Mother Who Leapt to Tracks Had Killed Son, Police Say — (New York Times)

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New York Times

By CARA BUCKLEY and DARYL KHAN

Published: November 15, 2006

A woman who leapt in front of a subway Monday, apparently out of remorse over smothering her son, said “demons overtook her” when she pressed a pillow to the boy’s face and held it there until he became still, the police said yesterday.

The woman, identified by relatives as Sadier Jean Noel, 27, said her son, Knil Jean Noel, 9, was despondent early Monday after his much-anticipated birthday party the day before did not turn out as planned. Ms. Noel said she called the boy to her bedside, and suddenly felt as if she were “struggling with demons,” whereupon she smothered him, according to the police.

Ms. Noel said she then left her apartment on Brooklyn Avenue in Crown Heights, and took the subway to Chinatown in Manhattan with the intention of jumping off a bridge, the police said. But she changed her mind, they said, and returned to Brooklyn on the F train. She got off at the West Eighth Street-New York Aquarium stop in Coney Island, crossed to the northbound platform, and shortly before 5 p.m. jumped as a train approached, the police said.

Though seriously hurt with a broken leg and two severed fingers, Ms. Noel was conscious and urged rescuers to go to her home, saying she had done something terrible to her son, according to the police. Meanwhile, Knil’s father, Evans Joseph, 29, a construction worker, had already arrived at their home to find the boy lying on the couple’s bed and unresponsive, the police said.

Ms. Noel, who law enforcement officials said had been taking Prozac for depression and Ambien for insomnia, was in stable condition yesterday at Lutheran Medical Center. She has not been charged in the boy’s death, which the medical examiner’s office ruled a homicide by asphyxiation.

The Administration for Children’s Services was investigating the death, but officials would not say if they had previously worked with the family. The boy’s death devastated Knil’s relatives and left his schoolmates and teachers reeling in disbelief.

“He wanted to be a doctor, he wanted to help people, he was a very bright boy,” said William Ebanks, 36, Knil’s fourth-grade teacher at Montgomery Academy, a private school in Brooklyn. “I’m trying to be strong for the kids, and that’s very hard.”

Mr. Ebanks said Knil had a quirky thirst for knowledge, and loved to quiz him with questions like, “What’s the animal with the biggest head?”

Mr. Joseph’s sister Jennifer James said Knil, whom she described as a popular, active and ebullient boy, was supposed to celebrate his birthday Sunday with his parents and a friend at Junior’s restaurant. But, Ms. Noel told the police, the friend could not attend, which saddened Knil.

Still, Knil’s school had planned a party for him with pizza and cake on Monday, Ms. Noel told the police. Mr. Joseph called Ms. Noel in midmorning to inquire how the party was going, and Ms. Noel told the police she had replied, “There is no party, and you’re going to have to forgive me.”

Relatives said Mr. Joseph and Ms. Noel, who are from Grosislet, a village in St. Lucia, moved to Brooklyn shortly before Knil, their only child, was born. Ms. Noel, who worked and attended nursing school, always walked Knil from their third-floor apartment to his bus stop and waited with him, neighbors said.

A grief-stricken Mr. Joseph returned to the apartment yesterday morning, surrounded by detectives. He lashed out at reporters gathered outside. “I’m in pain right now,” he said. “I’m in pain of my life.”