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Wisconsin father kills disabled son, attempts suicide, cops say

TOWN OF BURKE, Wis. - Facing changes to the respite-care situation for his 16-year-old developmentally disabled son, a father took his son to an area park and killed him Tuesday, sheriff's officials tell CBS affiliate WISC-TV.

According to the station, the Dane County medical examiner identified the 16-year-old as Maxwell J. Peterson Thursday morning, saying he died of "homicidal trauma," the cause of which was not released.

Investigators have said he was killed by his father, Theodore R. Peterson, who was injured in a suicide attempt at Token Creek Park Tuesday evening, reports the station. Sheriff's officials said they recovered a knife and a Remington nail gun, which they believe are the weapons used in the incident.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that search warrants filed Thursday say the boy's throat was cut, and that the father had reportedly been shot in the head with the nail gun.

The father remained in critical condition Thursday, says the station, and the warrants said he was on life support and showed minimal brain activity.

Dane County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Elise Schaffer told the station that investigators are looking into the possibility that the Peterson family was facing a change in respite care for its son, who had developmental disabilities and was diagnosed with a rare neurogenetic disorder, Angelman Syndrome, according to the station.

Respite care is temporary relief for caregivers from the responsibilities of caring for people with special needs. Theodore Peterson allegedly sent his wife a text at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday saying that he was taking Maxwell for a walk after the couple discussed the respite-care issue, but she was reportedly unaware of his intentions, investigators said.

Grief counselors were available at East High School Thursday, where Maxwell was a sophomore last year, reports WISC-TV.

Special education teacher Josh Albarelli said Maxwell left a big impression on the teachers who worked with him.

"Every student who walks in the door has different challenges, and the thing I'll remember about Max is that he came a long way and we saw a lot of growth in him," Albarelli said, according to the station.

Max Peterson's family had been supporters of the national Angelman Syndrome Foundation, says the station.

"It's really rocked the Angelman community as people are finding out about this today," Executive Director Eileen Braun said. "I just know from the outpouring from our families that our hearts are truly broken."

The topic of respite-care issues is resonating in the disability community, reports the Wisconsin station.

"I just want to encourage our families to seek out each other," Braun said to the station. "Rely on the support of each other and don't be afraid to ask for help."

According to Braun, only 2,400 people are known to have been diagnosed with the disorder that causes developmental delays like speech and walking impairments, and can cause seizures. But people with Angelman Syndrome are also very happy and affectionate, reports the station.

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