A baby boy has survived an eighth-floor fall from a Harlem apartment after his mother strapped him to her chest and plunged to her death in an apparent suicide.
New York City police say Cynthia Wachenheim, 45, was found on the Harlem street with her son, Keston, still in her arms.
A responding police officer then took the baby, believed to be 10 months old, to Harlem Hospital Center. The baby is expected to survive and is reportedly critical but in a stable condition.
Police have said a window to the upscale The Sutton Co-op at the junction of 147th Street and Bradhurst Avenue was wide open and there were no signs of struggle inside. There were also no safety bars on the Manhattan apartment’s windows.
Wachenheim was clutching her son to her chest when her back hit the sidewalk below. After she died at the scene following her suicide, the baby bounced out of her arms and started crying.
In addition to several witness accounts that have emerged after the tragedy, a picture of Wachenheim’s background is also coalescing. She was a high school valedictorian in Albany and a Columbia Law graduate who had recently taken maternity leave from her $118,000-a-year job in the city court system.
She worked there for more than 15 years doing research for judges. She was also said to be an associate court attorney.
Yaa Dwamena, 32, a resident in the same building Wachenheim lived in for years said,”She was very nice, very friendly, very warm,” adding, “I wouldn’t have thought anything was wrong with her.They were a happy-looking family. I wouldn’t think anything like this would happen.”
The New York Post quotes a neighbor who said Wachenheim could be heard arguing with her husband, 48-year-old Hal Bacharach, at The Sutton co-op at around 1 pm. Bacharach was seen on surveillance video leaving the apartment building after the argument.
At around 3:25 pm, witnesses say they saw Wachenheim leap from her eighth-story apartment window with Keston in her arms. Wachenheim is believed to have been suffering from severe postpartum depression.
According to the New York Daily News, Wachenheim left a suicide note of several pages in which she detailed what she perceived as her failings as a mother.
A source told the paper: “The note said she was not happy and she talked about what she planned to do.”
Steven Dominguez, 18, who lives in the area, was walking to a grocery store with his mother, Adelina Dominguez, when he saw the suicidal woman fall.
“I heard a small scream when she was in the air, and then I heard a nasty bang,” he said. “It sounded like a big piece of wood hitting the ground.”
Dominguez said when he approached Wachenheim on the ground, he saw the baby crying on the sidewalk. “I was shocked,” he recalled. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Neighbor Christina Johnson told the New York Times that Wachenheim and her husband and their son had lived in the The Sutton Co-op building for about three years, and she had never heard the parents fight before.
That history would appear to be backed up by police who said they had never been called to the $300,000 apartment before. On this occasion, however, Johnson said she heard Bacharach screaming at his wife, repeatedly asking her why she wouldn’t pick up the phone.
David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state police department where Wachenheim’s father worked as a spokesman before his death in 2011, said.
“‘We are all deeply saddened about this tragic incident. Our thoughts are with Ms. Wachenheim’s family.”