Killing Mom and Dad on Staten Island

All-American kid Eric Bellucci fell into madness and violence, leaving his brother and sister behind to wonder if he could have been stopped

Even with a court order, Kendra’s Law, mental health experts say, is toothless in New York State. Nurses cannot compel a patient to take medication unless the patient is an immediate threat to himself or others. And the criteria are very narrow: In order to qualify, a patient must either have been hospitalized two additional times within the prior 36 months, or have threatened or attempted to cause physical harm in the prior 48 months.

Still, the vast majority of petitions are granted in New York courts—the most recent data show that 93 percent of petitions are granted.

For some reason, Bellucci’s was not among them.

After killing his parents, Bellucci was captured in Israel.
Photograph by Michael Oates
After killing his parents, Bellucci was captured in Israel.
Eric Bellucci with his father, Artie.
Courtesy Bellucci family
Eric Bellucci with his father, Artie.

Prior to his hospitalization, Bellucci had been smashing car tires and punching walls, stockpiling firearms, and making threats like, “I’m going to burn the house down,” his siblings say. Brian says that he and his mother provided all of this information to Brajkovic. But without the transcript to Bellucci’s Kendra’s Law hearing—which is not accessible to the public—it’s unclear what the judge in his case was told about his behavior. His siblings only know that the court was not convinced that he should be subject to an AOT order, even though granting such orders is nearly automatic in this state.

The day Bellucci was discharged from the hospital, he came home to his parents’ house. The long-acting medication he had been given was in effect, and he was under orders, by Brajkovic, to visit an outpatient treatment center a few times a week. It was September 2009. Vanessa had just started law school. She remembers sitting on the back porch with her brother, and for the first time in years, the two held an ordinary conversation. Bellucci asked if she liked law school, and she told him that she did. He was mellow, medicated, but more mentally present than he’d been for a very long time. That, she says, was the last normal conversation she would have with her brother.

Once the medicine wore off, Bellucci was angrier and more hostile than ever, Vanessa says. He blamed her, and his parents, for locking him up, and when she came over, he would lock himself in his room.

Then he began barricading himself in regularly, putting furniture in front of his door. He would only come out at night, when he was alone in the house with his parents. He developed a health-food obsession, and would sometimes take the car to Whole Foods to eat. He began smoking in the house, an affront to his father that he had never made before. Distrustful of tap water, he began importing bottled water from Israel.

He told his parents that he would kill them if they sent him back to the hospital. Arthur had thrown out his son’s rifles during the hospital stay, taking them to a local precinct’s gun buyback program. Bellucci responded by obsessively ordering hunting knives. In the last months, Vanessa says, packages of knives were being delivered to the house constantly.

Without the Kendra’s Law petition, however, the family didn’t have many options. If Bellucci did something violent, they could call the police and have him hospitalized again, and then try another court petition. “Marian was hoping he would make a wrong move, possibly like the last time, so she could put him on the program,” Ciervo says. “But he was smart enough not to. He knew what not to do. He would push the button so far, and then he would stop.”

But Brian points out that his parents were reluctant to call the police, even when it might have been appropriate. “They didn’t want the SWAT team to come in and have him kill himself right in the room there,” he says. “So they thought they would roll the dice.”

And there was another reason, the siblings say: Their mother didn’t like the state hospital that he would be taken to if they called authorities. “She wanted him to go to an academic hospital, where they would be better equipped to deal with such a unique case,” Vanessa says. Her mother believed that in a better hospital her son would receive superior care and might be less resistant to treatment. In the weeks before the murders, Marian had been discussing with Brian the prospect of getting her son into a treatment center at the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital, but their discussion always went around in circles. They both knew Bellucci would refuse to go.

Dawn Velligan says these kinds of impulses are common in families who have children with serious mental illness. “There is very little a family in that kind of situation can do,” she says. “Part of the problem is that people walk around on eggshells. People don’t want them to become violent and threatened, and so what happens is you have the mentally ill person running the whole house.

“I think the situation was far more dangerous than the parents realized,” she continues. “If you are afraid in your own home, it’s time to do something about it. I tell families: If you are walking on eggshells, you have to stand up to them. Everyone is afraid to confront a person like this, but you have to do that in order to get them out and to get yourself safe. I would have been calling 911 every day.”

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52 comments
Metsfan1119
Metsfan1119

Being a personal friend of the family i can say that they did absolutely everything that could do for thier son. It was very hard for them to cope with and get help for thier loved one due to all the red tape that they encountered. But through it all they never gave up in trying to get Eric the help that he so desperately needed. For all of you who have negative comments to say i would strongly advise to keep then to your self. Im sure that If the shoe was on the other foot then im sure you would not like comments made of ur family or friends. For all of you that express condolences and reguards towards them, im sure they appreciate it.

Empathy
Empathy

My heart goes out to this family. As a parent I probably would have done the same thing. Your children are precious gifts from God! It's terrible that our system let them down.

arthurb3
arthurb3

Its obvious his parents funded his lifestyle. You can't do all the traveling and drugs without money and he had no job. Unfortunately, you can't commit a mentally ill person to a hospital unless they are a danger. That is why we have so many homeless and street people now.

Donnaemonroe1
Donnaemonroe1

All I can say is that I believe the closing of mental institutions is a mistake, budget cuts for mental health has hurt everyone.I also wonder if he has a brain tumor, did he take steroids? It is just sad and two wonderful people are not with us. My heart goes out to the family, this should not have happened.

Stella
Stella

I had a schizophrenic step-brother who was tazed to death in one of his un-medicated arrests. At one point in the late 90s, the courts probationed him on the condition that he "maintain his mental health" which meant cooperating with medication and counseling. When the probationary period was over, he was no longer under court mandate....which made no sense to most of the family who had been struggling to keep him in treatment and to get him the support services he needed. Could he have killed one of us? I do not know the answer to that question...and the fact that I couldn't know frightened me and others in the family away. In the end, he was arrested for domestic violence (his also mentally ill girl-friend) who begged the police to take him to a hospital instead of jail. Instead he was taken to jail, and without treatment he became increasingly paranoid and delusional and tried to "run out" of the jail and was tazed and died a few hours later.

VM
VM

My heart felt condolences to this family it wasn't enough what they went through this but to see some of the irresponsible comments that were made on here makes me question the compassionate and the morality of the world we live in. Stories like these are designed to inform, to shed light and create a discussion about what to look for and what can happen. So thank you for sharing your story.

Sweeney
Sweeney

I was a friend of Eric's and knew him since around college. I have to say it is one of the saddest stories I have ever read not just because I have a personal connection to him, but because the system failed him and his family so horribly. Eric was not a monster, he was actually a very kind, gentle,sensitive individual who loved his family. He always shared this with me and it was apparent from how close and protective he was of them. What I saw over the years was a subtle change in his character and a lot of depression, I had no idea what he and his family was going through. But it was clear something was not right. It is hard to know what to feel, but nothing is black and white. The act him committed was horrible, but he as a person was very different than the person with the disease. He was a lovely person who has a very debilitating mental illness and because the system did not work effectively, something of this magnitude happened. It is apparent from reading this article, that the system needs to work in favor of the families, get a least several days of evaluations and enforce medications for people having psychotic breaks with reality.

Warrior-Woman
Warrior-Woman

After the first death threat the parents should have had him forcibly removed from their house and thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge. No reason for someone as nuts as this to live, the world has enough problems.

J. Browne
J. Browne

This is a heartbreaking story that highlights the deep conflicts inherent in loving a child who is ill. Mentally and/or physically impaired, the feeling of responsibility to take care of and help a child who is an adult raises important questions about where to draw the line. Many parents who face physical, mental, or financial danger, face a no-win dilemma. Working in the field of mental health, I am glad to see Ms. Dwoskin bring this issue to a wider audience.

classie
classie

@ MzIsis2008 You are about as dumb as a rock. Look at the crimes that people without color do every day. You people kill your parents faster than a fly that draws to $hit. So go do a little research and you will find out that white kids kill their parents all the time. Way more than blacks do..Now, stay in your trailer and do your homework. You are one uneducated person....

Hannahmiet
Hannahmiet

Elizabeth,

Your story on the Bellucci's in the Voice was beautifully crafted, executed and full of truth.

Both as an aspiring journalist (I'm a student of Tom Robbins at The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism) and as someone with a schizophrenic sibling, I needed to send you a thank you note. [And since email returned to sender, it's public. Whatever.]

You inspire me to keep trucking. Consider me a permanent reader of your work.

All my best,

Hannah Miet

Steganophoner
Steganophoner

It is obvious that this is an unbelievably slanted story. Eric Baldacci was framed. The reports of him threatening his parents are hearsay. He appears to have been involved in some kind of international crime ring whose objective was this very frame-up of him.

★ Soap
★ Soap

Sad end , Parents always have a hope, poor family.

MzIsis2008
MzIsis2008

They went to authorities for help with a situation out of control and they ignore them till the child killed them... That is the kind of thing they only used to do in communities of color. We are in trouble if they are doing this to middle class whites now... Get it they don't really care about us.

diva2freak
diva2freak

Woooow..... As a parent, we are often in denial when it comes to our children. We expect for them to be our "shining star". Not only do we unconsciously put a lot of pressure on our kids but they put a lot of pressure on themselves to live up to our expectations. This is clearly a case of mental illness that was beyond anyone's control. As long a the main party refused treatment it just got worst. I truly feel for the remaining family members. God bless them and ease their woe's

The Cynical Pharmacist
The Cynical Pharmacist

"As long as he refuses medication, his siblings see no point in communicating with him."

Unfortunately, this is the attitude one "must" take when dealing with this terrible disease. If only his parents could have been as tough minded.

Yianis Ayianis
Yianis Ayianis

That's a Greek tragedy for sure...My condoliances to all the family members. Being a scientific Astrologer I would like to erect Eric's chart and see his "inner" story. Does anyone know his date and time of birth? Thank you.

Msb174
Msb174

Fascinating case. Particularly the obvious element of self-delusion about the limits to mental illness. When someone's stockpiling weapons and making death threats, the time to intervene, strongly, has come and gone. Of course I feel for the parents, and the siblings, but they were neglecting their responsibilities by "rolling the dice." He would have had a better chance of getting cured if they'd committed him to a mental institution than now, after experiencing the life-altering trauma of murder.

truckdriver1402
truckdriver1402

A tragedy to be sure

preventable??

Dont know

All we can do is learn from this and if /when you see drug use/behavioral changes be aggressive in taking action to get the person help

prayers out to the family

ibivi
ibivi

The hardest part for family is that their loved one has changed and is not the person they knew. Once these behaviours start do not discount them. Get medical help right away. Have a psychiatric assessment done so that a diagnosis can be made and medication prescribed. Make sure that the medications are taken as prescribed. If there are any signs of paranoia or delusion take them to a hospital for treatment. If they make threats against family members take them very seriously. Call the police. Without ongoing psychiatric treatment they will not get better. They will only get worse. Talking to them will not make their condition improve no matter how much you wish it. Schizophrenia is a life-long condition which requires constant vigilance for proper maintenance. You must be a strong advocate for treatment with medical authorities. Ask for assistance in dealing with this illness.

RoughAcres
RoughAcres

If only this country had a different attitude about mental illness. It is ILLNESS. Just as with meningitis or measles or a broken leg, it needs treatment... and when the person suffering does not get treatment, the whole family suffers, and society suffers. The ripples are enormous, even when they do not end in a tragedy like this one. Some people with mental illness are incompetent to make medical decisions for themselves - especially when they are delusional - and they should have a springing healthcare proxy in place so their medical proxy can make decisions when they cannot do so with full knowledge.

I am so sorry for the entire family. My hearat goes out to them all.

Twende08
Twende08

It's a tragic story. No doubt. But in my opinion, the article leaves many unanswered questions. I am not sure why the siblings chose to share their perspective of their brother's life story and mental illness. The article does not convey their emotions or purpose well. I don't know what I would do in their shoes but just wonder what they are trying to achieve with this.

lilthreadz
lilthreadz

wow. just wow. horrible tragedy, and best written news story i've ever read.

Andrew
Andrew

Well researched and well written story. Interesting interplay between the private lives of a family and the state that didn't do enough for them.

Boohearnecar
Boohearnecar

Every year for decades we have a story about a son who goes off the deep end and murders his mother/father/sisters/brothers/entire family. Remember the DeFeo kid (Amityville)? Being a mother I always put myself in the shoes of the mom who ends up dead at the hands of her child. What was it like for her to go to bed at night and know just a few feet away her flesh and blood is in mental and spiritual agony. It is easy to say, 'weak parents.' My only question (not answered in this well-written story) is: where did he get all the money to fly all over the world on a whim and buy all those guns? Not to mention the camera equipment etc. Can someone answer this for me please?

Jh
Jh

Terrible terrible sad story. I completely feel for vanessa and Brian. Having first hand experience of a family member who had a break down and became mentally ill, I completely understand what they went through. You can call the cops over and over again, but unless the mentally ill person admits himself into psychiatric care, you can't force them in. In essence, you do become fearful and try to walk on eggshells in order not to aggravate the person. No one really is there to protect you, so you feel that is the solution. I cant tell you how many times you can call the cops, but unless the person physically assaults you, they will do nothing ( and then the cops get annoyed if you call them again).

Something really needs to change in order to stop these senseless things from happening again. If the whole family is fearful and realizes all the signs of a mental illness, they should be able to admit the individual into a mental care hospital. Medications should be enforced, not optional....

My thoughts and prayers are with vanessa and Brian and their extended family. Stay strong, your parents are always with you....your guardian angels.

Nleeds01
Nleeds01

That is what a mixture of Steroids & Cocaine will do to you. Some guido trash from Staten Island probably hooked on that crap

boogirl
boogirl

warrior woman, you should be thrown off the bridge in punishment for being an idiotic douche

Lsciervo
Lsciervo

drop dead u moron. Do you know anything about ,mental illiness asshole why dont ypu research it or can u read? probably night. You should throe one of your chidren off the vz bridge u stupid jerk

Tyke
Tyke

Your "solution" would be the approach in either Nazi Germany or under the rule of the Taliban.

Kararindou
Kararindou

You're a graduate journalism student, and yet you use the word "whatever" in what is intended to be a "thank you note". If you intend to enter a profession in which you need to be aware of how your words come off to others, you may want to screen yourself for your pretentiousness (and the faulty parallelism in your first sentence).

Geena Romano1970
Geena Romano1970

think your comment is quite stupid MS IZIZ what your sayin is "i thought this only happen in the Color Community?"not the plush suburbia todt hill,s.i. or annadale etc. few others nice spots on the island. get a life. and some brain, it happen to also middle to lower class rich white peeps too....

RIP to his mother,the father.guy had a great future working as dr. or lawyer is most prestige position one can take when your able to cut through all of the hard work,legal study etc. finance to get through it. i knew this guy cousin,will not say his name we still talk.his uncel art was a GREAT guy,wife,was known to b a quite reserve,smart caring.very Happy loving fun woman.great mom.but yet THIS is how he repay em? ROT IN HELL.i m not buyin it neither are many of the fam. i mean sure he suffer from schizo.but not as in the way your all whose lookin in from the outside think. guy was Extreme prudent.i know the judge should have authorize the court order,but who knows. i doubt it would havhelp,even some family member of his who i still talk with is still sayin same thing,because i know this guy did NOT have to do it,so he need to rot in hell...

RIP to the real victims. the parents. very tragic.

LSCIERVO
LSCIERVO

U shouldn't make judgements om my family, really now we are all still mourning and we will forever for eric also he know not wat he has done

Guest
Guest

Msb, didn't you read the piece? He was in an inpatient facility and released. You think there is an app or a website to have a person "committed"? He had been through the mental health system and released.

LSCIERVO
LSCIERVO

thank you we need them, We miss them so much

B1704489
B1704489

There is no treatment without consent. That point is made in the article. The AOT would have enabled doctors to medicate him on the outside w/o consent - the court refused to grant that request.

There is no long term "commitment" for the mentally ill.

The police are of limited help and sometimes make a situation worse. I understand the agony, frustration and cautious behavior of the parents. It is a no-win situation many times, in this case the consequences turned out to be extreme.

Peace to the survivors, blessed rest to the victims.

LSCIERVO
LSCIERVO

Really sounds good too bad u weren't the judge. The system failed my family

OCLocal
OCLocal

They said he racked up credit card debt. My guess is that is how he got the credit card debt?

Guest
Guest

Boohearn, in the 2000s, anyone with a pulse was able to get credit

LSCIERVO
LSCIERVO

MY FAMILY ASS THEY DIDNT CUT HIM OFF

54321
54321

Agreed. There is little help from the "system". Calling the police is mostly futile. I have a friend who had an out-of-control teen who was terrorizing her & vandalizing the home (punching holes in walls breaking doors, etc). She called the cops during one episode and was arrested! They asked the son if she had hit him, he said yes - both she & the son were arrested. She was charged with misdemeanor assault which was later dismissed but...why be put thru that and what kind of example did that set for the boy?

he knew she had no avenue of help after that.

There was also a mentally ill man in a neighboring apartment building who was drunk & fighting with his wife. The police wound up shooting him in the apartment after a long stand-off. The shooting may or may not have been justified, hard to say especially by those of us who were not there but it certainly was a tragedy for all concerned. There are no happy endings in these situations.

Very sad stories, which indeed might be prevented if there was indeed a way to "commit" someone to a hospital when they begin acting out.

Missboo42
Missboo42

I totally agree with you. The laws must be changed so that family members or friends can 5150 someone for at least a day or two for evaluation. That law is in effect in California, I know. It needs teeth to it. If doctors ascertain the patient is a danger to himself/herself/anyone, they can legally keep that person in the hospital until they are on meds or have calmed down enough to be allowed back home. By the time he killed his mom and dad, they must have been exhausted from trying to save him. In a way it was a mercy killing. They would have had to endure years more of this insanity and would have eventially gone nuts themselves or run out of money trying to save him. Drugs. No one can tell me any of them are safe and 'recreational.' They are all poison to your brain, body and soul.

B1704489
B1704489

Yea, "guido" the big popular epithet that is okay to say on the Internet. The last frontier of protected racism.

Guest
Guest

Nleeds, so if being well educated (and if you did your homework you would see Williams is a top 5 school in the country), and coming from a successful family makes people trash, then how can you prove your standing in society?

AB
AB

Guido trash? He went to Stuyvesant and Williams, two top notch academic institutions. His brother is a doctor, his sister in law school. Just because they're Italian? Racist much? Not to mention it's absurd that's all you took from this heartbreaking story you moron.

LSCIERVO
LSCIERVO

UR AN IDIOT GET A LIFE UR A LOSER UR FAMILY PROBABLY HATES U SHOULD THINK ABOUT SUICIDE U JERK GET A JOB

LSCIERVO@AOL.COM
LSCIERVO@AOL.COM

SO ARE U FOR MAKING STUPID COMMENTS UR POB FAT AND UGLY AND HAVE NO FREINDS

Warrior-Woman
Warrior-Woman

Either way, Tyke, the parents, who were both working, productive members of society, would still be alive, and a lunatic, murderous waste of skin would be dead. What's so wrong with that? Stop with the namby-pamby liberal "everyone has rights no matter what" b.s., it's destroying this country.

ibivi
ibivi

Yes, I do know that the mentally ill won the right to refuse treatment and that they cannot be committed as in the days of institutions. Tragically, that is to their detriment and puts families in mortal danger. Who protects them from the murderous impulses of the untreated?

LSCIERVO@AOL.COM
LSCIERVO@AOL.COM

SHUT UP GET A JOB LOSER YOU ARE A LOSER GET A LIFE U CRACK HEAD

Tyke
Tyke

Objecting to a psychotic proposal that people should commit preemptive first degree murder is not exactly being a "namby-pamby".

You are one sick person.

 
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