It was August of 2007 when Eryn Allegra of Port St. Lucie in Florida began to struggle financially. She had gone through a string of unsuccessful jobs and relationships and the ordeal had left her feeling hopeless. She had an 8-year-old son, Tristan, who was a student at Mariposa Elementary School. He was known by his classmates as being “very kind and helpful, cool and funny.”
Eryn and Tristan’s father, Michael, had separated when Tristan was just one-year-old after Eryn decided to pursue a relationship with another man. Tristan would stay with his father on weekends.1 Michael recalled that Tristan was very talkative, like him, and loved reading, like his mother.
On Christmas Eve of 2008, Allegra took Tristan to a Holiday Inn on U.S. 1 in Port St. Lucie. They sat up until midnight watching cartoons in bed. Tristan had been excited about celebrating Christmas the next morning. Tristan had written his Christmas list the week before. He had hoped for video games, Pokémon cards and picture frames.
Tragically, however, Eryn had something else planned for that night and unbeknownst to Tristan, he would never see another Christmas morning.2
Shortly after midnight, Eryn gave Tristan eight Advil. Tristan was happy enough to take the tablets because he had a headache and Eryn reassured him that it would make him feel better. He quickly fell asleep and at around 3AM, Allegra smothered her son with a pillow. She had assumed he would overdose on the pills but then became afraid that they would just “turn him into a vegetable.” When her son stopped breathing, Allegra went into the bathroom, climbed into the bathtub and slit her wrists.
She left several notes; one read: “Out of selfishness and love, I could not leave you and I was not strong enough to stay… Remember, please remember I love you best and always. Thanks for being my sweet boy all these years.” Another which had no addressee read: “I loved him with all of my heart but I was no longer a good mother. I tried to see that he didn’t suffer. I couldn’t leave him to chance. I was no longer living – only walking dead.”3
However, Eryn didn’t die; the blade was much too dull. At around 11AM the following morning, Eryn called 911 and was taken to the St. Lucie Medical Center where she was treated to minor cuts to her wrists and arms. As families worldwide were celebrating Christmas amongst their loved ones, Port St. Lucie police were removing the body of a little child from a hotel room.
After her arrest, Eryn said that she had been contemplating the murder-suicide for months due to her financial problems. She described how she was depressed and didn’t want to leave her son with his father. “I am alone,” Eryn had written in her journal: “Nowhere else to go… People move on. I just can’t.” Speaking with police, Eryn said that she was not “insane” and that she knew exactly what she was doing and felt as thought she had to do. She described how she had lost her house and was worried about the future.
Eryn’s 80-year-old grandmother, Catherine Whiting, spoke with The Stuart News and said: “Eryn did something really bad, but she thought she was doing something right… My heart aches for her.” She said that she did not know that Eryn had been struggling financially and said: “If I had known, she and Tristan could have come to live with me. I wish I had known about it…” Catherine had adopted Eryn when she was seven-years-old.
As a young girl, Eryn’s mother, Catherine Smith, had often told Eryn that she was a mistake and that she did not love her. “I feel that has a lot to do with Eryn not being sociable. She was tight-mouthed, even with me,” said Catherine.4 Over the past few years, Eryn and Catherine had become estranged. Catherine said she believed that Eryn may have cut her off because she had continued to be friendly with Michael following their separation. According to Catherine, she had tried repeatedly to reopen communications but said that each time she called, Eryn would hang up.
Tristan’s funeral was held at the St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church. Around 100 mourners gathered outside the church to see the dainty white casket be carried in to the church. Loved ones flanked Michael, who cried as he placed a single red rose on his son’s casket. The funeral was conducted by Rev. James E. Molgano who said: “Bad things happen in our world, and bad things happen in our lives. But God is not the cause of it…” A number of Tristan’s classmates were in attendance. One friend, Dominique McGarrah, recalled that Tristan liked to play cops and robbers at recess and tell jokes.5
A St. Lucie grand jury indicted Eryn on first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges. If convicted, she would be facing either life in prison or a death sentence.
In February of 2010, Eryn Allegra pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse to avoid the possibility of a death sentence. At her sentencing hearing, Tristan’s grandmother, Margaret Allegra, addressed her former daughter-in-law and said: “If you had committed suicide, it would have been hard enough on us. We would have been devastated. But we would still have Tristan… What you have done takes my breath away… You took something very precious from our lives… to take an innocent life, I don’t know what made you do that.”6
Eryn was sentenced to life imprisonment. Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said that Eryn spending her life behind bars thinking about how she murdered her son “is probably a much greater punishment for her.”
- The Palm Beach Post, 27 December, 2008 – “Mother Uses Pillow to Kill Son”
- The Palm Beach Post, 30 December, 2008 – “Boy’s Funeral Plans on Hold With Dad in Jail”
- The Stuart News, 25 January, 2009 – “Child’s Last Hours Recounted”
- The Stuart News, 31 December, 2008 – “Grandmother’s Heart Aches for Woman Charged with Killing Son”
- The Stuart News, 11 January, 2009 – “Community Mourns Christmas Killing”
- The Stuart News, 4 February, 2010 – “Allegra Gets Life in Prison For Killing Son”