A woman clutching her baby son in her arms plunged eight stories out of an apartment window to her death in an apparent suicide on Wednesday, but the baby survived, police said.
Cynthia Wachenheim was found on the street with her son, 10-month-old Keston, near her arms. A police officer who responded took the baby to a hospital, where he was listed in critical but stable condition.
Police discovered a seven-page suicide note under a bed in the apartment Wachenheim shared with her husband. In the note, the 45-year-old Wachenheim said she recognized what she was about to do was "evil" but she was concerned about how her child was developing, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case.
It was unclear whether the baby, who neighbors said was an only child, had any mental or physical problems.
A window to the West Harlem apartment was wide open, and there were no signs of struggle inside, police said. There were no safety bars on the apartment's windows. Surveillance footage showed Wachenheim's husband leaving the apartment about an hour before her plunge from the window with the baby.
Area resident Steven Dominguez, 18, was walking to a grocery store with his mother, Adelina Dominguez, when he saw the woman fall. He said the baby bounced off her body, breaking some of the impact of the fall, before hitting the ground nearby.
"I heard a scream like a yell," Dominguez said. "When I got closer, I saw the baby crying."
He said the baby was face down.
"I was shocked," he said. "I couldn't believe it."
Dominguez said his mother went to pick up the baby but an emergency response person told her to stand back.
The apartment is in a relatively new building facing Jackie Robinson Park. A crowd of onlookers had gathered nearby Wednesday afternoon, awaiting the medical examiner's office, which would determine the official cause of the woman's death.
Resident Yaa Dwamena, 32, said she's lived in the building for several years and as long as she's been there she's seen Wachenheim.
"She was very nice, very friendly, very warm," Dwamena said.
She said that the last time she saw Wachenheim was last week.
"I wouldn't have thought anything was wrong with her," she said. "They were a happy-looking family. I wouldn't think anything like this would happen."
Wachenheim went to law school at Columbia University, and her father was a state police spokesman before his death in 2011. She worked in state Supreme Court in Manhattan doing legal research for judges, court officials said.
"We are all deeply saddened about this tragic incident," state courts spokesman David Bookstaver said. "Our thoughts are with Ms. Wachenheim's family."