NEW YORK - A Manhattan nanny accused of stabbing to death the two young children in her care more than five years ago has been convicted of murder after jurors rejected her claim that she was too mentally ill to know what she was doing.
Yoselyn Ortega, 55, will be sentenced May 14 for first-degree murder and second-degree murder in the deaths of Leo Krim, 2, and his sister, Lucia “Lulu” Krim, 6, according to The New York Times. The guilty verdict was announced Wednesday after two days of jury deliberation.
Ortega, who was silent as the verdict was read, faces life in prison.
The children’s father, Kevin Krim, sat in the front row for the verdict, holding hands with two alternate jurors who were released from duty before deliberation began, the Times reported. He wept and rocked back and forth when the verdict was read.
One of the jurors took his glasses off, wiping away his own tears.
In a Facebook post following the verdict, Krim thanked the judge and jurors, as well as prosecutors and police investigators, for their dedication to seeing justice done.
“This process has been very challenging for us, but it has also reaffirmed our love of New York: a city that Lulu and Leo loved dearly,” Krim wrote. “We got through this trial because of our family, our friends, our fellow New Yorkers and the loving memory of Lulu and Leo’s lives.”
Krim also said that he and his wife, Marina Krim, are supporting state legislation that would make it a crime to falsify the job application and references of someone working in child care. He accused Ortega’s family of deceiving them about her qualifications, saying they “remain wholly unaccountable for their role in the murders of (the Krim) children.”
Ortega’s six-week murder trial was fraught with emotion from the very first witness. Marina Krim took the stand first, testifying about finding her children’s bloody, lifeless bodies in a bathtub Oct. 25, 2012, at the family’s Upper West Side apartment.
She had taken the couple’s younger daughter, 3-year-old Nessie, to a swimming lesson and the pair then went to Lulu’s dance studio to pick the little girl up. When the frantic mother realized Lulu never showed up, she rushed home.
She searched room to room, finding no sign of her children until she reached a bathroom.
“I go down, I walk down the hall and I see the light on under the back of the door, and I’m like, ‘Oh God, it’s so quiet in here, oh God. Why is it so … quiet?’ And I open the door … and I open the door, oh God,” Marina Krim said, weeping, The Associated Press reported at the start of the trial.
Inside the bathroom, she found Lulu and Leo in the bathtub, both covered with blood. Krim testified that she knew immediately that Lulu was dead because her eyes were open and fixed.
Ortega stabbed herself in the neck as Marina Krim walked into the room.
Lulu suffered at least 30 stab wounds and her brother, who could not defend himself, suffered five, prosecutors said. Both children’s throats were slashed so deeply that first responders initially thought they had been decapitated.
Kevin Krim testified about coming home from a business trip and seeing his children’s bodies at a hospital, CBS News reported.
“They still had this perfect skin and these long eyelashes,” Kevin 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.”
Weeping could be heard throughout the courtroom, including from the jury box, CBS News said.
“It’s worse than you’d imagine,” Krim testified. “It’s worse.”
At a news conference following the verdict, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. praised the jurors for their “diligence throughout this incredibly difficult and heartbreaking trial,” the Times reported.
Vance said that the Krims lived every parent’s worst nightmare. Jurors seemed to agree.
“As a father of two children myself, I can’t imagine. No parent should have to experience the loss of a child,” a teary-eyed juror, David Curtis, said. “This was a very difficult decision for us. There were some raised voices and a lot of tears.”
The Times reported that Ortega’s defense painted a portrait of a mentally ill woman who had been suffering from delusions and hallucinations since her teen years in the Dominican Republic. Her lawyers argued that she heard voices, including that of Satan, telling her to kill the children.
Two defense psychiatrists testified that Ortega was having a severe psychotic break when she stabbed Lulu and Leo and could not remember killing them.
A prosecution expert testified, however, that Ortega suffered from anxiety and depression, but was not paranoid or delusional when she committed the crime, the Times said. The forensic psychologist played for jurors a 2016 interview he had with Ortega in which she denied hearing voices.
It was not until months later that she claimed the devil made her kill the children, the newspaper reported.
Prosecutors argued that Ortega, who was jealous of Marina Krim’s life and wealth, planned the murders. They pointed to the fact that she left a purse holding valuables, ID cards and keepsakes for her own teenage son with her sister.
She had also recently pleaded with her sister to take care of her son and “raise him well,” the state argued.
Ortega’s son had arrived in the U.S. to finish high school in the months before the murders, putting added financial pressure on his mother, who enrolled him in a private school.
Despite witness testimony from Ortega’s family and friends about a series of mental breakdowns over the years, the only written documentation of mental issues came from a therapist Ortega visited three days before the murders, the Times reported. The therapist testified that he saw no signs of delusional thinking and that Ortega said nothing about hearing voices.
Instead, she talked about stress and feelings of failure in her relationship with her son, who she left with family in the Dominican Republic when he was 4 years old.
Marina Krim testified that, in the past, she and her husband had bought Ortega plane tickets to visit her family back home and even made the trip themselves to meet her loved ones.
Ortega also told police investigators immediately after the killings that she hurt the children because she had money problems and was angry at the Krims, the AP reported. She complained about a shifting schedule and having to work as a cleaning woman when she did not want to.
ABC News reported that some of those extra cleaning jobs were efforts by Krim to help Ortega make more money to better support her son.
CBS News reported that, although Ortega showed little to no emotion throughout the trial, she forcefully shook her head and mouthed the word “no” during some testimony -- when it was said that her employers treated her well.
The Krims, who started the Lulu & Leo Fund following their children’s slayings, have since had two more sons, Felix in 2013 and Linus in 2016.
The Lulu & Leo Fund provides funds for Choose Creativity, which the fund’s Facebook page describes as a curriculum-based initiative that centers on 10 principles of creativity. Working with schools and community organizations, the program brings the initiative to children and families in underserved communities.
As of November, the curriculum was being taught in more than 20 schools and community centers, impacting more than 2,000 students, the page states.