There are more details emerging about the mental state of the nanny who murdered two children in Manhattan on Thursday. And I want to talk about that today but before I do, here’s the disclaimer for the people who read the first sentence or two and go no further before they bubble and squeak with fury and indignation: I am not blaming the victims. What the nanny did was horrible. Neither the children nor their parents did anything to merit murder. However, that does not mean that there wasn’t something seriously wrong with the relationship between the Krims and their nanny, Yoselyn Ortega.
Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me go back to that last sentence and tell you what’s been floating around in my brain. I’ve been reading about the murder and the Krims and the Ortegas on different sites and trying to piece together what may have been going on here. It’s an annoying habit of mine that comes from years of looking at other people’s work and trying to decide if it’s crap or not and then applying that same scrutiny to my own work. So, while I’m not a forensic investigator or a criminologist, I am a collector of data and I involuntarily analyse it. I can’t help myself.
Here are some things that I find interesting and notable and where I think they’re pointing.
1.) The nanny existed in two worlds and the occupants of each of those worlds see her differently. The Manhattanites of the Krim world are horrified and their reaction is both curious and revolting, but I’ll get to that in a minute. In the Manhattanite world, Nanny Josie was unfriendly, unsmiling, not talkative. This is as reported by the neighbors of the Krims who met her in the elevator and other places. These same people report that the children were happy. So, whether or not the Nanny was as friendly and attentive as the neighbors expected doesn’t change the fact that the children were not suffering under her care.
The neighbors of Nanny Josie in Harlem say she had undergone a change recently. She used to be friendly, jovial, somewhat religious. She greeted her neighbors with a “Hello Neighbor!”. She is reported to have been hardworking, industrious, reliable. But recently, she had become quieter, she had lost weight, looked worried and tired. She was keeping to herself and spending more time in the small apartment she shared with her sister, her niece and her teenaged son.
2.) Back to the Manhattanites. They are all horrified and keeping the Krims in their thoughts and prayers. What about the Nanny? Well, they’re thinking of their own nannies. They can’t believe that someone they let into their house and allowed to be near their children would harm them in any way. It feels like betrayal. Sort of how you might feel about a pet that has suddenly become rabid. There is no mention of what the nanny’s family must be going through. One wonders if these people realize that their nannies have families, some of whom they had to leave behind in other countries in order to care for someone else’s children. I have yet to read any Manhattanite expressing sympathy for what a nanny’s life might be like. Correct me if I’m wrong here.
3.) Grandmother Krim claims that the Krims treated their nanny like one of the family. Maybe this is a mistake that many nanny employers make. Let’s think about this for a minute. You expect your family member to be a little more accommodating than a contractor, right? With a contractor, there is a formal set of rules, a payment schedule and scope of work. Not so with a family member. With a family member, we expect familial bonds, altruism and love to supercede the necessity of a contract. We may owe them in return or compensate them with presents (I owe my sister big time) but they don’t hand us a bill for their services.
4.) The nanny has lived in the United States for 30 years and has not been able to rent an apartment for herself or her teenaged son since she started to work for the Krims two years ago. Earlier this year, the nanny sublet an apartment in the Bronx from someone who went back to the Dominican Republic. I’m assuming that the nanny spent a lot of money paying this absent tenant for the apartment and paying to move her things and buying necessities and signing up for the utilities. But the absent tenant returned unexpectedly and wanted the apartment back. So Nanny Josie was forced to move back in with her sister. I wouldn’t be surprised if much of the money she used was lost for good. By the way, a studio apartment in Manhattan, that is, an apartment without a bedroom, costs about $2400 a month. I’ve read enough of Apartmenttherapy.com to know that two people can live in a studio if the ceilings are high enough for a loft but it’s probably tougher when you have a 16 yr old male with you. 16 yr old females are difficult enough. So, to live in NYC is going to cost about $2000 in rent alone. You need to clear about $24000 a year just for rent. Forget the taxes for a second, which are outrageous in NYC. Then you need to eat. A teenager consumes roughly the equivalent of a small village in Africa on a daily basis. I’m going to say that it will cost about $50,000 to scrape by. Did the Krims pay their nanny $50,000/year?
5.) Did the Krims pay benefits for their nanny and her dependent? Did she get medical insurance? Who paid the nanny’s social security taxes? Did they pay her under the table? All reports indicate that the Krims hired the nanny through personal recommendations, not through an agency. Presumably, an agency would have made sure that the nanny was bonded and that taxes were paid, just like cleaning services like Molly Maid or Merry Maid do for their employees. This could be important because if the nanny wasn’t paying into social security, she’d be working until she dropped.
6.) Getting back to the affordable apartment dilemma, the Krims lived in La Rochelle on the upper West side of Central Park. This is a very nice building. It’s not as prestigious as the upper East side but still incredibly nice. I checked the floor plans and rental prices for the apartments at La Rochelle. A 3 bedroom apartment in La Rochelle cost about $10,000/month. The Krims had the option of renting less expensive but nice apartments in Manhattan. They might have spent $2K less on a nice 3 bedroom apartment elsewhere and passed that $2K/month onto their nanny who might have used that money to pay for a small junior 1 bedroom or larger loft studio. Did they consider this?
Now would be a good time to reread the disclaimer.
The picture that is emerging for me is of a young family moving to Manhattan and wanting to move into a residence that is commensurate with the life they aspire to live. They rent the biggest, most prestigious apartment they can afford on the upper West side because it is close to Central Park and the mother can get a part time job at the Museum of Natural History. This sounds like a good plan to me. It’s a nice area of Manhattan but not too swanky, it’s close to the park, it’s nice for children. All well and good. And this is not a mommy war issue. The mother is mostly stay at home but she has outside interests, a part time job. There’s nothing wrong with leaving the kids with a babysitter or having the babysitter at home when she is home. When she first hired Nanny Josie, she had 3 children under the age of 5, two of them under the age of 2. That’s a lot of work for one parent to handle. But if your family has a salary that can support a stay at home mom and pay for a babysitter, why not?
But that’s where the favorables stop. Because this family appears to have decided to rent an apartment at the top of their price range and then decided to skimp on the help. It’s not really that unusual. I’ve known millionaires in Basking Ridge who own very nice houses on beautiful acreage who pay their Costa Rican housekeepers under the table for years. Oh, sure, she had her own room and separate entrance and they treated her like one of the family. But she didn’t pay any taxes and her employment wasn’t regulated.
So, this young couple saved some money by not going through an agency and hired a nanny with good references who they treated like family. When the Krims went on vacation, they bought a ticket for Nanny Josie to go visit her family in the Dominican Republic. The cost of a flight from Kennedy to the Dominican Republic is about $350 RT but goes up to about $700 in December. I’m going to guess that Mr. Krim, Harvard Graduate (his mother is very proud), vice-president of CNBC digital and former employee of the consulting firm McKinsey, used his frequent flyer miles to purchase a ticket for Nanny Josie. My question is, did she get paid for her involuntary vacation time as well? That is, was she paid for the time when the Krims were out of town? Or was she simply furloughed to the Dominican Republic without pay for the week(s)? The family also accompanied Nanny Josie for a trip to the Dominican Republic when Nanny Josie could be with her own family. BUT, since Nanny Josie was presumably still on duty, this wasn’t really a vacation for her, was it? It was a vacation for the Krims. That way, they could give Nanny Josie a trip back home while still enjoying the leisure and beauty of the island while she watched the kids.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
One last bit of detail: I read on another site that murderers use knives when they’re angry. I guess you use a gun on the spur of the moment or for expediency. But knives are reserved for people for whom you feel rage. And here’s one of the biggest clues that says that all was not rosy between the nanny and the Krims. The timeline goes, Mrs. Krim waited at the JCC with her second child, Nessie, after a swim lesson for the nanny and the other two kids to show up and go to a dance lesson. The nanny didn’t come. So, Mrs. Krim goes to La Rochelle and finding the apartment dark, goes to ask the doorman if the nanny and the kids have left. The doorman says he didn’t see them leave so Mrs. Krim returns to the apartment. She goes to the bathroom and flips on the switch. It was at that time that the nanny started to stab herself. The kids were dead by that point, or close to it. But the nanny waited until the mother walks into the bathroom before she starts to kill herself.
At first, I thought this was weird. If this were merely a case of murder, the nanny could have done it and then left the scene. Oh, sure, they would have caught her eventually but it’s probably pretty easy to become anonymous in NYC. She could have skedaddled down to Penn Station and taken the first train to New Jersey and disappeared for awhile. What I’m suggesting is that she didn’t do it in cold blood and then fled. She waited.
And note that she must have heard the door open and close when the mother came back to the apartment initially. But the nanny sat in the bathroom on the floor with the two dying children and said nothing. She could have killed herself right then when the mother went to talk to the doorman, but she didn’t.
She waited until the mother came into the bathroom and turned on the light. It was only then that she stabbed herself repeatedly in the neck.
Finally, she had the mother’s attention.
The summary as far as I have been able to piece together is that the nanny finally snapped. After living in the US for many years and seeing her fortunes not improving, unable to move out of her cramped housing, having gotten ripped off by absent tenants and people she trusted to do business with, she saw herself trapped with these people who treated her like family but not as an employee. I might note that McKinsey, the consulting company that Mr. Krim used to work for, routinely advises managers how to cut costs on employees benefits and contracts. Treating people as human resources that can be exploited is what they specialize in.
We have two communities who are trapped by their perceptions of the world. The Krims have lead a privileged life for some time now. Mr. Krim went to Harvard. There are certain expectations for people like the Krims. They expect the best in life: nice house, nice job, nice money, nice nannies. Everything is very nice. (And how the hell did they get a membership at the JCC?? I thought there was a waiting list a mile long.) It must be hard for them to understand what their nanny’s life is like. Or maybe they assumed that an uneducated childcare worker had no right to expect the same degree of economic stability that the Krims took for granted. Maybe they saw the pool of nannies from other countries, some of whom had to leave their own children behind and just assumed that these women accepted their fate quietly, without complaint. Maybe they assumed that Nanny Josie would be content with a trip to the Carribean instead of being paid for the week the Krims were not in town. Or maybe they saw the nanny as a commodity that could be taken with them when they went on vacation and that they were being nicer than they had to be when they took her to her own island. It might have been beyond their comprehension that maybe the nanny really wanted to live in her own apartment and provide an nice life for her own son but was discouraged by the high prices of housing and the lack of employment regulations under which she worked for the Krims.
I have no idea what was going on in Krims’ heads and we just have to wait until the nanny comes out of it before we know what she was thinking. But *I’m* thinking that maybe there is a whole city full of raging nannies and it might be a good idea for nanny owning Manhattanites to think about their priorities.