Hateful letter stirs local support for autistic boy
Venomous note sent anonymously to 13-year-old’s Newcastle grandmother says boy should move away or be euthanized.
A photograph of the letter received by Maxwell Begley's grandmother in Newcastle.
By: Katie Daubs GTA,- THE TORONTO STAR - Published on Mon Aug 19 2013
The stranger wanted to tell Maxwell Begley’s family that no woman would ever love him, no employer would ever hire him, and that he should move into the woods, or be euthanized.
The stranger typed the letter, sealed it inside an envelope, and popped it in the mail. The stranger had time to change his or her mind. Instead, the stranger chose to devastate a family.
“It made me sick to my stomach to think that somebody hated my son that much and they didn’t even know him,” Karla Begley says, her voice breaking. “But they just hated him because he was different. That’s the only reason they had to hate him.”
Maxwell, 13, lives in Oshawa and has autism. He loves the movie Grease, jumping on the trampoline with the sprinkler on, and go-karts. He loves most things, even the attention that has come with the letter.
“He doesn’t know anything about the letter,” says his mother. “He loves the attention, he thinks he’s famous.”
Karla Begley has multiple sclerosis, and so her mother, Brenda Millson, often has her grandson over to her Newcastle home for sleepovers. Maxwell loves going to his grandma’s house. The two watch Grease together.
The anonymous letter writer, who claims to live in Millson’s Newcastle neighbourhood, complains that Maxwell makes a “noise polluting whaling (sic)” that “scares the hell out of my normal children!!!!”
The writer calls Maxwell a “hindrance to everyone,” says he will always be like that and suggests that whatever “non-retarded body parts he possesses” be donated to science.
“Do the right thing and move or euthanize him!!! Either way, we are ALL better off!!!” the letter closes, “Sincerely, One ****** off mother!”
“After I finished reading it, I was crying and shaking,” Millson says.
Durham Region police are consulting with the Crown to see if any laws have been broken. A spokesperson said they were taking the investigation seriously.
Maxwell was diagnosed with autism when he was 20 months old. He knows the alphabet. He can type on a computer, but he doesn’t use a pen. He always gets his point across, his mom says. He’ll say a few words, and when he is understood, he’ll smile.
“He’s got it in that head, but he can’t get it out,” says his grandmother. “He’s saying more words this summer.”
“He does make noises, they’re usually happy noises,” his mother says of the sounds deemed “dreadful” by the letter writer.
Maxwell loves the dog park, and boat rides. Last year, he dressed up as Elvis for Halloween. His dad is a musician and part-time Elvis impersonator and Maxwell was proud to wear his dad’s first Elvis suit.
Julie Smith, who lives across from Millson, canvassed the neighbourhood with a friend on Sunday to tell people about the letter. She also wanted to observe people’s body language.
“Everyone seemed rather appalled by it; one lady burst into tears. We didn’t run into any suspicious characters,” she said. “If we do find out, we can’t be vigilantes, we have to call the police and let them deal with it.”
When Smith heard that a television crew was coming Sunday evening, she posted the news on Facebook and asked people to come out to support the family. More than 120 people came, some from as far away as Oshawa. They cheered when Maxwell and his father left the house. Maxwell did “his little happy dance,” Begley says, laughing.
“He just jumps up and down and flaps his arms, and gave everyone high fives. He’s going to expect that every time he’s there,” she says, laughing.
Millson says her daughter hopes something good comes out of something bad.
“People with kids with autism, they don’t get any help. People think they do … the government doesn’t give any help. They do when they’re little; when they get older they think you don’t need help. You need it just as much, maybe more,” she says.
Begley hopes that whoever wrote the letter is charged.
“If they don’t like different people, they should move away and be a hermit, because life is full of unexpected stuff, and that’s what makes it interesting,” she says. “That’s what I say to my husband every day.”