Mason Sadler

Mason Sadler, a young boy with dark hair and olive-toned skin, stands on a driveway, wearing a backpack that dwarfs him. He is wearing an athletic T-shirt and shorts, and smiling for the camera.Name: Mason Sadler.
Died: August 29, 2021.
Age at death: 3.
Cause of death: Drowning.
Location: Spring Hollow Township, Missouri, USA.

Mason’s parents left him with a babysitter. While under her care, Mason left the house, found a nearby pond, and drowned. Though the incident looked at first like one of the accidental drowning deaths so common among water-loving autistic youngsters, authorities found surveillance video and established that Mason’s babysitter had left him alone for more than an hour. They charged the babysitter with first-degree child endangerment.

Editor’s note: In the typical accidental drowning, a caregiver turns their back for just a minute, and the child is gone. These are tragedies, accidental and unforeseen. To prevent accidental drownings among autistic children, it is highly recommended to teach them to swim, and to fence off all ponds and swimming pools. However, leaving a three-year-old alone for an hour is obvious negligence, which makes this death very different from the sad accidents that take children even from conscientious parents.

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Zeus Cox

Photo of a young boy with brown curly hair, brown eyes, and pale-brown skin, wearing a fleecy sweatshirt and pants with a Batman logo. The photo is taken outdoors, and he is smiling and waving his hands.Name: Zeus Geovani Cox.
Died: July 5, 2021.
Age at death: 3.
Cause of death: Abuse (Blunt trauma; internal bleeding).
Location: Lafayette, Indiana, USA.

Zeus was “very active and full of life”. His family suspected he had autism, though there is no evidence he had ever been evaluated. He had been staying with his great-grandmother for several months, but was returned to his mother. In court, his aunt testified that she believed his mother was unfit and abusive, and used to hit Zeus and curse at him.

Zeus spent a month living with his mother and her boyfriend before he was found dead from internal injuries caused by a severe beating. His mother was convicted of murder; her boyfriend’s trial is pending.

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Jameson Shapiro

Photo of a small boy with fair skin, wearing a sailor-themed beanie and a camo T-shirt, smiling for the camera.Name: Jameson Shapiro.
Died: November 26, 2020.
Age at death: 18 months.
Cause of death: Homicide (Shot).
Location: Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, Canada.

Jameson and his brother, both autistic, were in their mother’s custody when their father abducted Jameson. Jameson’s father hit a police roadblock and got into a shootout with police. When it was over, Jameson’s father was dying, and Jameson was found dead, also shot by police.

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Jessica Dalgeish

Name: Jessica Dalgeish.
Died: December 24, 2019.
Age at death: 3.
Cause of death: Abuse (Head injury).
Location: Sandgate, Kent, England, UK.

Jessica had a developmental delay, and had only learned to say a few words. She often grew frustrated and would bang her head and pull at her hair; so her mother cut her hair short. Her doctors also thought she might have autism.

When Jessica refused to eat her lunch, her mother’s boyfriend–who was, ironically, a residential support worker–became angry, grabbed the girl, and threw her onto her bed. Her head hit a hard surface, causing a skull fracture. Jessica was rushed to the hospital, but the head injury was not survivable, and she died several days later when she was taken off life support. An autopsy found an old, healed head injury as well.

Jessica’s killer was convicted of manslaughter and child cruelty and sentenced to 11 years, with possibility of parole after having served 6.

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Kyrell Matthews

Photo of a toddler with his hair in small braids; he has light-brown skin and he is wearing a red and white sports jersey. His expression is thoughtful and somewhat puzzled.Name: Kyrell Matthews.
Died: October 20, 2019.
Age at death: 2.
Cause of death: Abuse (Abdominal trauma, torn liver).
Location: Thornton Heath, London, England, UK.

Kyrell’s grandmother remembers him as “the most loving little boy, always smiling”.

Kyrell was regularly beaten by his mother and her boyfriend. After a particularly severe beating, emergency services found him dying from internal injuries, with dozens of rib fractures. In a recording found on Kyrell’s mother’s phone, which she had taken because she suspected her boyfriend was seeing other women, her boyfriend can be heard accusing Kyrell of “ruin[ing] all the fun”.

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