Life

Radio review: The adored son who killed his mother

Nuala McCann

The Hospital always Wins Documentary on One RTÉ 1

In 2005, Laura Starecheski began recording at Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital – the largest state psychiatric care institution in New York City.

She came across a young man whose room was filled with his amazing paintings... a parody of the Last Supper, a painting called The First Kiss.

“The more we talked, the more sane he seemed. He didn't seem sick. Why was he at Creedmoor?” she asked.

What she learned was that he had been an adored son whose artistic talent was nurtured from a young age. He had all the talent, the good looks, the brains. His mother adored him.

But his father died in the 1980s and Issa travelled down a road that led to psychosis.

He knew he was not well. “I'm losing my mind,” he told his mother.

“Please don't let it be mental,” she said.

And then, in a psychotic episode when he believed she was evil, he killed her.

It took Starecheski 10 years to build up a relationship with Issa. Out of that came the trust that led him to share what happened the night of his terrible crime.

Issa was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and went to Creedmoor as opposed to prison.

This is a story about survival and atonement through creativity and courage.

It is a story that demanded endless time and compassion from the documentary maker.

In the end, Issa wins freedom, it was no easy battle.

He will continue to take his medication but is deemed not a threat.

“It's been a long time coming ,” he says. It's been 20 years.

His mother? How does he feel living when he took her life?

“She just loved the hell out of me,” he says and he feels her presence in his home.

It's been a long and difficult journey but one this gifted documentary maker was willing and committed to share.

The ending was simple.

“For the first time in his life, Issa can close and lock his own door. He's 48 years old.”

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