Mother Charged in Fatal Stabbings of 4 Children
By Chris Hedges - The New York Times
June 1, 1990
A 36-year-old woman with a history of psychological
problems was charged today with stabbing her four small children to
death on Wednesday.
At an afternoon news conference here, police
officials said they did not know what had led the woman, Maria
Isabella Amaya, to kill the children, three boys and a girl who ranged
in age from 3 1/2 to 11.
Police officials said Mrs. Amaya had been
hospitalized for mental problems, but did not give details. She had
been on medication for depression for the last eight months, they
added, and had been scheduled to see a psychiatrist on the afternoon
the killings took place.
Mrs. Amaya and her husband, Halley William Amaya,
emigrated from El Salvador a decade ago and had lived in the small
Victorian-style house at 63 Summerfield Place for the last three
years. Friends and neighbors described the Amayas as a reserved
couple, but said they had often heard the couple arguing.
Throughout the day, stunned residents of the
working-class neighborhood milled quietly on the street outside the
Amaya home. Some gazed vacantly at the house, cordoned off by a yellow
police tape and surrounded by photographers and television crews, and
groped for a way to explain what had happened.
'How Could This Be?'
Isabel Perez, who said she was a longtime family
friend, showed a picture of herself and Mrs. Amaya smiling at a dinner
for employees of the Hilton Hotel, where Mr. Amaya had worked at the
time. ''I cannot believe she would kill her children with her own
hands,'' Ms. Perez said. ''How could this be? How could we have been
such friends and I never knew?'' Another neighbor, Robert Concepcion,
said softly, ''They seemed like every other family. What went wrong?''
Mr. Amaya, who neighbors said is a maintenance
worker at the Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla, reported
the slayings Wednesday afternoon in a telephone call to the police.
Police officials said that Mr. Amaya had become
worried when his wife failed to show up for her psychiatrist's
appointment, then went home and found the bodies. Police Chief Carl
Verastro refused to say where Mr. Amaya is now, but said the police
were ''in almost continual contact with him.''
The police said the officers who responded to Mr.
Amaya's call found the four children in various rooms with pillows or
stuffed animals near their faces. The children were identified as
Halley William Jr., 11; Jessica, 8; Christopher, 6, and Edward, 3 1/2.
All had been stabbed with a kitchen knife.
Mrs. Amaya was badly hurt from what the police say
they believe were self-inflicted stab wounds, but regained
consciousness shortly after the police entered the apartment. Mrs.
Amaya also had burns on her body, and police officials said they were
trying to determine what had caused them.
Mrs. Amaya, who is in the intensive care unit of
United Hospital here, has been arraigned on four counts of
second-degree murder and will be moved to a detention center when
doctors permit. Chief Verastro said the women was coherent and
understood the charges against her.
Neighbors said they had never seen any indication
that the Amayas beat or abused their children, but said the children
were poorly disciplined.
''There was never any thought that the family was
abusing the children,'' said Jeanine Pirro, an assistant District
Attorney in charge of cases involving domestic violence.
At the Methodist church a block away from the
Amayas' house, the Rev. Gary Betts lamented that he had failed to
reach out to the family, who neighbors said were Mormons.
''We are going to have the church open tonight,''
he said, ''And if people are around, we will talk. We are all in
shock. We are extremely sad."
4 Westchester Children Found Stabbed to Death
By James Feron - The New York Times
May 31, 1990
Four children, from 3 1/2 to 11 years old, were
found stabbed to death in their apartment here today, the police said.
Officers went to the house at 63 Summerfield Place
at 2:50 P.M. after receiving a telephone tip. The children were lying
in different spots around the first-floor apartment, all with knife
wounds in the neck, the police said.
The police also found the children's mother
unconscious, with blood around her neck. The woman, identified as
Maria Isabella Amaya, was listed in critical but stable condition at
United Hospital Medical Center here.
A Parent Is a Suspect
Police Chief Carl Verrastro said the woman had been
undergoing psychiatric care.
The police said that one of the parents was a
suspect and that they expected to make an arrest soon.
A neighbor, Andreas Orphanos, said the children's
father came to her before the police arrived, gave her a card with a
telephone number and said: ''Please call this doctor. She killed the
little ones and she tried to kill herself."
Ms. Orphanos said she made the phone call to a
White Plains number but did not know to whom she had spoken. She said
the family had lived in the house, a three-story, light-green
victorian dwelling with three apartments, for about five years.
She said the couple had come to the United States
from El Salvador.
She added that the family was ''very nice,
hard-working people, but she never disciplined her children.''
The slain children were identified by Chief
Verrastro as Halley William Jr., 11; Jessica, 8; Christopher, 6, and
Edward, 3 1/2. The three older children attended Edison Elementary
Mrs. Amaya's husband, Halley William Sr., was said
by neighbors to be a maintenance worker at the Westchester County
Medical Center in Valhalla.
Christmas Lights on Roof
The police did not identify the person who told
them about the bodies. The police said Mr. Amaya was interviewed by
detectives, then released.
The family lived in a working-class neighborhood of
Port Chester, a village of 24,000 people in Westchester County near
the Connecticut border.
The Amaya house is one block from the Port Chester
train station and three blocks from the center of the village
commercial area called Five Corners.
At the house tonight, a child's drawing of a bunny
was taped to the front storm door and Christmas lights still hung from
the roof of the house. A white ceramic swan sat at the top of the
steps on the front porch.
Friends and neighbors of the Amayas gathered on
Summerfield Place last night and said they could not believe that all
the Amaya children were dead.
Marta Arroyo, who lives two blocks from the Amaya
home at 216 King Street, said that she was a close friend of Mrs.
Amaya and that they had both worked as housekeepers and cared for each
'Appeared to Be Normal'
''She's a very charming lady,'' Mrs. Arroyo said.
''She was a lovely mother and loved her kids.''
Nellie Senquez, another friend who also lived at
216 King Street, said that she had last seen Mrs. Amaya Tuesday
morning and that ''everything appeared to be normal.''
Mrs. Senquez's son, Fabian Marquez, said Mrs. Amaya
had been hospitalized recently for ''depression and nervousness.''
''She used to love the kids so much she never hit
them,'' he said.
Iisha Brooks, a fourth-grader at Edison, said she
was in the same class as Halley William Jr. ''He liked to draw
things,'' she said. ''He drew a house with an alarm on it.'' Iisha
said Halley William Jr. ''never spoke of any troubles at home."