Less than two weeks before her daughter's death, Kimberly Fry told her family's therapist she blamed the 8-year-old for her depression, thought she was an incompetent mother and felt the situation was hopeless.
Wendy Phillips, a family therapist with Rhode Island Hospital, said she was concerned upon hearing such an admission that Fry may be at risk of harming herself, noting that the word "hopeless" is thought to be a red flag in her profession. While she said Fry convinced her during the July 28, 2009, meeting that "she was just upset" and not at risk of hurting herself, Phillips directed Fry's husband, Tim, to monitor her behavior and take her to the emergency room if necessary.
Just less than two weeks later, Camden Fry died of asphyxiation in the family's home at 73 Ricci Lane. Kimberly Fry stands trial for second-degree murder in her daughter's death, a crime that could carry a life sentence if she is convicted.
The Fry family had begun counseling in April of that year, seeking to alleviate stress and obtain more parenting skills in dealing with Camden's frequent outbusts and tantrums, Phillips said from the stand Friday afternoon. Phillips referred the family to Dr. Christine Trask, a neuro psychologist with Rhode Island Hospital, who diagnosed Camden with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Phillips said she continued to counsel the family every two weeks, then every month as progress appeared to be made. In the July session, however, the situation appeared to have devolved. The parents were arguing during the session, and Kimberly Fry was attempting to get her daughter to pick sides in the argument, "in an inappropriate manner," Phillips wrote in her notes from the session. Phillips excused Camden from the room so she would not be subjected to the emotional session.
Phillips testified she saw the parents one more time, on Aug. 4, and it had appeared the situation had improved, though Kimberly Fry criticized her husband and "said she feels better when she can make others look fallible," Phillips said.
Less than a week later, on Aug. 10, Camden Fry died at the hands of her mother. That much is not in dispute. But, did Kimberly Fry intend to kill her daughter? Attorneys presented very different answers to the question Friday.
Prosecutor Stephen Regine said Fry’s own words indicate her intent. After strangling her daughter, Fry took a mix of antidepressants and pain killers in a bid to kill herself, at the same time penning a suicide note to her husband, Tim, Regine said during his opening argument Friday morning.
In the note, Fry indicated she could no longer handle the crying and outbursts from her daughter, the prosecutor told the jury of seven men and seven women. Regine read excerpts from the letter, quoting Fry as writing, “I wanted to run away, not from you but from her. All I wanted was a nice decent life. I was beaten down by an 8-year-old.”
Regine told the jury Fry had made similar statements, blaming Camden for her depression and expressing her desire to be alone with her husband as early as Camden’s seventh birthday in 2008. To achieve that end, Fry strangled her daughter in their home, continually applying pressure to her neck and chest for upwards of four minutes until the girl died, Regine said.
The next morning, after Tim Fry found Camden’s body and called authorities, Kimberly Fry sobbed over her daughter’s body, saying “I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Regine said. She later admitted to employees at South County Hospital to killing her daughter, Regine said, telling a nurse she had “sat on her daughter and put her hands on her mouth to make her stop crying.”
Defense attorney Sarah Wright acknowledged that Camden died at her mother’s hands, but told the jury evidence will show there was no intent to kill or harm her daughter. Rather, she was performing a restraint technique designed to stop the temper tantrum Camden was throwing after refusing to take a bath, Wright said.
Wright told the jury an independent autopsy determined the death occurred in the course of performing the restraint, not due to manual strangulation as the medical examiner concluded.
Wright offered a different interpretation of Fry’s words in her suicide letter, noting the prosecution cannot establish a timeline as to when Fry wrote the letter. The note, Wright said, never mentions taking her daughter’s life. Rather, it discusses Fry’s own difficulties. “This is not a note that explains what happened to Camden,” Wright said. “It’s about what happened to Kimberly.”
Wright painted Fry as a concerned mother who repeatedly attempted to seek help for her daughter’s condition. Amanda Kirkutis, Camden's second-grade teacher at Fishing Cove Elementary School, said Kimberly frequently volunteered in the classroom, and both parents met with teachers at the school to address difficulties Camden was having. Kirkutis described Camden as an energetic, if sometimes a bit mischeivous, little girl, who was having some trouble with reading and writing. Kimberly and Tim Fry requested the school test her for ADHD, but the school followed its protocol of implementing in-house strategies to handle such situations. The Frys had requested the testing because Camden felt bad that she was falling behind and frequently acted up at home.
The girl had another of her outbursts the night of her death, Wright said, and Kimberly Fry was trying to calm her when she attempted the restraint technique.
“This is something Kimberly Fry will never forgive herself for,” Wright said. “But did she intend to kill her? While it’s true that Kimberly Fry’s actions did cause Camden’s death, the evidence will show it was unintentional.”