NBC New York
The son of a popular LaGuardia High School teacher was arraigned and charged with his mother's murder Wednesday. His lawyer says he was on medication for epilepsy and that the death was not intentional. Brynn Gingras reports.
A 19-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder after allegedly beating his mother to death in their Hell's Kitchen apartment as she called 911 to report he was having seizures.
Henry Wachtel cried and shook his head in court on Wednesday, where he pleaded not guilty to killing his mother. His lawyer said the death was not intentional and said his client takes medication for epilepsy, which sometimes has "unforeseen consequences."
According to sources familiar with the 911 call, Karyn Kay, 63, called 911 to report that her son was having seizures, and during the call she started screaming and said, "he's looking at me, he's coming after me."
Sources said the 911 operator heard her being attacked, and someone saying "Mommy I love you. Please don't die."
When officers responded about four minutes after the call was made, they found Kay lying bloodied and unconscious on the ground inside the apartment at 300 W. 55th Street.
Authorities say she suffered broken ribs, a fractured skull and internal bleeding.
Wachtel told detectives it was a mistake, according to court papers. There was no indication he used a weapon. Police could offer no motive in the slaying.
Wachtel's father, who sources say is a Fordham University professor, was in court but did not comment.
He has told investigators that his son has a history of seizures and is on medication to treat them.
Neighbors said they saw frequent arguments between Kay and her son but dismissed them as typical teenage behavior.
"You see young kids mouthing off to their parents, and you would see it on occasion in the elevator from time to time, but it was nothing unusual," said another neighbor, Debra Alberts.
Lloyd Epstein, Wachtel's attorney, said his client and his mother "in general, probably had a pretty good relationship."
As for reports that neighbors had heard them fighting in the past, "I don't think I've ever run into a situation where a teenager and his mother did not argue,'' Epstein said.
Kay taught creative writing at Manhattan's famed LaGuardia High School and at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She wrote and produced the feature film "Call Me."
At a small vigil outside Kay's residence Wednesday evening, her students remembered her as a giving and gifted teacher.
"She made every single one of us feel important, she gave all of us a voice," said one student as he teared up. "People who didn't talk in our class, she made them talk. She gave everyone a voice."
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