Police: Professor Beaten to Death by Autistic Son

A mother's struggle to raise her autistic son ends after he allegedly kills her.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 4:03 PM

Feb. 11, 2009— -- Sky Walker couldn't tell his mother if he loved her. Or why he liked "The Price is Right."

But Getrude Steuernagel was devoted to her son, nonetheless, even when their world shrank as Walker's severe autism seemingly cut them off from many aspects of a normal life.

Now, Walker, 18, is sitting in a jail cell, accused of beating his mother to death, while her friends and family members struggle to understand why -- an answer that may never come.

"There really weren't any clues in the house," Molly Merryman, a friend and Kent State University associate professor, told ABCNews.com. "I think it's always something we'll wonder about and never know."

Steuernagel, a political science professor who had penned opinion pieces on her son's autism for the university's Daily Kent Stater, was found severely beaten in their Kent, Ohio, home Jan. 29 after university employees called police when she failed to show up for work.

Portage County Sheriff's Office Major Dennis Missimi said Steuernagel, 60, was found on the kitchen floor. Walker was in his room.

"They approached him. There was a slight scuffle that ensued when he was taken into custody," Missimi said of Walker's arrest.

Errol Can, an attorney in Kent who has been hired to represent Walker, said he had no comment on his client's case.

Rushed to the hospital, Steuernagel died Friday without regaining consciousness.

Summit County Medical Examiner Investigator Gary Guenther told ABCNews.com that the office was still waiting for medical records and tests on tissue samples before ruling on Steuernagel's cause of death. But Monday's autopsy revealed "multiple bruising" on her head and chest as well as brain trauma.

Initially charged with attempted murder along with assault on a police officer, Missimi said he expects Walker's charge to be upgraded to murder. The police officer he allegedly assaulted was kicked in the face and has returned to work.