A parent’s worst nightmare is the death of their child. What happened to Marci Webber is worse. Marci experienced a paranoid psychotic episode brought on by psychiatric medication. She emerged from the psychotic episode to learn that she had killed her four year old daughter Maggie, whom she loved and cherished, and had tried to kill herself.
Now confined indefinitely at a state hospital for those found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity, Marci wants to warn the public about the dangers of psychiatric medications and seeks justice for herself and her family. She has asked me to share her story.
Marci was a struggling 43 year old single mother of three girls when the tragedy occurred. She was living in upstate NY and was on medical leave from Albany Law School where she was pursuing joint masters of social work/J.D. Juris doctorate of law degrees. She is an honorably discharged Army veteran and has been a volunteer for many nonprofits benefitting children in her community.
Marci had been under a great deal of stress for many years. To help her deal with the stress, Marci’s doctors prescribed an ever-increasing array of psychiatric drugs which included two antidepressants (Wellbutrin 300mg and Zoloft 200mg), an antipsychotic (Seroquel 100mg) for sleep and another sleep medication (Ambien 10mg), as well as a blood pressure medication (Metoprolol 100mg) for calming. Although Marci didn’t realize it at the time, this untested combination of drugs was actually exacerbating, not decreasing, her stress and anxiety, and causing cognitive and memory problems along with unexplained physical symptoms.
In September of 2010, Marci took Maggie to visit her mother and eldest daughter Mallory in Illinois. Her primary care physician, who was prescribing her psychiatric medication, had not seen her since January, 2010 but continued to renew Marci’s prescriptions. She failed to renew Marci’s Zoloft 200mg prescription, however, which had been last filled for a 30 day supply on July 27.
Marci returned briefly to New York and then went back to Illinois. By the time Marci returned to Illinois, her mother and 18 year old daughter Mallory noticed that Marci was not herself. She was nervous and worried that people were after her. Marci also had flu-like symptoms of aches and pains, fatigue, sweating and cramping. Her family members were concerned because they didn’t understand what was happening, but they were not alarmed because Marci had never been dangerous. In fact, Marci was experiencing symptoms of psychiatric medication withdrawal, which can cause flu-like symptoms as well as paranoia, psychosis, akathisia (a movement disorder characterized by a feeling of inner restlessness and a compelling need to be in constant motion), suicidal and homicidal behaviors. No one had warned her or her family members that this could happen.
Sometime just before Halloween, Marci discovered she had some Zoloft and started taking it again. Restarting an SSRI antidepressant after withdrawal can be as dangerous as abruptly stopping it, with all of the same symptoms.
At this point, Marci was going in and out of psychosis and was very confused. She believed she had left all her medications at home and tried to get her prescriptions filled at the Walmart in Illinois. She was told that they were unable to fill the prescriptions due to a New York law that prevented her doctor from calling in or faxing the prescriptions. Her primary care doctor said she should wait for the prescriptions to be mailed to her. No one warned Marci about the dangers of abrupt withdrawal. No one assessed her mental state or asked if she had withdrawal symptoms or advised her to go to a hospital.
Marci returned to her mother’s home and became more paranoid and delusional. She believed that an Illuminati internet sex ring was going to kidnap Maggie and sell her into sexual slavery then kill her during a satanic ritual, sending Maggie’s soul to hell for eternity. In this irrational, confused, psychotic state she killed her daughter to save her from this fate and then tried to kill herself. Her daughter Mallory found her dead sister and her wounded mother and called 911.
Shortly after the homicide, I was contacted by detectives investigating the case. I was Marci’s former psychotherapist. I had not treated Marci for two years but I was still occasionally in touch with her. When I heard what had happened, I immediately informed the detectives that I suspected that the homicide and suicide attempt were related to psychiatric drugs. At that point I had known Marci intimately for 8 years and had known her to be a concerned and loving parent to her children. Marci had never been violent or psychotic before. It is extremely unusual for a person to have a first psychotic episode at such a late age, and when it happens it is usually due to a physical cause.
I also immediately contacted the public defender assigned to Marci’s case and informed him of my suspicions. I sent him articles and books and the names of psychiatrists (including Dr. Peter Breggin and Dr. Joseph Glenmullen) who were knowledgeable about psychiatric drug-induced homicide and suicide. The public defender refused to bring up this issue at Marci’s trial and strongly advised Marci and her family not to file a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming it would jeopardize her criminal case.
After spending close to two years in jail, Marci was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental hospital for the criminally insane, where she can be confined for up to 100 years. She spent four years confined to Elgin Mental Health Center. Hospital personnel refused to consider even the possibility that the homicide was related to her psychiatric drugs, and showed no signs of ever releasing her. The environment there was hostile and abusive rather than therapeutic. She has been assaulted by other patients 15 times, sometimes at the provocation of staff. Two members of the staff even encouraged her to kill herself and provided her with the means to do so.
Marci refused treatment with psychiatric drugs there, which allowed her to recover from her mental confusion. She is lucid and not psychotic, despite her very difficult circumstances. She is not a danger to herself or others. Recently she was transferred to another facility, Chicago Read Mental Health Center, with no explanation for the reasons or plan for her release. The conditions there, though less violent and hostile, continue to be inhumane.
Marci’s terminally ill father and her two surviving daughters need her and want her to be released. She has a job offer in Arizona, where she can be near her father.
We are currently seeking donations for legal representation and independent psychiatric evaluations in order to secure a discharge hearing to get Marci released. We are also seeking an attorney to represent Marci in a malpractice lawsuit against her prescribing physician.
Marci has pledged, upon her release, to speak publicly about her experience in order to educate the public about the dangers of psychiatric drugs so that no one else will have to experience the hell that she has been through. Most victims of the homicidal/suicidal effects of psychiatric drugs do not live to tell the tale. Marci’s story needs to be told.
Secure donations for legal expenses can be made by clicking here: fundly.com
Marci would also welcome letters of support. It’s very difficult for her to keep her spirits up in her current circumstances. You can write to her at: Marci Webber, Chicago Read Mental Health Center, B South, 4200 North Oak Park Ave, Chicago, IL 60634. She can also be reached by phone at (773) 794-4049 or (773) 794-4036, but please note that these phones are for all patients on the unit and may be busy.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.