Tragic Details About Why A Utah Family Watched 3 Of Their Kids Die At Home Within 3 Days

Photo: Orlando Sentinel 
Chappell batten disease


Surrounded by family, 19-year-old Elizabeth Anne Chappell died in her home.

The following day, July 15, her 15-year-old brother, James William Chappell, also died.

And on July 16, 20-year-old Christopher Lamont Chappell became the third child of Les and Celeste Chappell to die that weekend. 

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No crime or single tragic incident was to blame for the three deaths in three days. The finger could only be pointed at a degenerative neurological condition called juvenile Batten disease. 

The fatal disease starts to manifest itself in the early years of a child's life and can cause seizures, blindness, personality changes, dementia and loss of motor skills and the ability to walk, talk and communicate. 

Orlando Sentinel 

People with the condition often don't live past their late teens or 20s. Les and Celeste said they first realized the fate of three of their children in 2005, after taking them to see a specialist. 

Christopher had problems with seeing since he was 3, Elizabeth lost her ability to see colors when she was 6, and James is said to have battled the disease the most. 

Though this genetic condition is rare — just two to four out of every 100,000 births in the United States — it's not uncommon for it to affect multiple children i the same family. 

And the heartbreak isn't over for the Chappell family. Their 10-year-old son, Samuel, was also diagnosed. 

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It was up until this year when they had to determine whether or not to start tube-feeding Christopher like they did for Elizabeth and James, they decided not to fight the disease anymore. 

In total, the Chappells have 10 children and said they tried not to let the shadow of their children's declining health keep them from enjoying moments of happiness and humor. They even lovingly referred to their trio as their "three blind mice." 

Sadly, this won't be the last time Les and Celeste Chappell will have to lay a child to rest. Christopher and Elizabeth, who the parents said were close and shared a special friendship, were buried in the same hole in the ground.

James was laid in the other plot, with a vacant space above for Samuel.

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Emily Blackwood is an editor at YourTango who covers pop culture, true crime, dating, relationships and everything in between. Every Wednesday at 10:20 p.m. you can ask her any and all questions about self-love, dating, and relationships LIVE on YourTango’s Facebook page. You can follow her on Instagram (@blackw00d) and Twitter (@emztweetz).