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Adoptive Parents of Brain-Dead Child to Be Charged With Murder

November 06, 1987|Associated Press

NEW YORK — A brain-dead 6-year-old girl who was kept alive by respirator after an alleged beating by her adoptive father died Thursday and authorities said both her parents would be charged with murder.

Elizabeth Steinberg, comatose and bleeding internally since police found her Monday in a filthy Greenwich Village apartment, died at 8:55 a.m. in St. Vincent's Hospital, said Ellen Borakove of the city medical examiner's office.

An immediate autopsy was planned, she said.

Life Support Disconnected

After two brain scans produced no results on Wednesday, the first-grader was declared brain dead. Life support systems were disconnected Thursday, said hospital spokeswoman Barbara Franzese.

Elizabeth's adoptive parents, Manhattan criminal attorney Joel Barnet Steinberg and one-time children's books writer Hedda Nussbaum, will face murder charges, said Pam Johnson of the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Assistant Dist. Atty. John Fried said a grand jury started hearing evidence in the case against Steinberg on Thursday afternoon, with about 10 witnesses--including medical experts and friends of the family--expected to testify.

Nussbaum, Steinberg's live-in girlfriend of 17 years who adopted Elizabeth with him, was being arraigned on the murder charge in her bed in Elmhurst General Hospital, Johnson said.

Neighbors say her injuries--nine broken ribs, a broken jaw and a broken nose--were inflicted by Steinberg, but Nussbaum has denied she was injured by Steinberg.

Held Without Bail

Both are additionally being charged with assault and endangering the welfare of their two adopted children. Steinberg, who has pleaded innocent, is being held without bail.

According to Fried, Nussbaum did not have to beat Elizabeth to be charged because if one parent beats a child, the other is legally responsible for stopping it or notifying police.

The couple's apartment was bloodstained and hadn't been cleaned in months when Elizabeth's comatose body was discovered, authorities said. Police found Steinberg's adopted son, 16-month-old Mitchell, tied to a chair.

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