Newport woman jumps to her death at hotel — (Orange County Register)

SSRI Ed note: Happily married woman, 32, given antidepressants for postpartum depression, kills herself by jumping from 19th floor of hotel. Depression blamed.

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The Orange County Register

Saturday, September 22, 1990

Author: Marilyn Kalfus;Gina Shaffer

A woman suffering from the “baby blues” since the birth of her first child leapt to her death Friday from a 19th-floor balcony of the Four Seasons Hotel.

Victoria Karter, 33, of Newport Beach landed in a small garden of tropical plants near the hotel entrance at 4:30 p.m. She was dead at the scene.

Newport Beach police said Karter checked into Room 1902 of the swanky, world-renowned hotel, where rooms range from $185 to $1,035 a day, Friday morning.

Karter had been seeing a doctor for treatment of postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Rachel, five months ago, Newport Beach police Sgt. Al Fischer said.

Gregory Lee, Karter’s husband of three years, said he had no idea why Karter decided to end her life, or why she selected that hotel.

“My wife and I got along very well,” said Lee, 35. “We did not have any marital problems. She was an easygoing person. I thought we had a nice little happy family going, and she did, too.”

Lee said Karter, who was part owner of an office-machinery business, took the day off Friday.  She had been under a doctor’s care and was taking medication, but when Lee talked to her that morning, he said, she sounded fine.

“She loved the baby very much, more than anything,” he said.

Lee said Karter never tried to harm the baby, as some women with her condition do.

“Some women go that way,” he said. “Some women direct it toward themselves.”

Doctors say postpartum depression affects one in 10 new mothers. They might cry uncontrollably or experience panic attacks. In extreme cases, the depression can turn into psychotic behavior and violence.

In a high-profile “baby blues” case three years ago, Sheryl Massip, 24, of Anaheim killed her 6-week-old son by driving over him with the family Volvo.  She later said she was compelled by voices in her head.

Friday night, guests and visitors in the lobby of the Four Seasons — one of the county’s tallest buildings — said they were baffled by the tragedy.

“It’s not the kind of hotel where people jump out the window,” said Daniel Jackson, 31, a Newport Beach banker. “It doesn’t matter, though. If somebody’s having a crisis of life, it doesn’t matter whether they’re rich or poor or what hotel they’re staying at.”

Hotel employees and police blocked off the garden, covering hotel windows with white sheets and duct tape and placing dark wood ornamental screens from the lobby around the area.

Inside the cocktail lounge, guests sipped wine and munched on hors d’oeuvres to the buzz of conversation and a backdrop of piano tunes, oblivious to the body outside.

Philip Gatsoulis of San Marino said he was standing just inside the lobby windows and saw Karter a moment after she landed.

“I hear this big thump,” said Gatsoulis, an engineer staying at the hotel. “There’s a palm tree, I thought a big branch broke off. I took another look, I see this body lying there.”

He said he ran to notify the desk clerk. “You see something like this, and the shock hits you later,” Gatsoulis, 59, said.

A hotel spokesman declined to comment.

Fischer said that earlier Friday, a woman came to the police station’s front desk to report that a woman at Fashion Island, a shopping center across the street from the hotel, had been talking about killing herself. The two women had been sitting on a bus bench together, Fischer said. He had no further details.

In the Massip case, a Superior Court judge found that Massip was innocent by reason of insanity and reduced a jury’s verdict from second-degree murder to manslaughter. Massip remained free, but was ordered to seek outpatient treatment.

Susan Hickman, a marriage and family therapist who testified on Massip’s behalf, said Friday night that sometimes mothers suffering from postpartum depression kill themselves as a way of protecting their babies.

“So many mothers have prayed they’d be strong enough only to kill themselves and not their infants,” she said.

Register staff writer Jack Evans contributed to this report.
Memo: ‘GC

Record Number: OCR286354