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A Sunnyvale mother shot and killed her 22-year-old autistic son in his bedroom, then turned the gun on herself, according to police. Department of Public Safety Capt. Dave Verbrugge said Wednesday that the pair were found about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday in a home in the 800 block of Nectarine Ave. He did not disclose their names or a possible motive. Public records show that Elizabeth Hodgins, 53, lives at 813 Nectarine Ave., with a 22-year-old, George Hodgins. A 51-year-old man also lives at the home; police say the husband was not home at the time.
Neighbors confirmed the names of the mother and son. Jennifer Sullivan, executive director of the Morgan Autism Center, said George attended the San Jose center for most of his life, starting when he was six years old. "He was delightful," she said. "He was non-verbal, but very physically active. He loved walking and hiking." Sullivan said that George could not talk and used a voice-output communication device for limited communication. He did not drive and "constantly was working on his independent living skills," she said. "He needed to be supervised at all times for his own safety.'' Neighbors often saw George mowing the lawn with his father, his dad's hands over his.
George stopped attending the autism center in December. Sullivan said it was because Elizabeth Hodgins told her that she wanted to find a program that was more community-oriented, where her son could be out in the world. But one neighbor said that Hodgins told her several times in the last few months that her son was getting increasingly harder to handle, and that she couldn't find a new program to take him. "She just couldn't do it any more -- take care of him anymore''' said Jacquie Jauch. "She was just tired and very lonely." Jauch said that Hodgins pleaded with her: "Please help me find a program. I need somewhere to put him. I need a rest."
Sullivan described Elizabeth Hodgins as a woman who "adored her son. They were very close." There were no obvious problems that Sullivan knew about between mother and son. But in general, she said that many parents with autistic children are "very close to that line of going over the edge." Having a child with autism, Sullivan said, can be very "isolating. You're on 24 hours a day. There is no respite. It's ongoing, and once your children become adults, you continually wonder, 'Who will take care of my child when I die?' " Tracy May, a mother with a special needs child who lives a few blocks down from the Hodgins, came to place flowers at the family's home Wednesday, adding to a growing memorial. "It is a very big strain to raise a child with special needs," May said. "You have to have support. You don't know what causes this to happen. A lot falls on the mom." When told that Hodgins was having a hard time finding a new program, Sullivan was upset: "I wish we would have known. He could have come back here. We loved George."