A lawyer for Henry Wachtel, the 19-year-old charged in the murder of his mother, a beloved Laguardia High School teacher and writer named Karyn Kay, says Wachtel's epilepsy drugs are to blame for the violent outburst.
Wachtel was on a cocktail of drugs, including epilepsy meds Keppra and Lamictal, the steroid prednisone, an unnamed anti-depressant and others when he allegedly beat his mother to death inside their Hell's Kitchen apartment Tuesday. A student at Fordham, Wachtel is also biploar and suffers from depression.
"Heavy medications could sometimes have unforeseen circumstances for epileptics,” lawyer Lloyd Epstein said in court Wednesday, The New York Post reports, while Wacthel, wearing a Chicago Bears t-shirt, sobbed openly.
Long Island neurologist Dr. Alan Ettinger thinks that line of defense is difficult, telling The Daily News, "Any kind of repetitive, complex aggression would be extremely unusual as a result of these medications.”
Kay was beaten to death Tuesday morning while making a 911 call to get help for Wachtel, who was having a seizure. Kay can be heard on the call screaming, "He’s coming after me! No! No! No!” as Wachtel reportedly punched and kicked her. Then, after a brief silence, Wachtel can be heard screaming, "Mommy, Mommy, please don’t die!”
When cops arrived at the West 55th Street home at 9:28AM, Kay was in a pool of blood on the floor. She suffered a broken nose and eye socket, as well as a fractured skull and ribs. Wachtel, according to prosecutor Courtney Graves, was "covered in blood, wild eyed and appeared to be very agitated." Wachtel told police, "It was a mistake."
Wachtel, a mixed martial arts enthusiast, allegedly used nothing but his bare hands. He is charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bail.
Neighbor Leigh Miller, 54, who lives on the same floor as the Kays, told DNAinfo that the victim and her son had a "volatile" relationship. "The furniture would be flying," she said. "It was a very unhealthy, dysfunctional mother and child relationship."
Kay had taught English and literature at LaGuardia High School and was a visting instructor at Pratt. She also wrote the 1988 movie "Call Me" starring Steve Buscemi.
"She was really the best teacher I've ever had," Rachel Roth, 1987 alum of LaGuardia and a former pupil of Kay's, told DNAinfo. "She was a supportive teacher, but she would also want to know what else was going on in your life besides school work. She would go further to find out what was happening in terms of teenage angst."