PhD student accused of killing friend's newborn baby while babysitting after abusing the baby's twin

Tuesday, June 25, 2024 - A PhD student, whose father is a prominent Manhattan cardiologist, has been accused of murdering the infant twin son of one of her closest friends.

Nicole Virzi, a fifth year Ph.D. candidate at the San Diego State University/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, is also accused of physically abusing the dead baby’s twin resulting in hospitalisation, according to reports.

Six-week-old Leon Katz, the son of Ethan Katz and his wife Savannah Roberts, died on Father’s Day as Virzi was caring for him in the family’s Pittsburgh home, authorities said.

Virzi and Roberts were doctoral students at different universities — Roberts was studying at the University of Pittsburgh — but both were focused on eating disorders, trauma and body image.

The couple left Leon in Virzi’s care while rushing Ari to the hospital with a mysterious injury to his genitals, which Virzi had alerted them to, authorities said.

It is alleged that Virzi was also the one who inflicted the injury on Ari that led to a hospital stay for the parents and child.

While the parents were caring for Ari in the hospital, Virzi claimed Leon fell from his bouncer chair while she stepped away to get a bottle, according to police and court records.

But doctors found the injuries "consistent with having been sustained as a result of child abuse, as these are inflicted injuries that are not natural and not accidental," according to WTAE.

Virzi was referred to as a "trusted family friend" in the GoFundMe established to help the grieving parents and their surviving son.

Virzi had been staying in a nearby Airbnb on South Graham Street in the neighborhood when she was asked to care for the baby, who was "alert, conscious and not injured," according to a criminal complaint obtained by by Pittsburgh’s TRIBLive.

Cops arrived Walnut Street home after Virzi called 911 at 11:17 p.m. June 15, authorities said in the complaint. Virzi said the baby had suffered a bump to his head.

Virzi told cops she started babysitting Leon at about 6:30 p.m. that night, and claimed he was doing fine, eaten, had soiled two diapers and had been burped, according to the complaint.

She fell asleep "for a period of time while Leon was in the bouncer seat," Virzi claimed. When Virzi awoke, she said, she went to the kitchen to get a bottle for Leon, and heard the baby screaming.

Virzi claimed she found Leon lying on the floor, picked him up, and saw "a large bump to the left side of Leon’s head," prosecutors said in the court document.

Paramedics rushed Leon to the hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead at 5:47 a.m. on Father’s Day, police said.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide. Leon’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

A head CT scan showed Leon suffered a severe skull fracture to the left side of the head, along with multiple brain bleeds.

Virzi was charged June 16 with criminal homicide, three counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Virzi is currently being held without bail at the Allegheny County Jail.

Virzi’s attorney David Shrager told The Post Saturday his client was innocent, and planned to plead not guilty.

"She is obviously devastated," Shrager said. “She’s highly distraught and deeply sad. She said it was nothing intentional. We’re doing a deep investigation. She has no criminal history. We will do our best to give her a fair hearing in court. This is a case with a dead child and a young lady in jail. It should not be speculated on before the case goes to court.”

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