LAWRENCE, Mass. — A Massachusetts woman charged with attempted murder for withholding cancer treatment from her autistic son testified Friday that she did not give him at least five months of chemotherapy medications because the side effects made him so sick she was afraid the treatments would kill him.
Kristen LaBrie, testifying for the second day at her attempted murder trial, said she mostly followed doctor’s orders during the first four phases of treatment for her son, Jeremy Fraser. But she said she stopped giving him his cancer medications during the final phase of his treatment because she “didn’t want to make him any sicker.”
LaBrie said she told her son’s doctor two or three times that she was afraid “that he just had had it.”
“He was just not capable of getting through any more chemotherapy,” LaBrie said.
“I really felt that it could out-villainize the disease — the medicine could — because he was very, very fragile.”
LaBrie, 38, of Salem is charged with attempted murder, child endangerment and assault and battery. Her son died at age 9 in 2009.
The jury is expected to begin deliberating the case Monday after closing arguments and instructions from the judge.
LaBrie’s son was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2006. The boy’s oncologist testified that she told LaBrie that the cancer had a cure rate of 85 percent to 90 percent under an intensive, two-year treatment plan.
The boy required periodic hospitalizations and frequent visits to a hospital clinic, where he received chemotherapy treatments. LaBrie was instructed to give him two to three cancer medications at home.
After months of treatment, the boy’s cancer went into remission. But in February 2008, doctors discovered the cancer had returned in the form of leukemia and that LaBrie had not filled at least five months’ worth of prescriptions for her son’s cancer drugs.
LaBrie remained composed through most of her testimony, showing emotion only once, when her lawyer asked her why did not give her son the drugs.
“He was very, very sick and I was afraid, and I did not want to make him any sicker,” she said, her voice quivering.
“I was afraid that if he got any sicker than he was, then he would die,” she said.
Prosecutors have painted a picture of a woman who “seethed with resentment” over the small role the boy’s father, Eric Fraser, had played in his life after the couple split up when the boy was 3. Jeremy had severe autism, allergies and other health issues. LaBrie said she largely took care of him by herself.
LaBrie testified that Eric Fraser did not give her much help after their son was diagnosed with cancer.
During cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall, LaBrie acknowledged that she repeatedly told her son’s doctors that he was doing well on the at-home chemotherapy treatments. She also acknowledged that she told his doctors she was giving him all the treatments and lied when first confronted about the unfilled prescriptions, saying the pharmacy must have made a billing error.
LaBrie said she did not tell his oncologist that she was afraid to give him the medications because she knew someone else would give them to him and make him feel sick. She described various side effects, including nausea, weakness, fevers and sleeplessness.
She shot back at the prosecutor when pressed about why she didn’t give her son the medications.
“You knew the cancer had made him very sick?” asked MacDougall.
“I didn’t actually see the cancer make him very sick. What I saw make him very sick was the two weeks they blasted him with chemotherapy,” she said, referring to her son’s initial hospitalization.
Jeremy Fraser spent the last year of his life living with his father. Eric Fraser died in a motorcycle accident seven months after his son’s death.