Grisly murder of two children has parents re-examining who is caring for their most cherished possessions
As police continue to try and discover the motive behind nanny Yoselyn Ortega’s recent stabbing of two Upper West Side children, the victimized family’s neighborhood faces the challenge of coming to terms with a tragedy that is the realization of every parent’s nightmare.
Marina Krim found Leo, her 2-year-old son, and Lucia, her 6-year-old daughter, bleeding in their bathroom’s tub on Thursday, Oct. 25. She came home with her third child after Ortega failed to meet her with Leo and Lucia at the dance studio where Lucia had a scheduled lesson. According to police, the family’s apartment at 57 W. 75th St. was dark when Marina arrived, so she asked the building’s doorman if Ortega and the kids had left, then returned to her home to check again. Ortega waited in the bathroom with the unconscious children, and plunged a kitchen knife into her own throat when Marina entered the room.
Multiple neighbors reported hearing Marina’s screams. The doorman dialed 911, and medics rushed Ortega and the stabbed children to the hospital, where Leo and Lucia were pronounced dead. Marina’s husband, CNBC executive Kevin Krim, was told of the events when he landed at John F. Kennedy Airport that evening.
Ortega fell into a coma over the weekend, but recovered shortly thereafter. Police finally were able to question her last Saturday, and a police official told the New York Times that she said she resented the family because they were always telling her what to do. She did not confess to the stabbing, but told detectives, “Marina knows what happened,” the Times reported. After the interview, police charged her with first-degree murder.
The question on the minds of most passersby in front of the Krims’ apartment on Friday, Oct. 26, was “why?”: How could a 50-year-old nanny caring for a family that was by neighbors’ accounts happy and healthy, that reportedly loved Ortega, and even spent time visiting her own family at her former home in the Dominican Republic—how could someone so immersed in their life commit such a violent act?
The question was far from disinterested speculation for many Upper West Side families. A large number of parents throughout the neighborhood employ nannies, who are sometimes hired through an agency and submitted to background checks, but just as often paid under the table and recommended by word of mouth alone. (Ortega was referred to the Krims a few years ago by her sister, Celia Ortega, 53, who told the Daily News on Friday that she would “like to die” if it would make the children come back.)
Locals were forced to look at their own beloved caretakers in a way most never had: How could they make certain that such a thing never happened to their own children?
“After this, parents should never leave their children with anybody—not alone,” said Juana Vasquez, an Upper West Side mother of four. “Take the children to a public place, like daycare. But don’t leave them in the house. Even after a background check, you can never totally trust anybody.”
A neighbor across the street from the Krims was more sympathetic to nannies’ importance in the community. “People need nannies,” she said, and contended that the murder would not significantly hurt the job prospects of local domestic workers. Still, she added, the incident would affect how they are hired: “I think people are going to open their eyes and say we’ve got to check them out. They are going to realize that if you don’t have a background check and you don’t ask questions, then you are risking your family and your life.”
A Midwesterner named Bill, whose daughter in the area employs a nanny, took a philosophical perspective on the issue. Any time you leave your kids in the care of someone else, “There’s a possibility of a tragedy like this,” he reflected. “Here in the city, the unknown is everywhere. You can’t be afraid of life because bad things can happen. I’m not sure if that’s a healthy way to live.”
Bill noted that while his daughter was shaken by the tragedy, she is very comfortable with her nanny and has no intention of letting her go.
Many locals stopped by 57 W. 75th St. with flowers or cards during the afternoon on the day after the murder, Oct. 26, to add to an already-abundant memorial of these items piled up against the building’s stone pillars. Some people came with friends, some stopped and stared at the memorial in silence. “We weep with you at your horrible loss,” said a note from Sharon and Rob Taylor, residents of a nearby building. “There are no words that can express our sadness. We pray for you and your beautiful children.”
With wiggling toddlers in strollers, nannies came to the memorial, too. They shared condolences for the family, and attempted to make sense out of the tragedy along with the rest of the community.
“I can feel the difference when I’m walking,” said one of a group of four local nannies, all of whom agreed that the Upper West Side’s domestic workers maintain a strong social network, though none knew Ortega personally (or wanted to give their names to the press). “Normally no one acknowledges you. Now everybody’s looking in your eye.”
“Now it’s like they look really hard to see if they could remember a face when something happens,” agreed a second woman.
The four said they felt secure in their jobs and would not act differently around their employers, but they thought that many nannies in the area will now have a difficult time finding jobs.
“Families are going to be scared of hiring new nannies,” said the second woman.
“They’re going to be put through a fine-toothed comb,” said the first.
“And I don’t blame them,” added the third. “This is your most precious thing,” she said, pointing to the sleeping child in the stroller in front of her. “This is what you live for.”
But when is surveillance too much? The women weighed the importance of security against Ortega’s still-largely-inexplicable attack, which even an intimate relationship with the Krim children failed to stop.
“I don’t feel comfortable with cameras,” said the first woman. “That’s too much. I did not come to do this job because I want to pay my rent. If a person doesn’t love kids, go and clean the park.”
“Are parents going to put cameras in their children’s school?” agreed the second. “They have to let go of the child at some point.”
She added that she suspected Ortega had some sort of mental disorder. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of nannies don’t have health insurance, so if there’s something wrong with them, they’re not going to go to a doctor to get it treated.”
“Well, something snapped,” the fourth woman said. “No one who is healthy in her mind does that. If somebody [else] did not walk in there and do this, then something snapped in her.”
“Snapped,” in fact, is the same word Celia Ortega used to rationalize her sister’s behavior to the New York Post. “We don’t understand what happened to her mind,” she said.
What drove an unhappy person to commit a crime that very few unhappy people do, however, remains a question that Upper West Side families, nannies included, still want more-fully answered. A clear motive, no matter how twisted, at least provides an explanation. Without one, locals are left with only Juana Vasquez’s uncomfortable maxim: “You can never totally trust anybody.”
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