HARLEM — The delusional Manhattan lawyer who leaped to her death from a Harlem apartment window holding her infant son believed she was responsible for the baby's phantom illnesses, law enforcement sources said.
Cynthia Wachenheim, 44, was so overwhelmed by postpartum depression that she falsely thought that she had caused her son, Keston, brain damage, cerebral palsy and other debilitating ailments, sources said.
She thought she was responsible for “a life of misery for the child," according to her suicide note.
The healthy 10-month-old boy survived the eight-story plunge from the Bradhurst Avenue apartment window, cushioned by his guilt-ridden mom.
"It's unbelievable. Right now, my crying son is in my arms," Wachenheim's widower, Hal Bacharach, told the New York Times. "I'm absolutely overwhelmed with grief."
Wachenheim, who was on leave from her job as a Manhattan Supreme Court attorney, had frantically taken Keston to one doctor after another seeking treatment for his nonexistent ailments, but law enforcement sources said that doctors had repeatedly given the boy a clean bill of health.
On Wednesday, Wachenheim believed that the child's condition was worsening and had scheduled yet another pediatrician's appointment, hoping to get to the bottom of these perceived ailments, sources said.
She fought with Bacharach, an insurance salesman, about the doctor's visit and told him to have his cell phone available when she found out the prognosis, sources said.
Shortly after the husband left, Wachenheim scrawled a rambling suicide note taking responsibility for the child's imagined problems and jumped from the window around 3:30 p.m.
Neighbor Christian Johnson wept as he recalled hearing the couple fighting and the baby crying around noon.
Bacharach repeatedly yelled, "Why? Why won't you pick up the phone? Why?" Johnson said.
"I've never heard them arguing like that before. He just sounded really annoyed, really angry."
Wachenheim remained quiet throughout the argument, he said.
Johnson said the couple seemed like “normal people.”
"They just had a baby who was 10 months old and they seemed happy to me," he said. "The little boy had just started to walk. They were just in the hallway playing the other day."
Neighbor Yaa Dwamney, 32, who works in Columbia’s financial aid office said Wachenheim was always friendly.
"I wouldn't have thought that anything was wrong with her. It's really so sad," she said.
On Thursday, Bacharach remained in the couple’s apartment as reporters crowded outside The Sutton, the doorman apartment building at the corner of 147th Street.
Other family members could not be reached for comment.
With reporting by Jeff Mays