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Maria Isabella AMAYA





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Parricide - History of psychological problems
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: May 30, 1990
Date of arrest: Same day (suicide attempt)
Date of birth: 1954
Victims profile: Her four children Halley William, 11; Jessica, 8; Christopher, 6, and Edward, 3
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Port Chester, New York, USA
Status: Entered a plea of not responsible by reason of mental defect. Committed to a state psychiatric hospital in Orange County

Maria Isabella Amaya -- Port Chester, N.Y., May 30, 1990

Amaya, 36, stabbed her four children to death, then swallowed lye in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. An immigrant from El Salvador, Amaya was under psychiatric care at the time of the killings. She was found competent to stand trial and entered a plea of not responsible by reason of mental defect. The plea was accepted, and she has been hospitalized since.


Mother Charged in Fatal Stabbings of 4 Children

By Chris Hedges - The New York Times

June 1, 1990

A 36-year-old woman with a history of psychological problems was charged today with stabbing her four small children to death on Wednesday.

At an afternoon news conference here, police officials said they did not know what had led the woman, Maria Isabella Amaya, to kill the children, three boys and a girl who ranged in age from 3 1/2 to 11.

Police officials said Mrs. Amaya had been hospitalized for mental problems, but did not give details. She had been on medication for depression for the last eight months, they added, and had been scheduled to see a psychiatrist on the afternoon the killings took place.

Mrs. Amaya and her husband, Halley William Amaya, emigrated from El Salvador a decade ago and had lived in the small Victorian-style house at 63 Summerfield Place for the last three years. Friends and neighbors described the Amayas as a reserved couple, but said they had often heard the couple arguing.

Throughout the day, stunned residents of the working-class neighborhood milled quietly on the street outside the Amaya home. Some gazed vacantly at the house, cordoned off by a yellow police tape and surrounded by photographers and television crews, and groped for a way to explain what had happened.

'How Could This Be?'

Isabel Perez, who said she was a longtime family friend, showed a picture of herself and Mrs. Amaya smiling at a dinner for employees of the Hilton Hotel, where Mr. Amaya had worked at the time. ''I cannot believe she would kill her children with her own hands,'' Ms. Perez said. ''How could this be? How could we have been such friends and I never knew?'' Another neighbor, Robert Concepcion, said softly, ''They seemed like every other family. What went wrong?''

Mr. Amaya, who neighbors said is a maintenance worker at the Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla, reported the slayings Wednesday afternoon in a telephone call to the police.

Police officials said that Mr. Amaya had become worried when his wife failed to show up for her psychiatrist's appointment, then went home and found the bodies. Police Chief Carl Verastro refused to say where Mr. Amaya is now, but said the police were ''in almost continual contact with him.''

The police said the officers who responded to Mr. Amaya's call found the four children in various rooms with pillows or stuffed animals near their faces. The children were identified as Halley William Jr., 11; Jessica, 8; Christopher, 6, and Edward, 3 1/2. All had been stabbed with a kitchen knife.

Unexplained Burns

Mrs. Amaya was badly hurt from what the police say they believe were self-inflicted stab wounds, but regained consciousness shortly after the police entered the apartment. Mrs. Amaya also had burns on her body, and police officials said they were trying to determine what had caused them.

Mrs. Amaya, who is in the intensive care unit of United Hospital here, has been arraigned on four counts of second-degree murder and will be moved to a detention center when doctors permit. Chief Verastro said the women was coherent and understood the charges against her.

Neighbors said they had never seen any indication that the Amayas beat or abused their children, but said the children were poorly disciplined.

''There was never any thought that the family was abusing the children,'' said Jeanine Pirro, an assistant District Attorney in charge of cases involving domestic violence.

At the Methodist church a block away from the Amayas' house, the Rev. Gary Betts lamented that he had failed to reach out to the family, who neighbors said were Mormons.

''We are going to have the church open tonight,'' he said, ''And if people are around, we will talk. We are all in shock. We are extremely sad."


4 Westchester Children Found Stabbed to Death

By James Feron - The New York Times

May 31, 1990

Four children, from 3 1/2 to 11 years old, were found stabbed to death in their apartment here today, the police said.

Officers went to the house at 63 Summerfield Place at 2:50 P.M. after receiving a telephone tip. The children were lying in different spots around the first-floor apartment, all with knife wounds in the neck, the police said.

The police also found the children's mother unconscious, with blood around her neck. The woman, identified as Maria Isabella Amaya, was listed in critical but stable condition at United Hospital Medical Center here.

A Parent Is a Suspect

Police Chief Carl Verrastro said the woman had been undergoing psychiatric care.

The police said that one of the parents was a suspect and that they expected to make an arrest soon.

A neighbor, Andreas Orphanos, said the children's father came to her before the police arrived, gave her a card with a telephone number and said: ''Please call this doctor. She killed the little ones and she tried to kill herself."

Ms. Orphanos said she made the phone call to a White Plains number but did not know to whom she had spoken. She said the family had lived in the house, a three-story, light-green victorian dwelling with three apartments, for about five years.

She said the couple had come to the United States from El Salvador.

She added that the family was ''very nice, hard-working people, but she never disciplined her children.''

The slain children were identified by Chief Verrastro as Halley William Jr., 11; Jessica, 8; Christopher, 6, and Edward, 3 1/2. The three older children attended Edison Elementary School.

Mrs. Amaya's husband, Halley William Sr., was said by neighbors to be a maintenance worker at the Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla.

Christmas Lights on Roof

The police did not identify the person who told them about the bodies. The police said Mr. Amaya was interviewed by detectives, then released.

The family lived in a working-class neighborhood of Port Chester, a village of 24,000 people in Westchester County near the Connecticut border.

The Amaya house is one block from the Port Chester train station and three blocks from the center of the village commercial area called Five Corners.

At the house tonight, a child's drawing of a bunny was taped to the front storm door and Christmas lights still hung from the roof of the house. A white ceramic swan sat at the top of the steps on the front porch.

Friends and neighbors of the Amayas gathered on Summerfield Place last night and said they could not believe that all the Amaya children were dead.

Marta Arroyo, who lives two blocks from the Amaya home at 216 King Street, said that she was a close friend of Mrs. Amaya and that they had both worked as housekeepers and cared for each other's children.

'Appeared to Be Normal'

''She's a very charming lady,'' Mrs. Arroyo said. ''She was a lovely mother and loved her kids.''

Nellie Senquez, another friend who also lived at 216 King Street, said that she had last seen Mrs. Amaya Tuesday morning and that ''everything appeared to be normal.''

Mrs. Senquez's son, Fabian Marquez, said Mrs. Amaya had been hospitalized recently for ''depression and nervousness.''

''She used to love the kids so much she never hit them,'' he said.

Iisha Brooks, a fourth-grader at Edison, said she was in the same class as Halley William Jr. ''He liked to draw things,'' she said. ''He drew a house with an alarm on it.'' Iisha said Halley William Jr. ''never spoke of any troubles at home."



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