Alleged Subway Pusher Ordered to Have Psych Exam After Laughing in Court
REGO PARK — The woman accused of pushing a man into the path of an oncoming 7 train because she mistakenly believed he was Muslim smiled and laughed so disturbingly during her court arraignment that a judge ordered her to undergo a psychiatric examination, prosecutors said.
Erika Menendez, 31, who allegedly confessed Saturday to shoving Sunando Sen, 46, to his death at the 40th Street station in Queens Thursday, was spotted laughing and smiling as she was taken to a patrol car after questioning by the NYPD.
She continued her bizarre behavior during her arraignment at Queens Criminal Court Saturday night, laughing so much so that Judge Gia Morris had to reprimand her, a spokeswoman for the Queens District Attorney's office said.
"During the arraignment process when she was before court, she was smiling, she was laughing and the judge had to speak to her about that," said Meris Campbell, a spokeswoman for Queens DA Richard Brown.
"[The judge] said something to the effect that this is a serious matter and to stop the laughing and the smiling and fidgets."
Morris ordered Menendez held without bail, and ordered a psychiatric evaluation prior to her next court date. Menendez was being held at Rikers Island as of Saturday night, officials said.
A warrant had been issued for Menendez's arrest in May, public records show, and she had received a summons for reckless driving in February. She reportedly punched a man in the face in front of his Ridgewood home in 2003 after accusing him of sleeping with her mother, according to the New York Post.
Daniel Conlisk, 65, a retired FDNY battalion chief, said Menendez approached him unprovoked and began screaming at him, then punched him in the face in June 20, 2003, the Post reported. A month earlier, she allegedly attacked her then-boyfriend, the Post reported.
Neighbors of Menendez's high-rise apartment in Rego Park where she lived with her mother and stepfather said Menendez seemed to have been struggling with mental illness for several years.
Janet Henne, 60, who knew Menendez as a teenager, said she was told that she had a mental disorder.
"I think somebody was here making sure she took her meds. I never saw her walking around angry. She always looked happy," said Henne.
Nail salon owner Lana Izrailova, 36, who has run Pretty Woman Salon and Spa for 11 years near Menendez's home, said Menendez had changed drastically since the last time the suspect had had a pedicure there, two or three years earlier.
"I used to see her walking down the street, open jacket even when it was cold...I always would see her alone," she added. "She was very quiet...From her look you could tell she's a little not there, right away."
The owner of a nearby bodega, Austin Farms, agreed, saying Menendez had not seemed "100 percent" most of the time, but added that he didn't think that she was a criminal.
"She doesn't look like a criminal. She looks like a regular person," he said, and she used to come to buy Phillies Blunts, a type of cigar, in his shop a few years ago.
"Sometimes I would feel like she is not acting normal," he said.