A former New York City teacher who killed her two young children was found guilty of manslaughter on Friday.
Lisette Bamenga was charged with murder in July 2012 after police, responding to a 911 call about a gas leak, found the children dead in their home, CBS reported at the time. Bamenga, then 29, had poisoned 5-year-old Kenny Noel and 4-month-old Violet Noel with windshield fluid before drowning them in the bathtub.
The public elementary school teacher — who colleagues said was a “wonderful teacher” and beloved by her students — then sealed her windows, slashed her wrists and turned on the gas inside her apartment in an apparent suicide attempt, according to the New York Daily News. In a note, Bamenga wrote that the kids would be “in a better place.”
Judge Martin Marcus, who oversaw Bamenga’s bench trial, convicted her of manslaughter by reason of extreme disturbance, Niall Macgiollabhuí, one of Bamenga’s attorneys, told The Huffington Post. She faces between five and 25 years in prison when she's sentenced later this month, the Associated Press reports.
Prosecutors alleged that Bamenga killed the children to get back at their father for having an affair. But attorneys Macgiollabhuí and Michael Dowd argued that their client had suffered postpartum depression and psychosis and had lost touch with reality. They sought to have Bamenga ruled as “not responsible” for the crime due to insanity, or to have the charges downgraded to manslaughter.
“We certainly got a fair trial,” Macgiollabhuí said. “On the other hand, there is a problem with the law of insanity as it currently stands in New York.” (Insanity defenses in New York state are notoriously difficult to prove.)
The horror of a mother killing her own children can make it difficult for people to accept an explanation rooted in science.
“It’s a painful process to try and understand it,” Macgiollabhuí said. “But we have to understand it because if we don’t, it will keep happening.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the names of the two children. Their names were Kenny and Violet.