GRAY – A father shot and killed his autistic son Tuesday at their home on Yarmouth Road before turning the rifle on himself, Maine State Police said.
Cumberland County sheriff’s deputies found the bodies of Daniel McLatchie, 44, and his son, Benjamin McLatchie, 22, in the family’s driveway at 227 Yarmouth Road around 2:30 p.m.
The driveway, which is several hundred feet long, slopes down from Yarmouth Road — part of Route 115 — before ending at a white, two-story, Cape-style home surrounded by woods.
State police Sgt. Chris Harriman said the sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call. He did not say who made the call.
He said it appeared that Daniel McLatchie was upset about what would happen to his autistic son after he and his wife died. He was a stay-at-home father, Harriman said.
Daniel McLatchie’s wife, Allison McLatchie, 45, was at work when the shootings happened.
Harriman said she is a teacher at the Collaborative School on the Pineland Campus in New Gloucester. According to its website, the school serves students from ages 5 to 19 who are eligible for special education services because of emotional or related disabilities.
Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Marguerite Dewitt examined the bodies in Gray. She determined that McLatchie and his son died from gunshot wounds. A rifle was found near the bodies.
The bodies were taken to Augusta, where the state Medical Examiner’s Office is expected to do autopsies today.
Harriman would not characterize the shootings as a murder-suicide, but said during a press conference, “We do believe there were no other people involved.”
Mary Keith has lived nearby on Yarmouth Road for 10 years, but said she never got to know the McLatchies. She said the family moved into the neighborhood about six years ago.
Ginger Taylor of Brunswick, who writes the blog “Adventures in Autism” and whose 8-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism, said she doesn’t know the McLatchies, but noted there are pressures for families with autistic children.
“Having an autistic child is, on a social level, very hard because it can be very isolating. You don’t get to be part of those social circles anymore and you can’t participate in the life of the town. There are just so many challenges,” said Taylor, who has organized Greater Brunswick Special Families, a support group for parents of autistic children.
She said there is “a huge tidal wave of autistic children born in the 1980s and 1990s who are coming of age.” Parents who care for autistic children at home need greater support, such as respite care and counseling, she said.
Taylor said one of the most common fears for parents with autistic children is what will happen to the children after the parents are gone.
“That is the big question — what happens to our child when we die,” she said. “We understand their needs better than anyone else. It really breaks my heart hearing what happened to this family. It shouldn’t be like that.”
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: email@example.com