|Tuesday, November 6th 2007, 4:00 AM |
A Manhattan bookkeeper told cops over-the-counter cold decongestants made him feel "strange and weird" just before he beat his 1-year-old daughter to death, a law enforcement source said Monday.
Peter O'Keeffe, 35, said he drank Robitussin cough medicine and took an herbal decongestant before killing Jessica on Saturday in his South Ozone Park home, prosecutors said.
"He beat the baby, grabbed her by the neck ..." Assistant District Attorney Mina Malik said at O'Keeffe's arraignment on a murder charge in Queens Criminal Court. "The baby was dropped facedown."
O'Keeffe's wife, Louise Rojas-O'Keeffe, found Jessica when she arrived home from a shopping excursion with friends. Jessica had bite marks on her body, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said O'Keeffe told cops he lifted Jessica out of her crib and put her back down several times in trying to stop her from crying.
When she did not stop, he began shaking her and threw her to the floor, prosecutors alleged.
O'Keeffe told cops he thought he was dying and that he lay down on the floor next to the baby, who was limp, prosecutors said. The child died between noon and 4 p.m., prosecutors said.
At that point, O'Keeffe went to an ATM for cash, then to Philadelphia, prosecutors said.
"The baby was left bleeding from the head, then he left," Malik said, adding that O'Keeffe did not try to resuscitate the child despite her "devastating injuries."
O'Keeffe returned to New York on Sunday and went to his mother's Brooklyn home. When cops arrested him there, he told them, "I came back to face the music," a law enforcement source said.
Peter O'Keeffe's 70-year-old mother and sister burst into tears when they saw him ushered into the courtroom shackled and wearing a white jumper.
"There's a history of mental illness in the family," defense lawyer Michael Cibella said. "He needs treatment."
O'Keeffe, who was charged with murder and endangering the welfare of a child, was ordered held without bail and under a suicide watch. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison, if convicted.
Cibella said his client was an accountant at a Manhattan printing company.
O'Keeffe was a bookkeeper at Tana Seybert, a printing company at 525 W. 52nd St.
Seybert's chief financial officer, Christina Bosco, said she was "devastated and shocked" by the tragedy.
"He has worked closely with me since 2004," she said. "This is a complete shock. There was never an indication that anything like this could have happened."