The 44-year-old lawyer who leaped from her eighth floor apartment with her 10-month-old son strapped to her body in a baby carrier, killing herself but cushioning the blow for the infant, who survived with just a bruise, left a 13-page handwritten suicide note in which she described her final act as "evil."
Cynthia Wachenheim, an attorney on leave from her job with the Manhattan Supreme Court, jumped to her death on Wednesday. Her son, Keston Bacharach, survived. Wachenheim had apparently convinced herself, based on research on the internet, that Keston suffered from cerebral palsy or some neurological disorder—brought on by two falls, for which she blamed herself. (Doctors who examined the child found nothing wrong.)
This sense of guilt, according to a Times source, was the focus of Wachenheim's suicide note:
According to a law enforcement official who has seen the note, she wrote that her infant son, Keston Bacharach, had previously taken a few tumbles, including "two shameful incidents," a fall from a Gymini play set [the Times is, throughout its article, bizarrely focused on brand names and Style Section asides, as though we might want to rush out and purchase the model of baby carrier into which Keston was strapped] onto the wood floor when she walked out of the room for five minutes, and off a bed. She blamed herself, and was convinced that those falls had led to a series of concussions and seizures that aggravated or contributed to maladies that would harm him for the rest of his life.
Her friends, family members and pediatrician did not believe her, she wrote. But she noticed changes in the baby—changes that only a mother who spends all day with her child would notice. For instance, she wrote, her son had grown sleepier and cried more frequently. She wrote that she could not bear the thought that he might suffer because she had failed to protect him. She wrote that what she was about to do was "evil."
In the note, Wachenheim "expressed deep love for her son," and wrote that she expected people to assume she had fallen victim to postpartum psychosis, a rare disorder that can lead mothers to harm themselves or their children.