Infant Survives 8-Story Fall as Mother Jumps to Her Death

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 14 2013 11:51 AM

Infant Survives 8-Story Fall After Mother's Apparent Suicide

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The lower Manhattan skyline in a photo taken from Brooklyn Bridge Park January 10, 2013 in New York.

Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

The sad story of an apparent suicide in Manhattan could have ended even worse than it did: An eight-story fall from an apartment window in West Harlem left one woman dead. But her infant, whom she held as she jumped, is alive.

The 10-month-old, Keston, is in critical but stable condition after his mother Cynthia Wachenheim's body was found on the street. She left a seven-page suicide note in her and her husband's apartment. Here's how the Associated Press, which spoke with an unnamed official with knowledge of the note, summed it up:

"In the note, the 45-year-old Wachenheim said she recognized what she was about to do was "evil" but she was concerned about how her child was developing...It was unclear whether the baby, who neighbors said was an only child, had any mental or physical problems."
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DNAInfo and the AP interviewed the same two witnesses to the fall. Here's the description they gave to the former:

"I heard a small scream when she was in the air, and then I heard a nasty bang," said Steven Dominguez, 18, who lives nearby and was walking along Bradhurst Avenue. "It sounded like a big piece of wood hitting the ground." Wachenheim was holding the baby as she fell but the child bounced onto the sidewalk on impact and immediately started wailing, Dominguez said. "I wish I never saw this," he said. "I realized she was coming down but I just didn't believe it." Dominguez's mother, Adelina Dominguez, 45, raced to the baby to try to help him. "I saw the baby on the ground and I tried to pick it up, to comfort it, but the police told me not to."

Wachenheim was a graduate of Columbia Law School, and worked for the state court system as a legal researcher for judges. She was, according to DNAInfo, on leave from that job at the time of her death.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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