Friday, April 5, 2013

The Death of Robert Ethan Saylor- A Mother's Greatest Fear

I have been struggling lately.  Wanting to add my voice to the throngs trying to be heard, but unable to really put my words together.

And I've been afraid.  Oh, there are so many things to be afraid of as a parent.  Add a disability that makes your child many more times likely to be a target of abuse and the worries just multiply exponentially.

The death of Robert Ethan Saylor has been making this fear seem so much more real.  This is a man whose death was blamed on Down syndrome.  Although his death was ruled a homicide, no charges are being filed against the three officers at whose hands he died.

At this point the talk is all about providing training so that these types of situations don't occur again.  And of course they are needed.

But the investigation into Robert Ethan Saylor's death seems to have stopped after the grand jury ruling.  There is a large push by families of those with Down syndrome and other cognitive disabilities to instigate an outside investigation, one that has not been performed.

The fact is that a man died.  The world can try to blame Down syndrome or a heart condition or argue that his parents failed and that he shouldn't have been left alone.  But to all of the parents who are raising children with intellectual disabilities, parents who are trying to raise children with some kind of independence, children who are able to not only be a part of but actually contribute to our society... what kind of message is this sending us?  What kind of message is it sending our children?

We know that our children are worth it; that they are valued human beings.  But wiping Mr. Saylor's death under the rug and accepting that Down syndrome is to blame leaves all our children vulnerable.  How can we send our kids out into a world that views their abuse as justified?  How can we settle for the message that our children are worth less?

We must speak out.

You can speak out too, if you haven't already.

You can sign the petition at for an independent investigation of Robert Ethan Saylor's death.


You can write to the U.S. Department of Jusice by e-mail or by mail:  (Thank you to my friend Meriah for posting this information along with the sample letter than I am including here.)

U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
According to a press release from  the State’s Attorney for Frederick county, Robert Ethan Saylor died as a  result of three individuals’ actions on January 12, 2013 in Frederick,  Maryland. His death was and remains classified a HOMICIDE.
Robert Ethan Saylor was a healthy, 26-year-old man, who also had Down syndrome.
However, the above press release also states that Robert Ethan Saylor  was “…compromised by his Down’s syndrome…” and concludes that no  criminal charges are necessary in Mr. Saylor’s death.
I believe  that the above decision speaks to a continuing bias in society to see  Down syndrome as a disease, those with Down syndrome as lesser humans  and not deserving of the same respect warranted to those without Down  syndrome. I strongly believe, and do not stand alone, that it is a  violation of basic human rights to view Mr. Saylor’s death as somehow  due to his genetic makeup when his death has been classified a HOMICIDE.
I’m contacting you today to ask you to launch an independent inquiry  into the death of Mr. Saylor. I am asking you to prove to me that your  department believes in the humanity and equality of everyone, including  those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


  1. Well said. Sometimes I feel like I am butting up against a brick wall. I have been writing and writing and writing more letters to people, organizations,and news stations. Is anyone listening? If they are, is any one going to do anything? The biggest slap in the face was when the NDSS stopped listening. Stopped advocating. How can we be heard if our own national organizations is ignoring our pleas?

  2. Thanks for sharing, Leah - the behavior of law enforcement displayed in this case is horrible.

  3. This is such a sad, sad story. I think about Ethan and his family all the time. I hope for a more understanding world for Cora and Ben.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me!