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Cop Who Shot Her Baby Could Be First Case in New York, Experts Say

By Mathew Katz | April 29, 2013 7:50am | Updated on April 29, 2013 7:53am

NEW YORK CITY — A terrifying case of a Queens cop murdering her boyfriend and 1-year-old son earlier this month may have left parents around the city on edge, but historians and law enforcement experts said this is the first time they've ever seen a case like this.

Cops said Rosette Samuel, 43, turned a gun on her son, her boyfriend Dason Peters, and then killed herself at her home in East Flatbush. Her 19-year-old son, Dondre Samuel, escaped out a back window and called 911, alerting police to the grisly crime, cops said.

While there are many instances of parents inexplicably killing their young children throughout New York City's history, experts, including some from law enforcement, said the crime is likely the first time a mother has shot her own baby.

"Usually the killing is not with a gun, usually it's drowning or hitting with a blunt object," said Robert McCrie, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who specializes in the history of crime in New York.

"I can't even think of a police officer doing such a thing."

Infanticide has a long legacy throughout New York's criminal history, McCrie said. Prostitutes in the city's Five Points District would often abandon or kill their babies in the mid-1850s. If they were caught, mothers who killed their children were often condemned to shocking trials that received major public attention.

More recently, a Harlem mother leapt from her eighth-floor window holding her 10-month-old son, believing she had caused her son to have a variety of non-existent illnesses. The mother, Cynthia Wachenheim, died from the fall, but her baby survived.

While it's still unclear what caused Rosette Samuel to turn a gun on her son and then herself, experts stressed that postpartum depression does not lead to irrational feelings or urges to kill your child.

"This is not normal," stressed Anne Smith, an expert with Postpartum Support International, who said she also had never heard of a parent in New York shooting their own baby.

"No one should be afraid that this mother is going to kill her baby if she has postpartum depression — people who commit infanticide do not have plain old, garden-variety PPD."

In many cases where a child's safety is in danger, a parent suffers from postpartum psychosis — which only affects 1 percent of all mothers with perinatal mood disorders.

"In those cases, they usually hear voices telling her to do it, that the baby would be in a better place or the baby has the devil in them."

Likely because of the city's strict gun laws, cases of mothers shooting their babies are more common outside of New York.

In March, a 22-year-old Florida mother reportedly shot her toddler in the head while at a golf course, before turning the gun on herself.

In February, a 23-year-old Denver mom shot and killed her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son before taking her own life, according to reports.

Another Florida woman shot and killed her 6-month-old after posting on Facebook about hurting herself in January.

McCrie, the historian, said it was likely that Samuel's job as a police officer — specifically, her easy access to a gun — played a big role in the exceptional case.

"The case in Brooklyn appears to be uncontrolled anger with the availability of deadly force as a police officer," he said.

"The case is exceptional for an active female police officer on the job for 13 years to kill her child and a longtime boyfriend."