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Attorney says epilepsy drugs casued Henry Wachtel to murder mother, Karyn Kay

Henry Wachtel,right, stands in court with his attorney Lloyd Epstein during his arraignment in Manhattan criminal court, Wednesday, April 11, 2012 in New York.
AP Photo/Steven Hirsh, Pool
(CBS) NEW YORK - Attorneys for Henry Watchel say epilepsy drugs caused the Fordham student to fatally beat his mother in their Manhattan apartment Tuesday.

According to The New York Times, the 19-year-old's lawyer, Lloyd Epstein, says that the attack was a result of medication the young man takes for his seizures.

The New York Post reports Wachtel, wearing a Chicago Bears shirt, wept openly in Manhattan Criminal Court Wednesday as he was arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder.

"We all know that this is a tragic circumstance, and we all know that heavy medication is involved in this," Mr. Epstein said outside court, adding that there are "sometimes unforeseen consequences to medication."

Epstein declined to say if Wachtel was on any additional medication besides his epilepsy drugs. However, he asked the judge to send his client to a hospital instead of jail as his seizures could potentially put the prison population at risk. "The episodes occur in a random way," he said.

One medical expert, neurologist Dr. Alan Ettinger, said this defense might be difficult to prove. "Any kind of repetitive, complex aggression would be extremely unusual as a result of these medications," he told the New York Daily News.

Karyn Kay, 63, called 911 Tuesday morning to ask for help with her son's epileptic seizure. However, soon after she made the call, Wachtel began attacking her with his bare hands.

"He's coming after me!" yelled Kay, court records state. "No, no no!"

The 911 recording captured several minutes of screams and moans, and then silence, which was then broken by Wachtel saying, "Mommy, Mommy, please don't die."

The Times reports that prosecutor Courtney Groves said in court that when police arrived at the crime scene, the found the young man "wild eyed," and "covered in blood."

"It was a mistake," he said when police asked him what had happened, according to the criminal complaint.

According to the Daily News, neighbors said they often heard screaming fights between Wachtel and his mother.

"I don't know if I ever ran into a situation where a teenager and his mother did not argue," Wachtel's lawyer said.

Judge Michelle Armstrong ordered Wachtel held without bail. Wachtel is reportedly due back in court on Monday.

Kay was a filmmaker and an English teacher at Manhattan's LaGuardia High School. She is also listed as a visiting instructor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She wrote and produced the feature film, "Call Me," featuring Steve Buscemi.

The Fordham Observer reports that Fordham University president Joseph McShane, S.J., addressed the incident in a university-wide email sent Wednesday afternoon. Henry Wachtel's father, Edward Wachtel, is a Communications and Media Studies faculty member at the University.

"It is my sad duty to inform you that a member of the student body, and the son of a Fordham faculty member, was charged last night with killing his mother, an instructor at another institution," McShane wrote.

"This is, of course, an unimaginable tragedy for the family, and for the University community. I ask that you afford the affected individuals as much privacy and compassion as you possibly can while they struggle with this heartbreaking burden."

More on Crimesider:

April 11, 2012 - Karyn Kay, New York teacher and writer, fatally beaten by her son Henry Wachtel, NYPD says

  • Katie Wiggin

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