NEW YORK – Jurors must now decide whether a Manhattan nanny who slaughtered two children was too mentally ill to be held responsible for the killings.
Yoselyn Ortega attacked 6-year-old Lucia Krim and her 2-year-old brother Leo, on Oct. 25, 2012, placing their bloodied bodies in a bathtub before their mother, Marina Krim, came home to discover the horrifying scene. Ortega also plunged a knife into her own neck in a failed suicide attempt.
Her murder trial began March 1. Testimony ended Monday.
New York has a high bar for the insanity defense and it is rarely successful. To win, Ortega’s lawyers tried to prove that she was hearing voices from the devil — and didn’t know right from wrong at the time of the killings.
Mental illness “does not announce itself like a bad cough or a limp. Sometimes it sneaks up and nestles in before anyone takes notice,” her lawyer Valerie Van Leer-Greenberg said during closings.
If the jury agrees, Ortega, 55, would be sent to a psychiatric facility instead of prison and could be discharged if doctors feel she is ready.
Prosecutors argued Ortega knew exactly what she was doing — and she acted out of jealous hatred of the children’s mother, Marina Krim, who was richer and happier than she.
“She did it intentionally with a full understanding of exactly what it was she was doing — every stab, every slash,” Assistant District Attorney Stuart Silberg said during closing arguments.
Jurors heard heart-wrenching testimony from Marina Krim, who spoke of the sickening, desperate moments when she saw her two children’s vacant eyes, their small bodies perforated by stab wounds.
Lucia, who was called Lulu, was stabbed more than 30 times and had defensive wounds on her body. Leo was stabbed five times.
After Marina Krim saw her children, she let out deep mournful wails that sounded almost inhuman as she held her surviving child, 3-year-old Nessie, and ran into the hallway.
“It was a scream you can’t imagine is even inside of you,” Krim testified. “I don’t even know where it came from. I just thought: I’m never going to be able to talk to them ever again. They are dead. I just saw my kids dead.'”
Their father, Kevin Krim, had been away on a business trip. He spoke of walking down a long hallway at the hospital where he saw his children.
“They still had this perfect skin and these long eyelashes,” Krim said. “They had like sandy brown hair. … You could see they tried really hard to wash all the blood out but there was still kind of an auburn tint to it that I remember to this day.”
Many in the courtroom, including jurors, wept.
“It’s worse than you’d imagine,” Krim said. “It’s worse.”
Meanwhile, Ortega’s defense called witnesses to talk about a worsening medical condition that went unchecked. A defense psychiatrist, Karen Rosenbaum, said Ortega told her she was taking commands from the devil and it was getting worse when she killed the children.
“She finally told me … that voices told her to kill people, kill herself and eventually she told me they told her to kill the children,” Rosenbaum testified.
Prosecutors called their own doctors, who said Ortega intended to kill the children. They showed video of a conversation with a psychologist in which she denied the devil had anything to do with it.
Ortega showed little emotion during the testimony and mostly stared straight ahead. But she shook her head forcefully and mouthed “no” during testimony that her employers treated her well.
Alternate jurors were released Tuesday, and two said outside court they would likely have convicted Ortega. One, 31-year-old Chloe Beck, cried when she talked about what she’d seen in evidence. “I don’t think I’ll ever be the same,” she said.