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    • “Behave” By Robert Sapolsky
      For much of last year my daily routine included sipping a drink and reading a book at a coffee shop in a big box bookstore. I went thru a lot of books that way. A few standout, and Behave was the foremost among those. When you’ve read a lot of books, you rarely read much […]
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Why the nanny snapped

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.

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.

Just saying.

48 Responses

  1. A larger question is access to mental health services. Financial stress doesn’t cause people to commit murder in the absence of other problems. Where would or could the nanny go for help and if her family noticed changes, or her employers, where could she get treatment? Being poor is not a cause of violence in the absence of other problems.

  2. I really liked the way you channeled Gloria Allred there. Have you considered a career in criminal law?

  3. This article is an example of what is wrong with blogging and for that matter why the US is falling behind. You have written without the facts. You have no idea regarding many of the things you assume. For example, of course they were paying her social security and to imply anything else is libel. The dad works for a business network. He knows that he has to pay social security taxes. I hope when things settle down for them that this devastated family files suit against you to teach you a lesson. So if you care so much about the lifestyle of the less educated or those who are not capable of supporting themselves in a upper income lifestyle why don’t you live in a hut and give them your money? People like you are the first to say that someone should sacrifice but I doubt you sacrifice anything for anyone else. For all you know they overpaid the nanny and she was too stupid to manage her money. They nanny’s son was attending private school. Maybe that was the first place she should have cut her expenses. If the nanny wasn’t happy here in the states she could have return to her own country or move to another less expensive area of the states. There are not many of us who can afford to live in New York city. Yet I bet you that at one time the father sacrificed and live frugally to get the education that got him the job. You are just jealous that you can’t live like they do. Shame on you!! You make me SICK.

    • You’re free to leave.
      I won’t go into my “jealousy” of the parents. You’re obviously new to this blog.
      As to whether the parents paid her social security benefits, I made no such accusation. I only pointed out that I know people who had more than enough money to do so and didn’t. It was a question.
      Now is not the time to accuse the parents of anything. They didn’t do anything that would merit the murder of their precious children.
      I’m just looking at the data I have and drawing some pretty simple conclusions. My main conclusion is this: there are a lot of very well off people in manhattan who have reason to worry about not only the nanny but all the other people they employ.
      Those people do not simply materialize when the well off need something and then just go away. They have lives and they bring those lives to work with them. And I don’t think the nanny was being unreasonably resentful when she needed more money to live in NYC. she wasn’t asking for a $10k/month apartment. All she needed was a place of her own.
      You don’t want to hear painful realities? Go to another blog.

      • What you’re writing about: Sleepy, by Anton Chekhov.

      • Another category of stressed, underpaid guardians of children is teachers. Germany and Japan honor teachers. When I was substituting at my former high school, I was told by freshmen students (not in the honors’ classes) that they would make more out of high school than I was, implying “stupid you.” I read once that kids in some neighborhoods see their decrepit schools and see a shiny Nordstrom’s at the mall and figure out what is more valued.

    • Ann Coulter, is that you?

    • K., are you having a panic attack?

  4. Thanks for writing this. Of course nothing justifies what she did, but I just finished reading the Times’ complete coverage of the tragedy, and I’m sorry but there is something seriously wrong when the full-time employee of an affluent couple is desperate and asking her neighbors to pray that she’ll be repaid a sum of $100 that she’s owed, when she’s trying to hawk all kinds of different products just to keep a roof over her head, when the couple magnanimously “allows” her to pick up extra hours for extra cash and she still doesn’t make a living wage. I’m sure you’ll be accused of being insensitive and worse, but while everyone’s heart goes out to the Krims, the normalization of this form of exploitation is a sad reality as well, AND it’s something that could actually be stopped if the will existed.

    • We’ll see if there is a will to fix it. This horrible tragedy could serve as a wake up call for the job creators or it could mean the beatings will continue until morale improves.
      Under these circumstances, it is very difficult to feel sympathy for the nanny or her family. Our hearts naturally respond to the anguish of marina krim. But I fear bad things will happen if the needs of nannies of new York and all of the other liveried class are drowned In an ocean of sorrow and sensationalism.

  5. Katheryn makes *me* sick.

    The nanny “must’ve been too stupid to manage her money,” but the father “must’ve sacrificed and lived frugally to attend Harvard”?

    Wake the f–k up! Your class bias is showing, and it’s disgustingly nauseating.

    To RD:
    A very brave post. Something worth talking about even if some don’t want to think about it.

  6. Here’s another post on the relationship of the krims to their nanny by Alyssa Rosenberg at Slate. I think she makes some very good points about the power of social media to make some people seem more human and sympathetic than others.

  7. If the nanny wasn’t happy here in the states she could have return to her own country

    Mrs. Ortega is an American citizen.

  8. RD – what an excellent post. I have to say that I have NEVER met a happy nanny. And I know lots of them personally – from different countries (including British nannies who are usually paid best). All I always heard from them were stories of lesser or greater exploitation. These women are so trapped financially they really have no choice, but continue working and hope for a breakthrough. it is a financial slavery. The very fact that nannies are imported from all over the world says to me no North American wants the job. And for a good reason. Every single nanny I knew had to work extra hours without pay. That was just expected and it happened. And employers were rich. Very rich – these were the worst. Greedy slave owners, completely uninterested in the person looking after their own kids.
    When I read Krim’s grandparents saying that Yoselyn (to whom they refer as “that woman”) was treated like a family I knew what that might possibly mean. Being used and exploited.
    As to Katheryn Handler and her post – she is the epitome of the entitled, greedy and hypocritical nobody.

  9. I work part time as a nanny. By choice. Because I love it. However… I will be the first to admit, it is hard work and I would not want to do it 70 hours a week (as many nannies do.)

    US tax law is clear about compensation and reporting for nannies. HOWEVER…. I have interviewed for jobs where I was told “we’d like to pay you more, under the table.” This is apparently such common practice that families are willing to discuss it in the open. With people like me. Who could very well turn around and report them.

    As a retired pediatric nurse… in my 25 years… yes, I did see cases of infants and children stabbed by their caretakers. Usually their own mothers. Anger? Rage? I’m not sure. More like psychosis/ psychotic depression. (These are viewed as among the most severe cases of “postpartum depression” when it happens between mother and infant.)

    Anecdotally, I can say that mothers I met who had done this sort of thing, had unrealistic expectations for themselves. And sometimes their families had unrealistic expectations as well.

    Just sharing what I know. And the questions that come to mind…

    A truly sad case. So awful.

    • Thanks for that information. it means my suspicions are not entirely groundless.
      You’re probably right about the psychotic depression as well. Why else would a person act this way? But I wouldn’t rule out the idea that the nanny was trying to make a point when the mother walked into the room.

  10. I agree, brave post I feel many are thinking. My first thought after reading mom’s blog was a crass, “nanny snapped because mom is annoying.” Ms. Krim didn’t seem to have much upstairs, so the two may have been intellectual equals, meaning danger written all over it with the disparity in income. For a nanny to see all the doting and to be reminded of what it means to be a “good mommy,” only to be scrimping and absent with her own kid…working as a nanny w your own kids=conflict. Yes I’m running loose w assumptions, but at this point the idea is to mentally exercise this, to encourage fresh thinking. And run on sentences. So thanks for starting us off. Thanks to another post, we need to be reminded that the biggest killers are indeed family and spouses, and yes mommies, not nannies.

  11. Those of you who have a child, just imagine, if you can even stand it, s/he looks up, that sweet, smart, funny, delightful kid, looks up at the nanny, and then feels a knife puncturing through her little body? The pain, unreal, otherwordly pain, it hurts so much, mommeeee please come…! Your baby crumpled over in blood and agony! All her love, her imagination, her laughing, the fun and sweetness that she was, grotesquely, painfully, murdered. …Oh my god, just a few minutes, you could have saved her, please no! A little girl..she is still dying, crumpled in pain, and you can’t help her…she’s taking her last breath..blood, mommy, mommmeeeee!

    I knew or rather feared where you were going with this the other day, just another case for venting your economic woes, explaining…of course, the murderer the baby killer had good reasons to bleed your babies to death! Ten or twenty thousand dollars could have saved your sweet children from a killer’s painful stabbings. To say that, to think that, to write that, is itself to reach a level of such shameful, such disgusting, such inhuman, such cruel, such irresponsible horror of lowliness…! Take it back as all wrong. While you still can, please…or it will haunt you forever.

    • I may be thinking far beyond what Riverdaughter is inviting me to think, even in the realm of possibility. But here is what you are trying to avoid facing up to. The American Rich are creating a pre-French Revolutionary situation in this country, and they are creating a French Revolutionary-type Paris Mob. If I am correct about that, then they (and their wish-they-were-rich suckups like yourself) will see this happen more and more and morenmore . . . in more places. The Predasite Rich should also begin to think of the future they are making for their innocent and wholly-undeserving-of-this-injustice children.

  12. Wow, what a bunch of stuff all around …nevertheless, there is sure to be great deal more to this horrific incident than immediately meets the eye. My take on it, in general, is to never ever marginalize, patronize, exploit, condescend to, disdain or in any way treat the person who looks after your children, parents, home, car,etc as less of a person, less of a human being than you yourself.

    • Ding! Ding! Ding!
      The so-called “job creators” are surrounded by people who make very little money. They’d better stop mourning the loss of their own innocence when it comes to their nannies and start seeing them as people with their own caloric intake and shelter requirements.
      What I fear is that the wealthy will insist on throwing the book at their nannies and fire them more frequently for any little infraction. They don’t think these things through.

      • Hey, Have you gotten another job yet?

        • Do you have a job, or do you just get paid to troll? 😛

        • Actually, I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have the collaborations that I have today and I enjoy my interactions with the people I collaborate with. While I don’t have a full time job yet and certainly don’t have money to spend on things like expensive generators, I’m better off than many of my unemployed colleagues who will likely never get a job in the medicinal chemistry area again in their lives.

          But I comfort myself that at least I know the people who have the ability to make things that save peoples’ lives and, I suspect, you don’t. Very useful information when the next plague hits.

          Thanks for playing. Why don’t you go play in the storm?

  13. A lot of good points made in this article. I read many accounts also and agree on many. I feel that unfortunately , the nanny Josie, was probably being paid very little pay and probably “off the books”. Many times women , who are at home with nannies, regard them as merely mothers helpers. 20 years ago, my highschool daughter made $10 an hour watching a10 year old boy. I think that Josie may have only made that much , looking after 3 kids and taking them back and forth from all kinds of upper middle class activities.Also, many others noticed Josies decline in health, weight and her depressed state. But her employers noticed nothing about her changed demeanor. When she told them that she was short on money, they gave her more hours but not a raise ! Josie lost her apt in the Bronx, which has lower rents than nyc. She was trying to live an affordable lifestyle but today, people have a hard time making it alone without help from friends or loved ones. I feel empathy for the Krims but can understand that people who are economically more well off sometimes are not in tune with the reality of the people who work for them. And some are just cheap when it comes to tipping and paying for domestic help or for nannies.

  14. You are one f*cked up twisted mess. That’s like trying to justify the man who has been unemployed for a year so he beats his wife!!!! I can see why so many have run from this blog like a bad case of the plague. These “rich” bastards may very well have been monstors. But killing babies? Please!!!!! You can couch your explanation anyway you want, but KILLING BABIES!!!!!! NO EXCUSE exists on this planet. This nanny very well might have been getting a raw deal, in which case I feel for her, but KILLING BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!NO F#CKING WAY!!!!

  15. I saw your f*cked up pre-curser claiming that you were not justifying the killing of babies, but it wasn’t convincing for a hot second! You go on to assume a whole lot of Bull Sh*t that you don’t have a F*cking CLUE about. First of all an apartment in Washington Hieghts is NOT $2400 a month. Its more live $1300-$1650 for a rent stabilized unit. I personally know this as a housing attorney in NY for many years. I do agree that poor people get F*cked in this society, but killing babies can never be justified based of the asshole parents’ behavior of those babies. If you want to make a statement about the suffering of the poor in New York, there are millions of poor people who don’t kill babies. Maybe you should talk about them, instead!

    • I can show you plenty of online youtube videos of small junior one bedroom apartments in Manhattan that rent for over $2000. They are tiny, they are walk ups. But, Ok, let’s say she lives in a different part of the city where rents are lower. Your argument is just stupid. If she can’t afford an apartment for $1300, then the situation must have been more dire than we think.

      I’m not going to defend any of my post because I don’t have to. You obviously didn’t read all of it or you came here looking for a fight. Go spew on another blog where you can feed your sensationalism.

    • Question: when the tenant(s) of a rent-stabilized unit leave . . . thereby ending the contract-lease-whatever its called . . . does the rent stay stabilized? Or is the landlord free to raise the rent on whomever comes after? If so, is that a real-world useful example to dangle before the new-in-town seeker of cheap dwelling space?

    • I agree with Whoever.

  16. By the way, my whole career has been spent representing tenants, who were poor, NOT rich landlords!

  17. WOW!

  18. What an amazing wave of trollish interest! I haven’t seen so much of this in years.

    • Yeah, where did these people come from all of a sudden? It’s just weird. We’re a minor comet in the Oort Belt. Why bother?

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