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"KEU" 2006 Obituary


KEUNG o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-03-04 published
Mom charged in kids' deaths
First-degree murder count laid after girls found in bathtub
Tamil community leader calls for more counselling programs
By Curtis RUSH and Nicholas KEUNG, Staff Reporters with files from Bob MITCHELL and the Star Library, Page A2
A 30-year-old Markham woman whose two young daughters were found dead in the family bathtub Thursday night has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Sivananthi ELANGO remains in serious condition in Markham-Stouffville Hospital with self-inflicted slash wounds to her wrists and throat, York Regional police said yesterday.
Without giving specifics, Insp. Tony CUSIMANO said police have found evidence to support the first-degree charge, which implies an act committed with planning and deliberation.
Renu ELANGO, 2, and Movlika ELANGO, 3 months, died Thursday while their father was out on an errand. Their grandparents, who lived with the family, had come home, looked for the girls and heard only silence from the locked en suite bathroom, police sources said.
They summoned a basement tenant for help breaking in and discovered a horrific scene -- the mother bloodied, the children thought to be drowned. The tenant called 911.
CUSIMANO confirmed that paint thinner had been found in the room, but wouldn't comment on its significance.
He said it was too early to speculate on why the tragedy occurred, or whether the woman suffered from depression or post-partum psychosis. The latter, a serious mental health disorder that can appear after childbirth, has been linked to similar murder-suicide attempts.
Police say the family arrived from Sri Lanka around 1990. Neighbours said they had moved into the two-storey Sophia Rd. home, in the McCowan Rd. and 14th Ave. area, around Christmas.
The incident came less than a month after a Toronto man, Huc Minh CHAU, 40, was charged in the slaying of his wife, Shao-Feng LIANG, 38, and their two children. His sister has said she had tried to get CHAU committed to a psychiatric facility.
Since 1990, at least 22 children in Toronto alone have been killed by their mothers, with clinical depression implicated in many cases. Mental health professionals and community workers say the social isolation and lack of support felt by immigrant women may aggravate depression and economic stress that can lead mothers of any background to take such a terrible step.
"In any culture, there's always the social stigmatization associated with mental illness. But in some communities, people don't even have the language and translation (to speak about) mental illnesses," said Martha OCAMPO, of Across Boundaries, a Toronto ethno-racial mental health centre. "It is particularly difficult for the mothers, who are afraid that their kids would be taken away from them. The social expectation that a woman is the caretaker of the household just doesn't help."
David POOPALAPILLAI of the Canadian Tamil Congress said the community has been shocked by the tragedy, which follows an incident in July 2001 in which Jasotha MAHENDRIRAN was charged in the murders of her daughter Shyami, 5, and son Sajeev, 3.
"Even though our community is now more established than when we first came here 20-odd years ago, mental illness and things like post-partum depression are still very new to the community," POOPALAPILLAI said.
"We do need more counselling services. Some people still face the language barrier and have trouble accessing the mainstream services. Right now, we still don't have an expert in this health area in the (Tamil) community."

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