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Families in Harlem Stabbing Death Give Conflicting Accounts of Abuse

By DNAinfo Staff on November 10, 2011 6:55am  | Updated on November 10, 2011 8:21am

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — As a woman was ordered held on charges she fatally stabbed the father of her infant daughter, emotional family members told conflicting stories about the contentious relationship that resulted in Monday's tragedy in her Harlem apartment.

Emma Cornelius, 28, was arraigned on manslaughter charges in Manhattan Criminal Court Wednesday after allegedly stabbing Christopher Joseph, 37, inside her apartment at 119 W. 137 St. Joseph was declared dead at Harlem Hospital.

Prosecutors said the pair were arguing at approximately 9:30 p.m. Nov. 7 when Cornelius went for a knife.

"After the victim grabbed the defendant by the shoulders, the defendant picked up a knife and stabbed the victim in the chest," Assistant District Attorney Brendan Tracy said at Cornelius' arraignment Wednesday.

The mother and stepfather of Emma Cornelius leaving court on Wednesday with the infant daughter of Cornelius and her deceased boyfriend.
The mother and stepfather of Emma Cornelius leaving court on Wednesday with the infant daughter of Cornelius and her deceased boyfriend.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

Cornelius initially told EMS workers initially that Joseph stabbed himself, the ADA added.

The couple's baby girl, who was home at the time of the attack, is now in the custody of Cornelius' mother and stepfather, who brought her to court Wednesday. Cornelius' family plans to apply for permanent custody of the infant, they said.

They said Wednesday that Joseph attacked their daughter the night of the incident and tried to hurt the child.

"He threw alcohol in [Cornelius's] face and tried to hurt the baby," Cornelius' stepfather said, adding it was "not the first time" he'd done so.

But Joseph's relatives told a different story to DNAinfo Wednesday, saying that it was not the first time that Cornelius had gone at him with a knife.

Joseph's mother and cousins said Cornelius stabbed him in the leg in a feud around Christmas time last year. They said he never sought treatment or filed a complaint because he did not want her arrested.

"I kept telling my son, leave her alone — that this is very unhealthy. It's toxic," said mother Mollies Joseph, 61, a minister at a Brooklyn church and Verizon employee.

"My son got involved with the wrong woman and it cost him his life," Joseph added.

They painted Cornelius as unstable and intensely jealous of Joseph's ex-girlfriend, who he also has children with.

Relatives claimed that when Joseph tried to break off their two to three year relationship about two weeks ago, Cornelius responded with a series of threatening calls and tantrums at the door of his family's home in Brooklyn.

While prosecutors said they have "no information as to any domestic violence history" between Cornelius and Joseph, the suspect's attorney and family argued otherwise. 

"She has been a victim of domestic violence throughout the course of their relationship," her attorney, Glenn Garber, said during bail arguments. Garber said he is still investigating the history and did not provide specifics.

Cornelius, who her attorney says went to Hunter College and works for the city, is due back in court on Nov. 14.

Reporting contributed by Ben Fractenberg