Professor charged with murder in baby’s death, The Villanova instructor cited the infant’s Down syndrome and said she didn’t want the child to have a feeding tube — (Philadelphia Inquirer)

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Philadelphia Inquirer

By Keith Herbert and Oliver Prichard, Inquirer staff writers

Posted: August 06, 2003

As she sat in police headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., Mine An Ener described her life as a tenured professor at Villanova University.

Ener, 38, is a recognized expert on poverty in the modern Islamic world and director of the university’s Center for Arab and Islamic Studies. She had published one book, and had another due out soon.

She often traveled to the Middle East.

“After what I just did, I don’t think that I will do much traveling,” Ener (pronounced EE-ner) told police.

Ener was charged yesterday with second-degree murder for cutting the throat of her 6-month-old baby, Raya Donagi, and faces up to 40 years in prison.

She told police she killed her daughter because the child suffered from Down syndrome, according to a criminal complaint filed yesterday in Ramsey County, Minn., where the killing occurred.

Ener told police that the baby hated the feeding tube that she had to use for nourishment. The child recently had been taken off the tube, but Ener said the baby was not breast-feeding or taking a bottle well.

She feared that her daughter would have to go back on the feeding tube and said that she didn’t want her child to “go through life suffering,” the complaint said.

Ener told police that she took a kitchen knife and pressed it against the baby’s throat – then repeated the act.

She told police that she was suffering from postpartum depression and was taking antidepressants. She said she had been contemplating suicide for two or three weeks.

“She had talked suicide before,” said Detective Sgt. Bruce Wynkoop of the St. Paul Police Department. “In fact, they had family members keeping an eye on her because of the suicide thing. You can’t have somebody there all the time.”

During a 45-minute interview with police on Monday, during which she admitted to cutting her daughter, Ener showed little emotion, Wynkoop said.

“It’s unusual that a mother doesn’t show more emotion,” Wynkoop said yesterday. “You’d expect someone to be crying or shaken. She wasn’t any of that.”

Ron Donagi, Ener’s husband and the child’s father, was in California at the time of the killing, attending a conference, Wynkoop said.

Donagi is a professor of mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania. Julius Shaneson, chairman of the math department at Penn, said both parents were distinguished academics.

“This is a great tragedy,” Shaneson said. “We all hope they come through it.”

Ener had taught at Villanova since 1996.

Michael D. Bonner, an associate professor of medieval Islamic history at the University of Michigan, said he had known Ener since her days as a graduate student at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s. He said Ener – who speaks Turkish and Arabic – is gifted intellectually and devoted to her field, the modern Islamic world.

Bonner organized a conference in May 2000 with Ener on poverty in the Muslim world and together they published a book, Poverty and Charity in Middle Eastern Contexts.

“She always struck me as a kind and well-balanced person,” Bonner said. “I always thought she was just fine, a hard worker who really liked her work.”

During a visit to Philadelphia before the baby was born, Bonner said he got the impression that Ener’s career and personal life were going well.

“All this is completely off the other side of the moon,” Bonner said. “I’m floored. Clearly, something went really, really wrong.”

It was about 9 a.m. Monday when St. Paul police and emergency personnel responded to the Desnoyer Park neighborhood where Ener grew up.

Police found Ener, who lives in Wynnewood, with her bloodied hands crossed over her chest. “I killed my baby with a knife,” she told police.

Ener led paramedics to Raya’s lifeless body. Police recovered a 12-inch knife from the bathroom floor, where the baby was killed.

Ener said that she had gone to St. Paul about a week earlier to visit family.

Saying that she was distraught over the baby’s medical problems, Ener also told police that her husband and family were more optimistic about Raya’s quality of life.

Paige Harr, 38, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, is the mother of an 8-year-old girl with Down syndrome and a member of Up Side of Downs, a support and advocacy group for parents of children with Down syndrome.

Harr said her daughter had a feeding tube for 4 1/2 months after birth, although the child was relieved of it after a successful heart operation. It is apparently not uncommon, Harr said, because many children with Down syndrome do not have the muscle tone in the mouth or esophagus that would allow them to eat on their own.

She described the eating-tube ordeal as “very overwhelming.

“You don’t get much sleep, because there’s a constant cycle of medications,” she said. “It’s very demanding physically. Maybe this lady didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.”

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said Ener was scheduled to be in court today for a bail hearing. Gaertner said she would ask for $500,000 bail for Ener, who is held at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center.

“It’s obviously a very serious offense, and she has the resources to flee,” Gaertner said. “I’m hoping high bail will be set.”

Despite the problems confronting her, Ener was receiving help, Gaertner said.

“It’s certainly clear that the family was concerned,” Gaertner said. “She wasn’t alone in the world and had resources to cope.”

Contact staff writer Keith Herbert at 610-313-8007 or keithherbert@phillynews.com.

 

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Mine Ener Dies In Jail Of Apparent Suicide — (Inclusion Daily Express)

By Dave Reynolds

September 3, 2003

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA–The Philadelphia professor who admitted murdering her infant daughter last month died Saturday of an apparent suicide outside her jail cell.

Mine Ener, 38, appeared to be sleeping on a mattress in a Ramsey County Jail day-room Saturday afternoon with a blanket pulled up over her head. Deputies checked under the blanket at 3:45 p.m. and found that she had a plastic trash bag over her head and was unconscious.

Deputies and paramedics were unable to revive Ener. She was pronounced dead an hour later at nearby Regions Hospital.

“It’s unusual to be able to suffocate in this fashion,” Sheriff Bob Fletcher said. “We’re investigating it, at this point, as a suicide, but we’re also interviewing other inmates that were in this day-room area.”

Ener had told police that she was considering suicide and was on medication for postpartum depression after she was arrested August 4 for second-degree murder. The Villanova University history professor admitted using a 12-inch kitchen knife to slice the throat of her daughter, 6-month-old Raya Donagi, who had Down syndrome. Police said Ener told them she “did not want the child to go through life suffering” and added that her family was not as pessimistic about her daughter’s potential quality of life as she was.

Ener also told police she was having difficulty feeding the child and feared that she would have to use a feeding tube.

“Our hearts go out to the family for enduring another loss,” Sheriff Fletcher said. “It’s another tragedy on top of another tragic situation.”