After she’d killed two children with a kitchen knife — after she’d watched their mother and a third child react in horror, scream, and flee — Yoselyn Ortega stood facing the bathroom mirror as she clutched a towel to her throat. That’s how she was standing when the building supervisor saw her, moments before the NYPD arrived. Outside, night was falling and the apartment was dark. But inside the bathroom, the lights were on. Was the nanny looking at herself?
A noticeably smaller crowd turned out to watch this week — the second week — of Ortega’s trial for the 2012 murders of Lucia and Leo Krim, ages 6 and 2. There’s a rotating corps of reporters, legal students, and legal professionals. There’s also a man who arrives every morning with a newspaper flipped open to Ortega trial news, and a number of people taking painstaking notes for reasons they are not interested in discussing.
The jury reviewed photos and objects from the crime this week. To introduce an image, a lawyer will first ask a witnesses to identify it in on paper. Then the lawyer displays the image on a massive flat-screen TV mounted between the witness stand and the jury box. The screen is visible to all. Photos of the Krims’ blood-smeared apartment appeared on that screen. So did a photo of the blood-soaked Ortega. (When the police arrived, she was lying on the floor.) A detective in latex gloves displayed bloody knives recovered from the scene. (The blades were eight and nine inches long.) Before and after the grisly slideshows, nearly a dozen first responders described what they saw that night. “Night became day,” EMT Noemi Ortiz-Rivera said of the moment her ambulance pulled onto the block. A phalanx of EMS, NYPD, and FDNY vehicles all had flashing lights — as did members of the press. By morning, the entire city would be looking at Yoselyn Ortega and the family she disrupted.
The next day, a photo of mother Marina Krim sobbing in Ortiz-Rivera’s ambulance appeared on the cover of the New York Post. The photo was taken through the ambulance’s window. (To thwart photographers, Ortiz-Rivera covered Krim with a white blanket when she exited the ambulance. That moment was photographed, too.) A photo of Yoselyn Ortega on a stretcher appeared on the cover of the New York Daily News.
Those media images helped to turn the Krim murders into a cause célèbre long before the trial started. None of these have been included in the proceedings — they exist beyond the courtroom, for outsiders and those following from home. In the immediate aftermath of the crime, the tabloid shots were often paired with photos copied from Marina Krim’s blog. Before the killings, she maintained a LiveJournal called LittleMissLucia; she used it to post family photos and news. The blog depicted a sort of Manhattan idyll: Leo with toy trucks in the park; Lucia (called “Lulu”) watching puppies through the window of a pet store. People, Us Weekly, and the British Daily Mail all drew material from the blog, which had since become a gathering place for well-wishers offering their condolences — and for rubberneckers satisfying their curiosity.
Two weeks after the killings, Marina Krim updated her blog for the last time. She had just buried her children, and wanted to announce the launch of the Lulu and Leo Fund: a charity supporting arts education, run by herself and husband Kevin Krim. (Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Marina taught kindergarten and art.) Together, the couple had devised Choose Creativity, a curriculum encouraging children to express themselves through art. The goal, according to Choose Creativity’s website, “is to build resilience, creative confidence, and social-emotional skills” through art. And the Krims, in turn, used the charity as a tool for building their own resilience — and redirecting the public conversation around their family. Through the Fund’s Facebook page, the couple sometimes releases public statements about Ortega’s crime and trial. In professional-looking video dispatches (Kevin spent much of his career working for media organizations) the couple encourages fans to support them by supporting their charity.
Nessie Krim appeared in the Lulu and Leo Fund’s most recent video, as did her brothers Felix and Linus. Both boys were born after Lulu’s and Leo’s deaths. In an essay for Sheryl Sandberg’s online grief community, Option B, Kevin Krim connects the younger children’s presence with the children he lost: “Since Lulu and Leo died, we’ve had two more children, Felix and Linus, who are smiling, laughing evidence of this wisdom. They, along with strong Nessie, are genetically and spiritually half Lulu and half Leo.” In her essay, Marina describes finding comfort in a craft project on Mother’s Day. Accompanying both essays: a black-and-white portrait from celebrity photographer Norman Jean Roy, showing the Krims looking squarely into the camera’s lens, their hands intertwined.
Yoselyn Ortega had been an occasional presence on Marina Krim’s mommy blog, too. Eight months before Ortega killed Lucia and Leo, she traveled with all five Krims to the Dominican Republic. There, they stayed overnight in the home of “Josie’s amazing familia!!!” Accompanying photos showed Kevin and the kids posing with several Ortega family members.
In court, defense lawyer Valerie Van Leer-Greenberg asked Marina Krim several questions about the trip. The lawyer also asked about a photo album Marina made to commemorate the trip. Krim made two copies of the album; she sent one to Yoselyn Ortega’s sister Miladys, who owns the home they visited. (Van Leer-Greenberg also asked Marina to confirm that Lulu and Nessie had slept in their nanny’s bed on that trip. “I was a guest in their home,” Krim replied with force. “They told us where to sleep and we slept there.” Krim said she didn’t want to be “entitled,” a quality she attributed more than once to Ortega.) That exchange took place on the first day of the trial. Also on the trial’s first day: a defense motion to block the jury from seeing pictures of the children’s slain bodies. With assistance from fellow defense lawyer and son Evan Van Leer-Greenberg, the elder Van Leer-Greenberg argued that the photo would be prejudicial. The jury would become emotional. They would think with their “hearts” instead of their “intellects.”
Judge Gregory Carro rejected the motion with a note of frustration. He ruled on this issue during pretrial hearings, he said. The jury would view the photo. (They did so not onscreen but by passing an envelope among themselves.) Was Van Leer-Greenberg’s new motion any different than the last?
“It wasn’t any different,” Assistant District Attorney Stuart Silberg said of Van Leer-Greenberg’s motion. “It was for the audience.”