ST. LOUIS -- An elderly woman who feared she was developing dementia removed her mentally disabled adult daughter from a care facility, then fatally stabbed her in a suburban St. Louis hotel before attempting to kill herself, police and relatives say.
Marjorie Theleman, 78, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of her 51-year-old daughter, Sharon Theleman, after police were summoned to a hotel in Fenton, Missouri, because the pair had not checked out.
Sharon Theleman was pronounced dead at the scene. Her mother, who attempted to suffocate herself with a plastic bag, remained hospitalized Wednesday, according to a police news release. She left a typed note explaining her actions and a handwritten note telling housekeeping to call police, a police detective wrote in the probable cause statement.
Police said she was expected to survive. But one of her two sons, Scott Theleman, who lives in the Dallas area, said he has been told his mother is in a coma and has a “50-50 chance of surviving.” He said his mother lived in a retirement community and wanted to have his sister moved there from a group home because his sister’s mobility was declining.
“She was concerned about Alzheimer's,” he said of his mother. “Her mother had it. She had spent many years trying to avoid it but felt she was heading that way.”
“From what I understand, the note I haven’t seen said she was doing this as a favor to her sons, so we didn’t have to carry the burden of a handicapped sister and declining mother” he said. “I don’t approve of that at all but that’s apparently what the note said.”
Scott Theleman didn’t say how he knew the contents of the note and police declined to comment.
Court records show that Marjorie Theleman was appointed in 1989 as a guardian for her then-21-year-old daughter, who was described as an “incapacitated person.” A report filed in 2014 in the guardianship case described Sharon Theleman as mentally disabled and visually impaired. The report also said she needed a walker or wheelchair and “cannot take care of herself.” Thomas Zotos, the attorney for Marjorie Theleman in the guardianship case, said he had no recent contact with the mother or daughter and couldn’t comment. No attorney is listed for Marjorie Theleman in online court records in the criminal case. Her bond was set at $250,000.
Sharon Theleman had been in the care of St. Louis Arc, a nonprofit that provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of a long-time member of the St. Louis Arc family, “the group’s president and CEO, Mark Keeley, said in a written statement. “Sharon Theleman has been a valued part of the Arc community dating back to the early 1990s. The circumstances surrounding yesterday's incident involve a domestic situation concerning a mother who has guardianship of her daughter. As such, the St. Louis Arc can offer no insight or comment other than to convey our deepest sympathy to Sharon's family.”
Hollingsworth reported from Kansas City, Missouri. Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.