— Rocco Vertuccio (@NewsieRocco) March 31, 2015
The Lower East Side woman accused of killing her baby inside a restaurant bathroom Monday afternoon has a long history of mental illness, violent behavior and substance abuse. Latisha Fisher, a resident of the Gompers Houses on Pitt Street, was charged with second degree murder, after her 20-month old child, Gavriel Ortiz-Fisher, was apparently smothered to death at Five Boro Burger in Midtown. Police said Fisher told officers the devil made her do it.
The New York Times reports:
It seemed an inexplicable act, though her history was marked by flashes of violence against those close to her. By the time of Gavriel’s birth, Ms. Fisher had poured burning oil onto a former partner’s head, tried to kill herself, been given a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, and stabbed and used a Taser on an aunt, according to records and interviews.
As a child, a relative told the Times, Fisher was removed from her crack-addicted mother’s home after setting fire to the mother’s boyfriend. She moved to the Gompers Houses, a public housing development, in the early 2000s. Just before Fisher’s partner left her in 2006, she doused him with hot oil, yet she still won custody of their son. In 2011, she attacked an aunt with a Taser and kitchen knife, an incident that got Fisher sent to prison and diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. At the time, she admitted to “hearing voices” and being suicidal. More details from the Times:
The next fall, she made a deal: If she pleaded guilty to assault and finished two years of treatment through CASES Nathaniel Assertive Community Treatment, a program designed to provide support and treatment to mentally ill felony offenders as an alternative to imprisoning them, she would face only probation. Last July, an evaluation found Ms. Fisher to be “psychiatrically stable and capable of remaining safely in the community.” During her treatment, a worker at the program wrote to the court last September, she “complied to the letter” with the terms of her plea deal. “The poster child for an alternative to incarceration program,” a counselor wrote of her.
After giving birth to a second child, Gavriel, nearly two years ago, Fisher seemed to be in a relatively healthy state of mind. But in recent months, friends reported, she began a deep slide, abusing to alcohol and drugs — and by last fall turning to witchcraft.
The Daily News calls Fisher the “latest symbol of avoidable savagery.” Mayor de Blasio said during a news conference yesterday:
This one as a human being, as a parent, this one grabs at you, is profoundly troubling. Look, from what we know so far this appears to be an instance when a mental health problem was the underlying cause of this tragedy. And this administration, and obviously my wife, we are profoundly focused on the mental health issues of this city, and we have to do it in a profoundly different manner.
A relative told the Times that the Administration for Children’s Services was repeatedly alerted to Fisher’s mistreatment of her older child. An agency spokesperson said no complaints had been received since 2011. An investigation is underway.
Luis Ortiz, the baby’s father, told Channel 7:
I’m at a loss for words; I’m at a loss for words. I can’t…since yesterday I can’t put my finger around it like what was going on, what happened, why. If anything she could have called me and I would have left my job in a heartbeat. But I don’t know what to say about that… All I got to say is she was a very good mother to her sons. A very good mother, she loved her sons no matter what, no matter what. That’s all I could say.