Irving mom accused in children's deaths wanted 'normal kids'
06:57 AM CDT on Thursday, July 22, 2010 From Staff Reports
In flat tones and halting English, Saiqa Akhter calmly announced to a 911 operator that she had strangled her two small children because they had autism. "I don't want my kids to be like that," she told the operator Monday evening after dialing 911. "I want normal kids."
The operator kept her on the phone for more than 10 minutes until police could arrive at the family's Irving apartment. Asked how she felt about killing her children, Akhter replied: "Nothing." She also explained matter-of-factly that she initially tried to kill 5-year-old Zain and 2-year-old Faryaal with bathroom cleaner. "They don't drink it, so there's a wire there so I just grabbed their neck and then I tried and then they're no more," Saiqa Akhter said.
When Irving police arrived on the scene, authorities found both children lying on a bed in the family's second-floor apartment along with an antenna wire that police believe was used to kill the children.
Zain died Monday. Faryaal died Tuesday evening, a day after she was revived and placed on life support.
Their 30-year-old mother is expected to face two charges of capital murder. She was transferred to the Dallas County Jail from Irving police custody on Wednesday evening. Bond has not been set. Saiqa had been depressed in recent weeks since moving into a new apartment, her uncle said Tuesday. "It looks like she had mental problems," said Wasimul Haque. "I don't understand why she did it."
While family members, who could not be reached Wednesday, previously said Zain had autism, there were no prior reports that Faryaal had autism.
Akhter is likely to be evaluated by a psychiatrist after she hires an attorney or is appointed one by the court. Her confession was met with deep sadness by some who work with people with autism. "When I heard it, my heart just fell into my knees," said Nagla Moussa, president of the National Autism Association of North Texas. "People don't realize that autism is treatable. There is hope. There are a lot of interventions that are very effective."
But she said parents of children with autism are often overwhelmed, isolated and lack support. Many times, insurance plans don't cover all of the needed support programs, and parents simply can't afford them. There are more than 100,000 people with developmental disabilities on a waiting list for services in Texas, she said.
"I think everybody failed this woman, and I'm not excusing her actions by any means," said Moussa, the mother of an adult with autism who copes well with life. "But even for the most capable, strongest character, two children with autism, it's a catastrophe. It's overwhelming." Although people with autism can lead lives that range from being severely disabled to almost the norm, many times, children with autism have behavioral problems, difficulty interacting with others, don't sleep well at night and have unusual sensory issues, such as such as a desire to eat only certain foods and sensitivities to noise and the texture of clothing.
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"You can't do the normal mommy things like take the kids to the playground because of their behavior issues," she said. Akhter's uncle said Tuesday that Zain had severe speech difficulties but had been improving. He said the boy had been in speech therapy. Faryaal's health problems included being rushed to an emergency room with a respiratory issue in May 2009. The family was the subject of a Child Protective Services investigation for leaving Zain home alone at that time. An agency spokeswoman said there were no signs of physical abuse, and CPS worked with the family to get them help.
Akhter and her husband, Rashid Akhter, emigrated from Pakistan. He works as a computer technician. She was a stay-at-home mother.
The call to Irving 911 came in shortly after 5 p.m. Monday from the family's apartment in the 3300 block of Esters Road, just south of State Highway 183. In a heavily accented voice, Saiqa Akhter immediately told the 911 operator, "I kill my both kids. ... They are died. I kill my both kids." The operator, who initially didn't understand what she was saying, asked her to say it again.
"I kill my both kids. They are dead," she repeated.
What followed is a disturbing exchange in which Akhter repeatedly stated that she killed her children. At points, she sounded frustrated as the operator continued questioning her and instructed her to stay on the phone.
"I kill my kids. My children. I kill my children," she said, sounding annoyed.
"You killed your children?" the operator responded.
"I killed them. Both of them," she said.
At one point, the line went dead and the operator called her back. Akhter answered with a "hello" and then reiterated, "I killed both of them. I told you." Asked how she killed her children, she responded that she used a wire around their necks. "They are not doing anything," Akhter told the operator. "They are just blue and they're not taking any breaths and their heart is not beating." The children can be found in her bedroom on the bed, she explained. She then stated that she knows the police are going to come arrest her.
Asked why she did it, she said she did it because they had autism and were not normal children. "First I tried to kill them with bathroom cleaner," she said. "I put in their mouth, but they don't drink it." She said she then she grabbed a wire and strangled them. Her husband was at work, but she said that she had just called him and that he was headed home.
Hearing the sound of running water in the background, the operator asked her what she was doing at that point. "The bathroom cleaner smells so much on my hands so I just wash my hands with water," Akhter replied.
Asked again why she did it, "They are autistic. They are too much. ... I don't want my kids to be autistic. I kill both of them."