Experts shed light on resources after police say caregiver killed her 30-year-old grandson with disabilities

Grandmother Kills Grandson

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Wednesday, investigators issued a warrant for the grandmother accused of killing her 30-year-old disabled grandson.

Lillian Parks, 87, is accused of killing 30-year-old Joel Parks. Bradenton Police said the man’s sister discovered his body Sunday afternoon at the Carlton Arms apartments.

Police said Lillian Parks admitted to overdosing her grandson on purpose, with the intention of taking his life. Right now, they said she’s being evaluated at the hospital, but once she’s out of medical care, she’ll be taken into custody for second degree murder.

Police said that Joel lived in a group home during the week and stayed with Lillian on the weekends.

Everyone who knew Joel Parks said Wednesday that this is truly a tragedy.

“Joel is one of the happiest guys that you will ever meet,” said Tom Waters, President and CEO of EasterSeals Southwest Florida.

Waters said Joel was a client of the nonprofit organization that offers services for people all ages with disabilities.

“He would come up and give you that bear hug," Waters said. “And you knew you had been hugged. But the most fun part about Joel is he was always up. He was always happy and he was always saying, ‘Hi, friend! Hi, friend!’”

A friend to everyone, described as outgoing, kind and the life of the party, but on Sunday, Joel was found dead at a Bradenton apartment on Riverfront Drive.

Detectives said his 87-year-old grandmother and caregiver, Lillian Parks, told officers she killed him because she’d be dying soon and no one else could take care of him.

Robin Stover, a managing attorney for Gulfcoast Legal Services in Bradenton, pointed to the court documents that tell a deeper story.

“Lillian, through her attorney, was asking the court to appoint this second person to help her," Robin Stover showed. "And the judge signed that order in May.”

Those documents show that a man named Mario Vargas had stepped up and was ordered by the judge to take a course to learn how to be Joel’s guardian.

“So there was a plan in process," showed Stover.

Then just at the beginning of September, their attorney asked for a 90 day extension to gather the necessary documents, give Mario Vargas more time to take the course and assist Lillian, who the attorney wrote, is “in need of physical assistance and transportation.”

“Caregivers, as they age, the burden, the burden becomes so great that they don’t have healthy coping mechanisms," Stover explained.

She said her non-profit legal aid agency handles similar circumstances all the time.

The Manatee Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Sarasota has provided all the funding to Gulfcoast Legal Services so they can work with seniors who have any care-giving issues without a cost to the client.

“These are all issues that will just become more concerning and more prevalent as our community, especially here in Southwest Florida, ages,” Stover added.

Experts say there are a number of resources in place to help ease that burden. The following is a list of local and state agencies that can support and guide caregivers in the right direction:

- The Department of Children and Families has a line to call if you’re a caregiver in crisis. That number is 1-800-962-2873. Additional resources for individuals with a disability are on the Florida Department of Children and Families’s website and can be found by clicking here.

- Caregivers and the elderly can also make a life plan with Gulfcoast Legal Services, free of charge, so they’re not overwhelmed with what steps to take as they age. The number to reach Gulfcoast Legal Services is 941-746-6151. Their website can be found by clicking here.

- Services can also be found on Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ website, here. This is a state agency that works with local communities to help people with disabilities.

- The three main local agencies that offer services for people with disabilities on the Suncoast are EasterSeals, Loveland Center and The Haven.

- The Friendship Centers offer caregivers support groups. For more information, click here.

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