New York (AFP) – A former New York nanny was convicted of murder Wednesday for killing two children in a frenzied stabbing, after a jury rejected her insanity defense in a case that tormented parents worldwide.
The 12-member panel found Yoselyn Ortega, 55, guilty on the second day of deliberations on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.
Ortega killed six-year-old Lucia and two-year-old Leo with a kitchen knife in the bathroom of their affluent Upper West Side apartment on October 25, 2012.
The children’s father, Kevin Krim, broke down in tears on hearing the verdict in the New York State Supreme Court, mouthing “thank you” to the jurors, US media reported.
Ortega is now likely to spend the rest of her life behind bars. Her sentencing is scheduled for May 14.
The case shocked working parents and went on to inspire a best-selling French novel that explored the relationship between a working mother and the woman she hires to look after her young children.
During six weeks of testimony, the prosecution argued that Ortega deliberately planned the murders and was motivated by financial problems and resentment of her wealthy employers.
“Every stab, every slash. Each one had a purpose,” said assistant district attorney Stuart Silberg in his closing remarks. “That purpose was to end the lives of those children.”
The defense called doctors and psychiatrists as witnesses in a bid to convince the jury that Ortega was not responsible for her actions.
Her lawyer said she suffers from psychosis, depression and heard voices telling her to kill the children.
“The reasons for the defendant’s actions lay within her delusional mind,” said the attorney, Valerie Van Leer-Greenberg.
“You had a person that was slowly, slowly, slowly disintegrating but kept it inside. She didn’t want to lose this job.”
– ‘Lot of tears’ –
In a video of her being questioned in July 2016, Ortega denied that she had been taken over by the devil.
During the trial, the children’s mother Marina Krim, 41, fled the stand twice in tears while testifying, yelling that Ortega was “evil” and a “liar.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Wednesday thanked the jury for their “diligence” throughout what he called an “incredibly difficult and heartbreaking trial.”
“My heart continues to go out to Kevin and Marina Krim and the entire Krim family; as a father of two myself, I can’t begin to imagine the pain they felt and continue to feel,” he said.
One juror, David Curtis, the father of two grown-up children, was tearful as he told reporters how the panel reached what he called “a very difficult decision for all of us.”
“There were a lot of tears,” he said.
Marina Krim found her children dead in the bathtub after rushing home in a panic with her third child Nessie after discovering Ortega had not taken Lucia to her dance class as planned.
Ortega then took the knife to her own throat in an apparent suicide attempt. Lucia had sustained about 30 slashes to the body and neck, showing that she had tried to fight back.
The Krims still live in New York and have gone on to have two more children. They also founded a foundation that nurtures creativity among children facing adversity.
The murders served as the inspiration for “Chanson Douce” — a best-selling novel that earned author Leila Slimani France’s top literary prize, the Goncourt, in 2016.
The novel, set in Paris, was translated as “Lullaby” in Britain and in the United States as “The Perfect Nanny,” where it was less commercially successful than in Europe.