By Nicole Bode
DNAinfo Associate Editor
MANHATTAN — The pressures of being a single mother caring for an acutely autistic child can be enough to drive a person mad, and may have done just that to millionaire and accused child-killer Gigi Jordan, said those close to her.
“She was — is — a wonderful woman. Very, very loving and caring for that child, and drove herself literally crazy — and I think her actions support that diagnosis, trying to take care of him,” said Dr. Marcus Conant, an HIV/AIDS specialist in California who has known Jordan for the past decade.
Jordan, 49, allegedly killed her 8-year-old son Jude Michael Mirra, and then attempted to kill herself inside the luxury Peninsula Hotel in Midtown Feb. 5, police said. She is currently being held at Elmhurst Hospital awaiting arraignment on second-degree murder charges, police said.
Jude, who was acutely autistic, was found lying on the bed, dead from an apparent drug overdose, police said. His mom, a pharmaceutical executive, lay unconscious on the floor beside him, sheets of a partially-completed suicide note reportedly scattered around the room, alongside a host of prescription pills.
The boy’s body was identified by his biological father, Emil Tzekov, at the city’s medical examiner late Monday, the Daily News reported. Tzekov, who is a yoga instructor in California, told the paper he wants to bring the body back to his home for the funeral. He had not seen the boy in years and signed over custody to Jordan's first husband, Raymond Mirra Jr. Mirra later relinquished custody as well, the News reported.
The medical examiner completed an autopsy over the weekend but is awaiting toxicology reports before determining the cause of death, officials said.
Jude’s murder was a tragic ending to a quixotic battle his mother waged against the symptoms of autism from the moment he was diagnosed, friends said.
Jordan, who reportedly amassed millions of dollars during her years working as a pharmaceutical executive, was “a woman who had all of the financial resources in the world and found the same thing as everyone else, that we have nothing medically to offer,” Conant said.
“The tragedy is that it consumes the mother, they become absolutely devoted to trying to find a relief for their child. She went to Duke, clinics across San Diego, consulted with every expert in the United States, her experience would outstrip everyone in New York. Trying to find some hope and found the hopelessness that everyone else faces,” he added.
The fact that Jordan’s two marriages failed, leaving her the sole caregiver for her son, may have also contributed to her deterioration, Conant said.
“As a single mother, if she thought something might happen to her … no one could take care of her child. We as a society have not provided part of that safety net. It’s really, really tragic.”
Advocates in the autism community agreed that parents of autistic children are typically left to fend for themselves, compounding an already-difficult situation. But they drew the line at ending their child’s life.
“It is incredibly stressful, yes, because there is such a lack of a safety net,” said Kim Stagliano, mother of three autistic daughters and managing editor of the support Web site AgeofAutism.com.
“If you go to Sloan Kettering or Mount Sinai and you get a diagnosis of cancer with a child, you are immediately enveloped in a care system. Here’s a protocol … here’s the Ronald McDonald House, here’s the church or the synagogue lining up to give you dinner. When you have an autistic child, none of that exists. Once you get that diagnosis you are really on your own,” she added.
Yet, no amount of stress could excuse a parent crossing that line, Stagliano said.
“I have a hard time with a parent mustering up any sympathy for her. I have three (autistic children,) I have never contemplated putting any of them in the river. I can understand stress I can understand trauma … I still can’t wrap my head around killing my child, period. There’s no crossing it.”
“I just can’t come up with any wiggle room for killing your child.”