By Murray Weiss, DNAinfo Columnist / Criminal Justice Editor
UPPER WEST SIDE — Cops believe the financial pressures that could have driven an $18-an-hour nanny to kill two children in her care began when she brought her own teenage son to New York to give him a better life, DNAinfo.com New York has learned.
Investigators and prosecutors trying to unravel the motive behind the gruesome murders believe the decision by Yoselyn Ortega eight months ago to move her 17-year-old son, Jesus, from the Dominican Republic — and place him in a private school here — launched her descent into madness. That, combined with an unsuccessful attempt to get a raise from the family she worked for could have pushed her over the edge, sources said.
But, without a detailed confession from Ortega, authorities are still unable to determine with certainy exactly what allegedly caused her to stab Lucia Krim, 6, and her brother, Leo, 2, before turning the knife on herself in a botched suicide attempt on Oct. 25.
"There was definitely an issue with treatment by her employees, and money issues," a law enforcement source said. "But there must be some other craziness that has not come out."
Sources told "On the Inside" that Ortega was introduced to the Krim family two years ago through one of her sisters who is also a nanny who had met the Krims at Lucia’s dance class. She was paid $18 an hour, about average for a nanny, which is less than $32,000 a year.
Ortega’s relationship with Marina Krim, her husband Kevin, a CNBC executive, and their children seemed flawless. They treated Ortega as though she were part of their family, and traveled to the Dominican Republic to meet her family before they hired her. Several other times, they escorted her there when she visited her son, who was living with one of Ortega’s sisters at the time.
Roughly eight months ago, Ortega decided to bring Jesus to New York to live with her in her new apartment in the Bronx.“She thought he would do better here,” a source explained.
Like the many affluent mothers on the Upper West Side she saw every day, Ortega enrolled her son in a private school in the Bronx.
While a brother agreed to pay for the initial year’s tuition, he said that Ortega would be responsible for the ensuing tuition bills.
Investigators tracked down Jesus’ father, Leno, a Dominican native who lives in Inwood and drives a taxi.
He and Ortega separated amicably in 2001 and he had “no ill will toward her,” and although he said he rarely saw Ortega, they "had no problems between them," sources said.
"He was shocked by what happened," a source said. "He had no idea what demons were raging."
Leno told officials that he had dutifully sent $140 a month in child support to his son in the Dominican Republic. The figure, he said, was established by a Dominican judge. He also regularly visited his son there. He stopped having to pay child support when his son moved to New York, as Ortega didn't petition a city court to require Leno make payments here.
Over the summer, the owners of the Bronx apartment Ortega was renting suddenly decided they wanted their home back, forcing the nanny and her son to move in with another sister on Riverside Drive in Hamilton Heights.
It was an emotional blow for the struggling Ortega.
“She had to move back with her family, and now had her son with her,” a source explained. “Maybe it was too crowded. She had no place of her own. There was his schooling and travel.”
Her relatives said she began to turn inward, started looking gaunt, and sought psychological help. But what she really seemed to need was cash.
Sources say she tried to sell cosmetics on the side, but that backfired. She brought her money woes to the attention of the Krims. But there were no outward signs of desperation or feelings of being trapped, sources said.
“There was no indication that there was any animosity toward them,” a source said. "If they were aware of it, they simply could have let her go.”
Instead, the Krims offered Ortega an additional five hours a week doing some cleaning.
“We think she did not appreciate doing light cleaning,” the source added. “That was not her job.”
The five additional hours would mean $90-a-week more in Ortega’s pocket, or another $4,500 a year. That would bring her annual pay to roughly $37,000.
Whatever was building up in her head, the Krims did not see it coming.
On Oct. 25, Ortega was supposed to take Lucia and Leo to meet their mother and 3-year-old sister, Nessie, who was getting swimming lessons. They then were all going to take Lucia to a dance class. Ortega and Lucia picked up Leo at school, but never showed up at the swimming lesson.
Instead, at about 5:30 p.m., she allegedly grabbed a large kitchen knife, shepherded the two frightened, fully-clothed children into a bathroom tub, and repeatedly stabbed them to death.
Marina Krim returned to her West 75th Street apartment with Nessie and discovered the unthinkable crime scene just as Ortega was turning the knife on herself.
The crazed nanny cut her own wrist and then jammed the blade into her throat with enough force that it passed through to the back of her neck, cracking two vertebrae atop her spine, sources said. The blade, however, missed all vital veins and arteries.
Marina’s horrific screams brought cops and paramedics. The blood-covered nanny was rushed to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where doctors closed her wounds and put her in an induced coma.
When the anesthesia wore off, physicians and police expected to speak with her, but she lay in bed in a catatonic state that her physicians could not explain, “On the Inside” previously reported.
Days later, she eventually began to move her eyes and could nod, and investigators managed to “sort of get her to point to words.”
She acknowledged that she stabbed the two children, sources said.
On Saturday, prosecutors and police formally charged her at her bedside with the murders of the two Krim children.
"The more she understood, the less she wanted to talk," another law enforcement source said.
The Manhattan District Attorney is expected to present evidence to a grand jury soon.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Kevin Krim as David Krim.