Fairfax Woman Free on Bond in Husband’s Death — (Washington Post)

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Washington Post

By Tom Jackman, Washington Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 23, 2002; Page B02

As Seema Rothstein lay bleeding on a gurney at Inova Fairfax Hospital, Officer Kenneth Brennan feared that she might die before telling anyone who stabbed her and her husband at their Springfield home two days after Thanksgiving.

Brennan knew that her husband, Eric Rothstein, was dead. Their attacker presumably was at large.

Brennan stepped between the emergency room doctors and nurses and got straight to the point: “Who stabbed you?” he asked Rothstein.

He was stunned by her answer. “I did,” Rothstein said, according to Brennan’s testimony at her preliminary hearing yesterday.

“Did you hurt anyone else?” Brennan asked.

“My husband,” came the quiet reply.

Brennan asked one more question: “Why?”

“I’m sick,” he said Rothstein told him, murmuring about her medication.

A Fairfax County judge ruled that there was enough evidence to send Rothstein’s murder charge to the county grand jury for consideration.

Rothstein’s family said she was suffering from postpartum depression, having given birth to a daughter just 10 weeks before the Nov. 24 stabbing of Eric Rothstein, 36, the respected rowing coach at Thomas Jefferson High School. Both her parents and her husband’s parents of pleaded with Fairfax prosecutors not to press charges against Seema Rothstein, 32. But Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said prosecutors had a responsibility to the victim and the public.

Morrogh did not object, however, to allowing Rothstein to be released on bond yesterday, after mental health professionals found that she was not likely to pose a danger to the community. Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Charles J. Maxfield ordered Rothstein’s family to post $50,000 bond and that she have no unsupervised contact with her daughter, now 17 weeks old.

Shortly after Rothstein’s arrest, Maxfield ordered her to a state mental health facility in Petersburg for evaluation and treatment. Her family said she had struggled with depression and anxiety after her daughter’s birth, and various medications had not helped.

A 911 call with no one on the line alerted police to the trouble at the Rothsteins’ home, and Officer Jason Reichel testified that he found Seema Rothstein lying unconscious on the back deck of their home. Reichel looked inside and saw Eric Rothstein lying on his left side, with a large knife behind him. Morrogh said Rothstein had suffered a four- to five-inch stab wound to his heart.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company