Hey, Don't Shave Your Kid's Head and Pretend He Has Cancer for Money


Just a reminder: Parents, do NOT pretend that your kid has a life-threatening illness so that sympathetic do-gooders will send you megabucks and then you can buy a bunch of jet-skis. Or any personal watercraft. Don’t do that. Please?

An Ohio mom allegedly shaved her 4-year-old son JJ’s head to make people—and, even more horribly, JJ himself—think that he was dying of terminal brain cancer. The woman, Emily Creno-King, 31, also had her estranged husband give JJ unnecessary medicine during his weekend visits.

She forced him to wear a surgical mask and set up Facebook groups to ask kind-hearted strangers to chip in for his treatment, it’s claimed.
…”There was always a doubt in my mind,” [JJ’s father] John Creno told NBC4.
“But once all the medicines started coming with him on weekends, I thought, ‘Ok, he really does have it,'” he added.

Creno-King is being held on $50,000 bond and is being evaluated by mental health professionals to determine whether she has Münchausen syndrome by proxy or is simply an asshole. That distinction is controversial, making cases like this something of a minefield to discuss—there’s no clear consensus as to whether Münchausen by proxy can really be called a mental disorder, or if it’s just a pattern of abuse. I don’t want to downplay mental illness any more than I want to apologize for exploitative abusers. The same stumbling block applies in all intersections of mental health and criminal justice. (In my completely non-professional opinion, putting your child’s life in danger for callous financial reasons seems a tad beyond the scope of typical mental health. But what do I know—I’m just some lady.)

Creno-King’s case is just the latest in a number of similar incidents over the past few years—a pattern that, I imagine, must be amplified by the crowdfunding power of the internet.

This Utah woman pretended her 4-year-old daughter had leukemia and solicited more than $3,000 in donations.

This lady in Indiana told everyone her son had lung cancer so she could get more than $2,000 which she apparently used for “gas money.”

This New Jersey mother told her 9-year-old son he had stage-three Hodgkin’s lymphoma and collected more than $3,500 to pay for “treatment.”

This Michigan woman shaved her son’s head and drugged his food in order to scam local churchgoers out of more than $7,000 in donations.

This Ohio mother drugged her daughter’s food, shaved her head, and made her wear a surgical mask and go to school in a helmet. She also told the girl that this would be her “last Christmas.” The daughter then “asked Father Christmas to give her a present of being allowed to live.”

This UK woman collected £85,898 in benefits by faking doctor’s letters saying her son had cancer, shaving his head and eyebrows, and sending him to school in a wheelchair. In a victim impact statement, the boy said of his mother: “I don’t like her. She is evil. I don’t think she has a normal brain.”

This Utah dad pretended his son had cancer so he could meet his favorite hockey player.

And then there’s William H. Macy on Shameless:

I hope those parents are able to find some effective counseling—and, more importantly, that their children (several of whom, according to the stories linked above, are now in foster care) will have adequate support in processing what was done to them. I can’t even imagine the longterm effects of facing mortality as a very young child, only to discover later that your most trusted guardian was using you as a cash cow/attention magnet. Best of luck to those kids.

Image via hxdbzxy/Shutterstock.

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