Elizabeth Catherine Kropp suffered from mental illness for more than 20 years and endured a painful adult life until it ended suddenly Tuesday afternoon when she walked onto a Modesto elementary school campus carrying a meat cleaver and was shot by police.
Despite numerous mental breakdowns, her parents said they kept hoping their daughter's condition would improve with treatment and medication.
They said they didn't think her life would end in such a shocking manner that would frighten children and risk the lives of school officials and police officers
"We just feel so sad about the whole thing," said Judy Kropp as she and her husband spoke about their daughter's tragic life Wednesday in the living room of their Oakdale home.
Kropp, 43, of Modesto, was found on the school campus cutting her head and upper body with the large knife in front of children and school officials.
Two police officers arrived at the scene. Kropp charged at the officers and they were forced to shoot her, police said. She was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The Kropps said their daughter was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was hospitalized about 70 times for her mental illness.
Before her struggle with mental illness began, Kropp was a humorous and bright young woman. She lived a fairly normal life with her family in Oakdale.
At age 18, she was attending college at San Francisco State University and wanted to become a writer. Her plans were derailed when she suffered a long depression and showed the first signs of mental illness.
She suffered her first psychotic episode in 1989 shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco. Her father, Don Kropp, said his daughter thought her roommate's boyfriend was going to harm them.
"She couldn't recognize reality," Kropp's father said.
Medical officials initially thought Kropp was manic depressive, and her mental breakdowns were triggered by stress or volatile situations, the Kropps said. They didn't know her illness would only worsen.
She was on a trip to Europe when she suffered another severe psychotic episode. Her father said she tried to commit suicide by jumping into a river in Switzerland.
"She thought if she didn't kill herself children would die," Don Kropp said. "She was a good swimmer, so she was able to swim out on her own."
Her parents admitted her to a mental health facility, but her psychotic episodes continued.
"She was still delusional," her father said. "She thought the staff was feeding the patients to alligators."
Kropp heard voices in her head that called her horrible names. Her Modesto neighbors said they sometimes saw her walking down the street talking to herself loudly. That was a sign her illness was worsening, her parents said.
"She could not stop hearing the voices," Don Kropp said. "She would sing out loud to try to drown out the voices."
Judy Kropp said her daughter tried about 15 medications to help her cope with the mental illness, but her condition fluctuated. They said their daughter's life was like "a roller coaster ride" filled with hospital stays and psychotic episodes.
"It was like dreaming when she was awake," she said about her daughter's psychotic episodes. "She didn't know what was real."
Elizabeth Kropp attempted several times to commit suicide, and she was involved in verbal confrontations with police in Oakdale and Turlock. Kropp, however, didn't become violent toward others.
Her mother said she cut herself on her arms and her legs. "It's a way for them to try take the pain away," she said.
Read the full story at the Modesto Bee.