On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, stately pre-war apartment buildings flank tree-lined streets and nannies push strollers to nearby Central Park while well-to-do parents are at work. Against this background, an unthinkable crime has shocked the nation: two young children were brutally murdered in their own home while their parents were away. Charged with their murder? The children’s nanny.
Yoselyn Ortega has been charged with murder in the first and second degrees in the stabbing death of young Lucia “Lulu” Krim, 6, and with murder in the first and second degrees in the stabbing death of her brother, Leo Krim, 2.
The difference between the first degree and second degree murder charges is one of premeditation. As the police investigation continues and the prosecution’s case develops, it will become more clear whether Ortega planned to kill the two children or whether she just “snapped” or reacted in the heat of the moment. If the prosecution thinks they can prove premeditation and planning, then they will go ahead with the more serious first-degree murder charges.
On the other hand, if it appears that the nanny acted on impulse, the prosecution will move forward on the second-degree murder theory.
New York state has abolished the death penalty, and Ortega is facing life imprisonment.
When the neighbors heard Marina Krim’s blood-curdling screams, they called the police.
When the New York Police Department officers arrived at the Krim’s Upper West Side apartment, the scene was like something out of a horror film: Two young children lay stabbed and dying in the bathtub, their mother beside herself with terror and grief, and the nanny also bleeding from stab wounds and in critical condition.
Nanny Yoselyn Ortega, 50, was transported to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where she had been treated for stab wounds to her throat and wrists while remaining under the watchful eye of the NYPD.
Detectives interviewed Marina Krim, who told them that she was at a swimming lesson with her three-year-old, Nessie, that afternoon and was waiting to meet with Ortega and her other children after the lesson. When the nanny did not arrive, Krim and Nessie went home, where Krim’s nightmare began, finding the bodies of her children Lucia, 6, and Leo, 2, stabbed and dead in the bathtub.
In a recent interview with the authorities – Ortega agreed to be interviewed in the hospital, without the presence of a lawyer – she allegedly told police detectives that “Marina knows what happened.” An anonymous police source told the New York Times that Ortega harbored resentment toward the Krim family and had fought bitterly with Marina Krim the day before the incident about child-rearing. Allegedly, Marina Krim was upset with Ortega for not interacting with the children enough and for feeding them junk food.
Ortega did not confess to the killing of the children.
By all accounts, the Krim’s relationship with their nanny was overwhelmingly positive. Ortega had been with the family for two years and was treated as a trusted member of the household. The Krims even took a family vacation to the Dominican Republic and stayed with Ortega’s sister.
In Marina’s blog, she wrote: “We spent the past nine days in the Dominican Republic. . . . We spent half the time at our nanny, Josie’s sister’s home in Santiago and the rest at Balcones de Atlantico in Las Terrenas, a condo-style hotel where the ‘Real Housewives of Dominican Republic’ and their families hang on weekends. It was wonderful. . . . We met Josie’s amazing familia!!! And the Dominican Republic is a wonderful country!!”
Ortega never complained about the Krims, according to her friends. She was treated well and paid well. The Krims paid for her to fly to the Dominican Republic to visit her family. She was happy to put in extra hours whenever the Krims needed help.
Nothing in the Krim’s two-year relationship with Ortega could have predicted this terrible crime. Her motive remains a mystery, although rumors have circulated that Ortega was suffering from financial hardship and was worried that the Krims might fire her in the wake of her argument with Marina Krim.
The horrific incident took place Oct. 25 and Ortega was charged with two counts of first-degree murder on Nov. 1. Authorities said they delayed charging Ortega for more than a week because she was intubated and unable to speak as a result of the self-inflicted knife wounds to her neck and wrists. She pleaded not guilty from her hospital bed at her arraignment on November 28.
UPDATE: A Judge found Yoselyn Ortega mentally fit for trial after a prolonged competency hearing in August, 2013.
Marina Krim – By all accounts, Marina Krim was a devoted mother and part-time art teacher who kept a blog, “Life With the Little Krim Kids,” that offered a window into the life of a loving mother and the daily goings-on of a wealthy Manhattan family. In Marina’s blog, Ortega comes across as a beloved member of the family. The blog has since been removed by the family.
Kevin Krim – The father of the victims, Krim is a CNBC digital media executive who was away on a business trip at the time of the murders. He was told of his children’s deaths by reporters when he got off the airplane and quickly rushed to his wife’s side. According to his LinkedIn account, he is a Harvard graduate who also worked with Yahoo! and Bloomberg.
Yoselyn Ortega – Ortega was the Krim’s long-time nanny. She is a naturalized United States citizen of ten years and originally from the Dominican Republic. Before the incident, she has just lost her home in the Bronx and moved in with family in Harlem.
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It’s no wonder that this case strikes a chord with so many – the death of small children, especially at the hands of a caregiver, is always the most upsetting of crimes. This case has been particularly troubling for New Yorkers, many of whom have woven nannies into the fabric of their everyday lives. Nannies are a frequent sight in the Upper West Side neighborhood where the Krims lived, only a block away from Central Park, and for many working parents reading about this case, their one thought is “thank God it wasn’t my family.”
This case is a long way from the kind of resolution that would bring justice to the Krim family, and a trial date will not be set until 2013. Since Ortega was in a medically-induced coma for several weeks, and the police were unable to interview her, the investigation will probably continue into the end of 2012.
One legal issue, though, that has already come to the forefront is whether Ortega’s statements to the police will be admitted into court. Those statements were made without the presence of a lawyer representing Ortega, and if she did not understand that she was waiving her constitutional rights against self-incrimination and her right to an attorney, those statements might be barred from the courtroom. Since that conversation with police included the closest thing the prosecution has to a motive – the argument that Ortega and Marina Krim allegedly got into the day before the killing – it is vital that the prosecution find a way to bring it into court.
Another big question is whether the crime is first- or second-degree murder. As true trial junkies will know, the difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder is planning – did the defendant plan the murder in advance, or did she act in the heat of the moment? This case could really go either way, which is why the next few weeks of investigation are really important.
It might be that Ortega started planning the murder of the young children after her fight with Marina Krim the day before – or maybe she just snapped under the pressure of her personal struggles.