care providing and mothering skills were prior to this event, shooting Cynthia Busch was cold-blooded murder.

The Murder of Cynthia Busch

The Murder of London McCabe

Ghost Boy: The Story Of Martin Pistorius

The Deliberate Crash of Germanwings Flight 9525

The Murders of Elementary school teacher Neshante Alesha Davis, 26, and her two-year-old daughter, Chloe Nichole Davis-Green

Resources to help save lives permanently on my blog:


  1. Thank you for writing this. I know the Busch Family personally and was a caregiver for Cindy for many years. Cindy had an absolutely innocent and beautiful spirit and Barb has always been an incredibly self focused hypochondriac. Barb had more than enough help and dozens of people who would drop anything and everything to be apart of Cindy's days. Caring for Cindy was never a burden, and certainly never anything that would've been overwhelming enough for her to handle things the way she did. Dealing with Barb was overwhelming. That was the hard part of caring for Cindy.
    I hate how the entire community has such an immense amount of sympathy for Barb. This was murder. Cindy did not deserve this.

    1. I bet you're not the only caretaker or disability worker who feels this way about the murder of their former charges. You seem like a caretaker who actually cares about the people you work with, and those kids who are murdered or otherwise mistreated need people like you to speak up for them, especially when ableism runs rampant among so many people, including those who work in the disability field as well as parents. Too often, people don't listen to those who are actually disabled, but those people will be more likely to listen to workers like you. Keep up the good work.

    2. Jessica,
      You have not been around here for quite some time. I believe that is a disservice and inaccurate statement to refer to Barb as an "incredibly self-focused hypochondriac". She loved her children and had high standards for their care. True, Cindy did not deserve this...I only wish I could have predicted and prevented it. I miss both of them very much!