ABC7 Exclusive: Alex's story

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
Alex's story
Newly-obtained interviews reveal the pain, frustration and fear facing a family as they cared for a suburban boy with a severe form of autism.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In an Eyewitness News exclusive report, newly-obtained interviews reveal the pain, frustration and fear facing a family as they cared for a suburban boy with a severe form of autism. The videos capture the final months of the child's life before his mother and godmother are accused of murdering him more than a year ago.

These interviews are not offered-up as an excuse for the alleged murder, but as a way to provide context and insight into one family's desperate situation.

Alex Spourdalakis was a typical toddler, adventurous and mischievous. Everything was fine until a few months shy of Alex's 2nd birthday.

"He had this episode with the fever and the screaming at night and that was like a turning point," said Agatha Skrodzka, Alex's godmother.

"He lost his speech, strange behaviors, skin rashes," said Dorothy Spourdalakis, Alex's mother.

Dorothy and Agatha are the two women who - just a few months after this interview was recorded - would be charged with murdering Alex. They've each entered not guilty pleas.

By age 3, Alex was diagnosed with a severe form of autism. The next decade would feature setback after setback, hospitalizations, medications and meltdowns. As Alex grew, so did his strength and his needs.

"He couldn't focus, he had trouble doing things like he normally would. The person we knew up until now, that was level, something was wrong," Dorothy said.

"The psych facilities wouldn't take him, the hospitals said your insurance is done, bye bye. There was nowhere for them to go," said Amy Lukos, Alex's therapist.

The final months of Alex's life included a desperate drive to New York to see a doctor who they hoped would confirm their long-held suspicion that many of the problems were caused by inflammatory bowel disease. Keep in mind: Alex couldn't talk. He had no way to communicate what was bothering him.

But when they returned to Chicago, Dorothy and Agatha told friends they couldn't find a hospital that would treat Alex's stomach problems until his behavior stabilized.

"This is what he's fought for and hung on for, for this to happen?" Dorothy said.

Alex's final weeks were captured on camera by an autism advocacy group, and turned into a film titled: "Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis?"

"We clearly didn't anticipate the end of this. This was part of a reality show in which we were trying to show how these children could be made better; but what we captured was in fact a prelude to an alleged murder," said Andy Wakefield, Autism Media Channel.

"She just, she just couldn't take seeing her son in pain anymore and seeing no future for him, and there was no help for him," said Polly Tommey, Autism Media Channel.

In June 2013, River Grove police found Alex drugged and stabbed repeatedly in the family's second floor apartment. Dorothy and Agatha had unsuccessfully tried to take their own lives.

A suicide note left by Dorothy reads in part: "Alex will not be neglected and abused by the medical community anymore... Alex will not be treated as less than human... Alex will not have to suffer anything, anymore."

"She was emotionally broken, her and Agatha. She would send me text messages saying 'please pray that God takes him - he's suffering'," Lukos said. "Nobody slept, nobody ate. So where's the help for the parents? There's no support for them, there's no relief. No respite, nowhere for them to safely bring their children."

Dorothy Spourdalakis and Agatha Skrodzka are in the Cook County Jail awaiting trial on first-degree murder charges. Her friend said Dorothy wants the public to know there are other families out there feeling similar despair.

Dec. 18 would have been Alex's 16th birthday.

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