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Rachel Capra Craig wrote a touching tribute to her disabled daughter days before she poisoned her.

"In loving memory of my most dearest daughter Chelsea, the most beautiful girl in the world," it read.

Ms. Capra Craig then fed her daughter a concoction of drugs that killed the 14-year-old while she lay in bed in their suburban Montreal home. Ms. Capra Craig, a woman who'd suffered a lifetime of depression, then tried to kill herself.

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At her first-degree murder trial yesterday, she was found not criminally responsible for killing Chelsea Craig, whose death last March opened a debate about the pressures of caring for disabled children. Yesterday, the child's death was depicted instead as the act of a paranoid and psychotic woman unable to tell right from wrong.

"This is not a Latimer case. It's not a mercy killing," psychiatrist Renée Fugère testified, referring to Robert Latimer, the Saskatchewan farmer who killed his severely disabled daughter, Tracy, in what he described as an act of compassion.

Ms. Capra Craig, 47, had become convinced that the child's father was sexually abusing her. Although her beliefs were unfounded, she decided to kill Chelsea to spare her the imagined abuse, court heard.

Ms. Capra Craig had suffered throughout her life from neglect and isolation, and caring for her daughter was an added stress, court was told. Chelsea had a neurological disorder called Rett Syndrome, which brought life-threatening seizures, as many as 15 diaper changes a day, and spoon feedings.

"You had to be on constant lookout for death. It was a matter of life or death all the time," Dr. Fugère told Mr. Justice Fraser Martin of Quebec Superior Court. "This is the way Mrs. Craig felt . . . it was a constant preoccupation.

Ms. Capra Craig is to be sent for psychiatric help at a Montreal hospital.

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About the Author

Ingrid Peritz has been a Montreal-based correspondent for The Globe and Mail since 1998. Her reporting on the plight of Canadians suffering from the damaging effects of the drug thalidomide helped victims obtain federal compensation and earned The Globe and Mail a National Newspaper Award, Canadian Journalism Foundation award, and the Michener Award for public service. More

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