Mother Who Poisoned Two Children Sentenced to Eight Years After Postpartum Psychosis Diagnosis

Illustration for article titled Mother Who Poisoned Two Children Sentenced to Eight Years After Postpartum Psychosis Diagnosis

Lisette Bamenga, a former New York City teacher accused of the 2012 murders of her two children, five-year-old son Trevor Noel Jr. and four-month-old daughter Lillian Noel, was sentenced to eight years prison yesterday.

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According to CBS, Bamenga poisoned her children by lacing their grape juice with windshield de-icing fluid before attempting to commit suicide. Bamenga’s suicide attempt was interrupted when police responded to 911 reports of a gas leak. Once in her Bronx apartment, police found the children and an unresponsive Bamenga. Both children were pronounced dead at the scene and Bamenga was rushed to the hospital.

In April, Bamenga was found guilty of manslaughter. The initial charges of murder had been drastically reduced, Bamenga’s lawyer argued that she suffered from undiagnosed postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is a rare, if very serious illness that can have profound effects. According to Postpartum Support International, an advocacy group that raises awareness of various postpartum disorders, postpartum psychosis occurs in .1 percent of births and usually occurs one to four weeks after birth.

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A review of case studies published in 2008 describes the disorder as an “overt presentation of bipolar disorder that is timed to coincide with tremendous hormonal shifts after delivery.” That report also indicates the severity of the illness:

The patient develops frank psychosis, cognitive impairment, and grossly disorganized behavior that represent a complete change from previous functioning. These perturbations, in combination with lapsed insight into her illness and symptoms, can lead to devastating consequences in which the safety and well-being of the affected mother and her offspring are jeopardized. Therefore, careful and repeated assessment of the mothers’ symptoms, safety, and functional capacity is imperative.

In Bamegna’s case, the judge agreed that she was suffering from postpartum psychosis. Yesterday, she was sentenced to eight years in jail. “Never in my mind would I hurt anyone, especially my children, who meant the world to me,” the now 32-year-old Bamenga told the court. “After this tragedy, I’ll make it my mission to raise awareness about postpartum depression so that other families won’t suffer through what I’ve suffered.”

Not everyone was convinced by Bamenga’s diagnosis. Initially, police said that the murder-suicide was revenge against the children’s father, NYPD Officer Trevor Noel. The Associated Press reports that prosecutors in the case took a familiar tack, arguing that Bamenga murdered her children in a fit of jealous rage, enacting revenge upon Noel after he fathered a child with another woman.

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“Lisette played judge and jury in the lives of her children,” Noel’s aunt, Susan Boose, said after Bamenga’s sentencing. “Not only did she sentence us to a life of misery and pain... eight years, that’s not enough time because she can have more children and put other children in danger.”

The judge in Bamenga’s case, however, is convinced of the postpartum psychosis diagnosis. He noted that he received letters from 18 psychiatrists on the illness as well as numerous testimonies to Bamenga’s character. “Postpartum psychosis is very real and a devastating illness... especially when undiagnosed,” he said at her sentencing.

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Screenshot via News12 Brooklyn.

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DISCUSSION

brenebrawn
Brene Brawn

Folks. There isn’t enough funding going into mental health. There aren’t enough facilities/beds, and in the rare instances where there are, it’s difficult to keep staffing up so that those beds can be filled. Mental health workers are often overworked and underpaid, and in those spaces where more is needed (outreach to new moms, for example), there is often not enough energy/funding to pursue those projects. Please vote, write, picket, do whatever, because the pain of those who are falling through the canyon-sized cracks is real and it’s affecting everyone.

Signed,

A mental health worker currently working 60+ hours/week.