Police: Mother poisoned mentally disabled son, tried to kill herself

A mother frustrated with caring for her adult son with diminished mental capacity took his life and tried to take her own last week, authorities said.

Joann Hafer, 51, fed Matthew Hafer a lethal dose of unknown prescription drugs before consuming the substance herself, Las Vegas police said.

The mother survived and is facing one count of murder.

She was found Saturday after crying out for help from her apartment near Carey Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. Her son’s body was in a recliner, partially covered with a sheet.

Decomposition had set in, indicating he had been dead for several days. The mother, who was found on the floor acting lethargic, was taken to a hospital.

On Monday, a family friend said Matthew Hafer was about 28 but functioned mentally at a fourth-grade level. He was autistic and suffered from epilepsy .

“He was a sweet boy. He always did what he was told. He was always bright about everything,” said the friend, Cheyenne Kaan.

Joann Hafer was depressed, Kaan said. She was having a difficult time caring for her son, which included telling him when to take his medication, when to eat or go to the bathroom, according to a police report.

Things began to fall apart a few months ago when her other son, a drug addict, moved out of state, leaving her with no money, Kaan said.

“Her other son robbed her of the money. He was a meth head. He wasn’t a very good son at all,” she said.

Joann Hafer described her situation in a note police found in her apartment. “You try having a disabled child and one that’s a drug addict,” the note said.

Hafer had to sell some firearms to her father-in-law for cash. She told a friend, “It’s a good thing (he) has my guns because I would have shot myself and Matthew and been done with it.”

Investigators quickly pieced together Hafer’s dire situation through the notes and letters she left behind and interviews with friends and neighbors.

In the apartment, investigators found prescription pill bottles, a glass cup and a fork with a crushed white residue.

An envelope found taped to a cabinet and addressed to police said, “Do not let cats out.”

Kaan, whose boyfriend was the Hafers’ neighbor, received in the mail a nine-page will dated July 24. The will, signed by Joann Hafer, said, “My decision to take our lives does not come without a lot of thought and consideration.”

When Hafer awoke at the hospital, investigators confronted her with the letter and other notes mentioning a murder-suicide plan. She first denied writing the letter but then told detectives she had written it and she wanted to be cremated together with her son and their ashes scattered in Lake Mead.

When asked who was responsible for her son’s death, she told detectives, “I guess I am.” She added, “I should die.”

She was booked into the Clark County Detention Center in absentia and was set to appear before a Las Vegas justice of the peace Wednesday.

Kaan said through tears that she was besides herself with grief. “I knew she battled depression, but I never knew she would do something like that.”

Her thoughts turned to the son. “Matthew did not deserve it. He was completely innocent. He didn’t know any better.”