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Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: History of mental illness - Arson - Grason started the fire by putting two aerosol cans in a microwave
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: June 21, 2004
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1981
Victims profile: Her children, Sandra Younan, 4, and Isaac Younan, 2
Method of murder: Drowning
Location: Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Status: Found unfit for trial. Confined to a state psychiatric hospital on September 25, 2006

Chicago woman accused of drowning children unfit for trial

September 26, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) -- A woman accused of drowning her two young children was ordered held in a state mental hospital Monday after a judge ruled she was unfit for trial.

Cook County Judge Dennis Dernbach ordered Abby Grason, 25, of Chicago, confined to a state psychiatric hospital for a year. At the end of that period she must return to court to determine if she is fit to be tried, the Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site.

Grason is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated arson in connection with the June 21, 2004, deaths of her children.

Authorities have said Grason told investigators she killed 2-year-old Isaac Younan and 3-year-old Sandra Younan because she thought they would not have a good life with her.

Firefighters found the children unresponsive in a bathroom after they extinguished a fire in the family's home.

Grason allegedly started the fire by putting two aerosol cans in a microwave. She then went upstairs to the bathroom and drowned the children, authorities said.

Assistant State's Attorney Andrew Dalkin read a letter written by Matthew Markos, director of forensic clinical services for Cook County, during the hearing Monday.

Markos said in the letter that Grason was unfit for trial and unable to assist in her defense. He said she was bipolar and suffered from psychotic paranoid delusions and psychotic affective disorder.

Grason had a history of mental illness before the drownings. She also had been investigated for alleged child abuse and neglect by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.


Woman pleads not guilty in kids' deaths

Chicago Tribune

August 5, 2004

A woman pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges alleging that she drowned her two children in a bathtub in June. Abby Grason, 23, also entered a not-guilty plea to aggravated arson Wednesday.

Grason allegedly started the fire in a microwave June 21, then drowned the toddlers in an upstairs bathroom as the house was burning. Firefighters found the children unresponsive. Isaac Younan, 2, and Sandra Younan, 3, were pronounced dead at a hospital.


Mother Drowns Her Two Children in a Bathtub

June 28, 2004

(ZNDA: Chicago) Bond was denied last week for a 23-year-old woman accused of drowning her two young children in a bathtub in Chicago. Abby Grason was held without bond during an appearance at the criminal courthouse. She was charged last Tuesday with first-degree murder and aggravated arson. She told the investigators that she killed the children because she thought they would not have a good life with her.

Firefighters found the children, 2-year-old Isaac Younan and 3-year-old Sandra Younan, unresponsive in a bathroom last Monday after they extinguished a fire in the family's home. The children were pronounced dead.

As her mother placed her in a bathtub, 3-year-old Sandra Younan said: "Mommy, I don't want to die today."

But Abby Grason, a woman with a history of mental illness, wanted to send her two small children to a "better place," she reportedly has told investigators.

Her attorney, Kathy Lisco, told Myles her client is "seriously mentally ill" and in need of medication.

Grason drowned Sandra and Isaac Younan, in a foot of bath water, the mother reportedly admitted in a 14-page handwritten statement. Grason said she pressed a cross to the forehead of one of her dead children.

Grason allegedly started the fire by putting aerosol cans in a microwave, then went upstairs to the bathroom and drowned the children while the fire started to burn, authorities said.

Police and firefighters were called to the townhouse, in the 5600 block of West Carmen Avenue, about 5:05 a.m. Monday morning. The building has four residential units, two on each side, with the main entrances to the east and west and two center units with main entrances facing the street. The only visible sign outside that a fire had occurred was a patch of soot on the wall above the back door.

When they arrived the mother was standing outside. Police reported that the fire, in the kitchen, appeared to be of suspicious origin. A neighbor told rescue personnel that there were two children who were still upstairs.

One of the neighbors said he had heard the children playing in the bedroom about 8:30 p.m. June 20.

That night, Grason was sleeping on the couch with Sandra, who awoke and told her mother she was cold. Grason ran a bath for the child, and that's when Sandra become frightened and said she didn't want to die. Grason took her out of the tub and put her to bed, Snow said.

Then the mother decided to burn down the house, placing two aerosol cans in a kitchen microwave oven and turning it on, she allegedly told investigators. Grason took Isaac from his crib, put him in the bathtub and held him underwater until she believed he had drowned, Snow said. Before putting Sandra back into the same tub and drowning her, Grason checked on the fire in the kitchen, prosecutors said. With smoke filling the kitchen, she walked out of the house and calmly went to a neighbor and reported the fire.

A friend, who lives next door to the family, tried to get inside with a fire extinguisher. He saw flames coming out of the window and tried to get to the second floor. There was too much smoke and he was forced to turn back.

By about 10 a.m. Monday, someone had left a small pair of hugging teddy bears on the front porch. The family car, a red Saturn, was parked in front. Two child seats were in the back seat, one blue and one beige.

The children's bodies were found in the bathtub on the second floor.

The woman and her two children had moved in about three months ago from Arizona. The mother, who was raising the children by herself, had just enrolled Sandra in preschool at Prussing School. In Arizona, an individual had contacted a State agency to allege that the children were experiencing "burns by neglect, substantial medical neglect, and substantial risk of physical harm,".

A subsequent investigation, however, "did not find enough evidence to support those allegations,".

After the investigation was declared unfounded, the child welfare officials in Arizona were contacted for follow-up, but the agency did not keep tabs on the family and was in fact unaware that the family had since moved to Chicago.

A neighbor said the mother "appeared to be a loving, caring, interactive mother. Just the other day she was outside and she had a bucket of water. She was out there splashing the kids." N neighbors on either side of the family's residence reported loud screaming coming from the townhouse at night, but that when the neighbors confronted her, the mother "just got mad and went into the house."

One neighbor described Grason as "talkative and very outgoing. I don't think she did anything to them. I can't see her hurting anybody."

The children's father, Henry Younan, and his family were making funeral arrangements and struggling to understand what happened. Linda Rasho, Henry's sister, said the Younan family has been aware of Grason's illness since June 2002, and they did what they could to help her. Rasho and Henry Younan were planning to spend time with the children last weekend.

"We talked to her all the time,'' Rasho said. "We were supposed to be here three days ago to pick up the kids. She agreed to give the kids to us. This is where it shocks us.... We talked to [her] on Saturday.... There's absolutely nothing to do. Tomorrow's the burial. And they're gone.''


Mother faces murder charges in drownings

By The Associated Press

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

A Chicago woman was charged Tuesday with drowning her two young children in a bathtub and setting fire to their home, apparently believing they would be better off dead, authorities said.

"She told detectives that she drowned the children because the children would not have a good life with her," Police Commander Dean Andrews said in announcing first-degree murder and arson charges against 23-year-old Abby Grason.

Isaac Younan, 2, and Sandra Younan, 4, were found unresponsive in the bathroom Monday by firefighters and pronounced dead at a hospital, authorities said.

Andrews said the mother started the fire by putting two aerosol cans in a microwave, then went to the bathroom and drowned the children while the fire started to burn. She went to a neighbor's house afterward and asked them to call 911, he said.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the small kitchen fire, then discovered the children upstairs, Andrews said.

It wasn't immediately clear if Grason had an attorney. She was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

Andrews said the children's father is separated from their mother.


'I don't want to die, mommy'

Chicago Tribune

June 24, 2004

Prosecutors detail the last hours of 2 drowned children

The sister of a Chicago woman charged with drowning her two young children said she tried countless times to get her sister the medical help she needed, but ended up feeling helpless in a system that ultimately failed her niece and nephew.

"What really hurts me the most is that I tried to intervene, but as an aunt I didn't have any legal rights to take these children," said Alma Grason, who called child welfare officials and filed child abuse and neglect allegations against her sister, Abby Grason, in January 2003. "That's the sad thing. They have to be killed first before they can be protected."

Alma Grason said she and other family members tried admitting her sister to a mental hospital, but doctors released her saying she was fit to care for herself and her children. She also called the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to complain that her sister was abusing and neglecting the children, but the agency concluded the allegations were unfounded. Alma then took to watching her niece and nephew daily, encouraging her sister to call her for help when she felt stressed out or depressed.

Now, after the children were found face-down in a bathtub Monday in their Jefferson Park townhouse, Alma said she feels as if all her efforts were in vain.

Abby Grason, 23, of the 5600 block of West Carmen Avenue started a kitchen fire in the two-story townhouse before drowning her children--Sandra and Isaac Younan, ages 4 and 2--because "the children would not have a good life with her," police said.

A judge ordered Wednesday that Grason be held without bond after she appeared in bond court on two charges of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated arson.

Assistant State's Atty. Luann Rodi Snow gave Judge Raymond Myles the most detailed description yet of the children's final hours in the townhouse, saying the slayings were predicated by Grason throwing her mother out of the home Sunday. Grason allegedly has given a 14-page handwritten statement describing what took place next.

In the early-morning hours of Monday, Snow said, things went terribly wrong.

Isaac had started the night in his crib, Snow said, while Grason fell asleep on a couch with her daughter.

Between 3:30 a.m. and 4 a.m., Snow said, the child woke up and told Grason that she was cold.

Grason decided to run a bath for the girl, but Snow said Grason has told authorities that the girl seemingly sensed something was wrong.

"[The girl] became scared," Snow said. "And she said, 'I don't want to die, mommy.' "

Snow said Grason put the child to bed, but soon decided to burn the house down, placing two aerosol cans in the microwave oven in the kitchen and turning it on.

She went back upstairs, Snow said, and allegedly decided that Isaac would die first. "She took Isaac from his crib, holding his head underwater until she believed he was drowned," Snow said.

Grason has told authorities she then went back downstairs to check the progress of the fire, and the cans had just "popped."

She then went back upstairs and took her daughter from her bed. "And she held her head underwater until she believed she was dead," Snow said.

Returning to the kitchen, Grason has said she saw that the kitchen was filling with smoke, so she told a neighbor to call 911.

After the hearing, Assistant State's Atty. Bernie Murray said Grason told authorities that she wanted her children to go to a happy place. "She wanted to send them to heaven," he said.

Assistant Public Defender Kathy Lisco told Myles that Grason has a significant mental health history.

Myles said she would be sent to the jail's Cermak Hospital for possible treatment.

Alma Grason, 22, said she and other family members immediately recognized her sister was suffering from a mental illness when she returned to Chicago in December 2002, after living two years in Arizona with the children's father. Alma Grason said the family took her sister to a mental hospital for treatment, and she alerted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services that her sister wasn't caring for her children.

Child welfare officials said that as part of their investigation into Monday's incident, they would review the probe they conducted last year into abuse and neglect allegations against Grason.

While visiting her sister Saturday, Alma Grason said she realized her sister "was kind of in a daze." Her sister "asked if I could take her kids for a couple weeks so that she could get better because she was kind of sad," Alma Grason said.

The next day, Abby Grason arrived at her sister's house insisting she take back her children. Alma Grason said she pleaded with her sister to let her niece and nephew stay, but Abby replied: "They're my kids, not yours."

"She could go and tell the neighbor to call 911 for the fire, but she couldn't go and call me so I could try and help her before she did this?" Alma Grason said.


Abby Grason



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