Et Satan conduit le bal. Pray the Rosary for Hellzapoppin! The family that prays together stays together. And America has forgotten this wisdom.
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
She left behind a baby boy, an estranged lover, and a custody case that would challenge progressive New York
Sporn loved to take the baby for walks in his stroller. When he attended his philosophy and tennis clubs, he took Lincoln along. Leutner showed the infant off at Community Free Democrat meetings. Everyone fawned over him. "She was so happy when she was with her sons," club member Bernadette Evangelist recalls. "She just glowed."
Behind the smile, though, Leutner was suffering. When Lincoln was six weeks old, she stopped breastfeeding and started another in vitro cycle. Some days, says nanny Arleen Gonzalez, she was so exhausted that getting out of bed was too much."She was not the same woman who hired me," Gonzalez says.
Despite her declining health, Leutner returned to work in the middle of November. Around Thanksgiving, she tried to kill herself by jumping from a window. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where she spent 10 days in treatment.
Leutner had been home three days when Gonzalez arrived and found Lincoln alone. Just minutes before, Sporn had left Leutner lounging in bed. "Are you feeling up to going to work today?" he'd asked her. She said she thought that maybe she was. Then Sporn had headed downstairs to work out at the apartment building's gym.
"I could hear the baby crying from the elevator,' Gonzalez says. "I knew right away that something was wrong."
Sporn ran up the stairs. He found Leutner in the stairwell, climbing over the railing. He grabbed her arm just before she slipped out of reach. She dangled, nothing between her and a 19-story fall but his grip. He pulled her to safety, but she fought him. He restrained her until police arrived.
Together, they rode in the ambulance to the hospital. She seemed calm. "I have to get to work," she told Sporn. "I am working on some research for a client."
At the hospital, she refused to allow the staff to speak to her psychiatrist. She was distant. Her body withered. Her cheeks became gaunt, her eyes sunken.
Sporn and Leutner had been planning to take a scouting trip to Burma over Christmas. He considered canceling, but he was emotionally exhausted. "It was tearing me apart that I couldn't fix her," he says. "I convinced myself that she just needed time." He called the psychiatric ward and gave the doctors his professional opinion: Leutner was a danger to herself. Then he left her in the hospital. Lincoln, then five months old, he left with Gonzalez.
The doctors planned to keep Leutner three weeks, but on December 17, with the help of friend Myra DiDonato, Leutner checked out of the psychiatric unit and retrieved Lincoln. Convinced that Leutner did not need to be in the hospital, DiDonato told authorities that she "looked great" and that she had just been "going through a lot" with her boyfriend, according to government records.
Leutner sent the nanny a text message Dec. 28 to inform her that she had rented a second apartment because she "wanted more space for the baby." Could Gonzalez work at the new address as well? When Sporn returned from Burma the next day, Leutner was packing up some of her things. Two days later, she left Lincoln with DiDonato, went to the apartment she had rented, and flung herself 14 stories to her death.
The state took Lincoln into custody.
No one notified Sporn. When he couldn't get in touch with Leutner, he called her sister, Susan Sylvester, in a panic. Sylvester's husband took a message. They did not return his call. He learned of Leutner's death from child protective services.
Eleven days after Leutner died, The Community Free Democrats Club put together a memorial service at Fordham University. When the invitations went out, a club leader took Sporn aside and told him he wasn't welcome. Because Leutner had moved out of Sporn's house before her death, many felt she was trying to get away from him.
Rumors flew. Did Sporn go to Burma for a romantic vacation with his ex-wife? Was he was still married? Was he was using Leutner to have a baby because he and his wife couldn't get pregnant? "People are acting like Sporn murdered her," Flacks says.
Flacks, though, had a different theory. "LeAnn did not want to be leashed to anyone. She told me that repeatedly," he says. "She and Sporn had been arguing over living arrangements. She wanted a bigger apartment, and he didn't want to move. So she got a bigger apartment."
On his way to the memorial, Sporn called several friends and asked them to meet him at the fountain in front of Lincoln Center; he didn't want to walk in alone.
The lineup of speakers included Congressman Jerry Nadler and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. Nadler noted that the United States fails to give priority to mental illness. He was the only speaker to even allude to the sickness Leutner successfully hid for so long.
"Nobody said what happened," says Evangelist. "To me it was insulting because we were there because we cared about her. Why not talk about it?"
About 220 people, mostly friends Leutner had made while serving as a Democratic district leader, came to pay their respects. While guests shared memories of Leutner in hushed tones, photos of her life flashed across a screen behind the podium. There was Leutner in Italy and Hawaii. There she was in pearls and heels at political fundraisers, at the ocean, suited up for a scuba diving expedition, and at the sand dunes, wearing hiking boots, long hair blowing in the wind. In several photos, she cradled Lincoln, beaming proudly.
Et Satan conduit le bal. Pray the Rosary for Hellzapoppin! The family that prays together stays together. And America has forgotten this wisdom.
INJUSTICE!!! Poor Mr Sporn has been through too much. I hope someone official grows a brain and gives him custody of his child immediately. Ridiculous situation.
It is remarkable that the issue of legal rights for unmarried couples,
which are pretty much non-existent in this inherently morally conservative society, is only given attention by the press and raised to
international status when the couple is white and rich. I think of how
many low and middle-income people this issue affects but which we don't read
about in the Village Voice, which further raises the issue of class and race. I suppose it's not glamorous to read about such ordinary couples struggling to survive in an increasingly gentrified inner city and who don't have the opportunity to make love to the sound of roaring lions during an African safari or vacation in Italy.
Why didn't Leutner put Sporn down on the birth certificate as the father? She had every right to do that, and if she had, the child would never have wound up with social services. I just don't understand that aspect. She was a lawyer, she surely knew Sporn would not have custodial rights in the event of her death. Why did her sister refuse to even tell Sporn that Leutner had died, and then fight him for custody? Something just seems off.
she was in the midst of a serious mental health crisis, was dealing with possible postpartum depression, had attempted suicide at least twice - and Sporn left her in the hospital and the baby with a nanny, while he left the country. i know it's hard dealing with someone with mental health issues, but as a mental health professional none of this should have been surprising to him, and Leutner and the baby were his responsibility - if he was the intended father figure for the child.
It seems Sporn did very little to intervene in Leutner's downward spiral. The fact that she moved her and the baby to another residence right before her death speaks volumes. I think the correct decision was made.
@MissBobWiley I wholeheartedly agree. But then this level of selfishness and arrogance and cluelessness and shortsightedness is typical of the average New York overachiever. The Village Voice has an agenda in propogating the fact that 41% of women now having children out of wedlock is actually a good thing. No, no it's not. It messes kids minds up and creates ridiculous, completely avoidable situations like this. But then again, the Village Voice's agenda has always been to mock anyone who isn't a little red book toting, unthinking, pompous, arrogant atheist who knows everything but who is actually a fairly superficial annoying stereotype of a type of liberal who hasn't been around since the 1940s in the West Village. I think there may be some credence here to some people saying behind Leutner's back saying she treated her kid like a toy. I also am kind of suspicious about the bipolar levels of volunteerism, Type-A aggressiveness and a need to fill every waking minute with doing something without what seems like a moment's peace or reflection by Leutner to be exceptionally troubling. I also think that a neuroscientist and psychiatrist like Sporn should have seen this coming by wanting to get a woman like this pregnant. Something also seems off the way their courtship went down. There was a reason she didn't have custody of her first child, Sporn should have seen this as well as a big red flag. But love is blind, I guess...
new york law is so messed up that even if on birth certificate it would not necessarily secure his parental rights if not yet married and adoption not complete. the baby has Sporn's name - does the mother's intent prior to illness not matter crtically? They were clearly a couple- this is very troubling.
Leutner was not acting reasonably so hard to know and one would imagine sister not involve prior suddently wanted the baby as it was all that remained of her sister- maybe she feels guilty? There is something off about what the friend was doing getting her out of hospital and then leaving her alone while keeping baby with her on New Years eve. The boy will some day know his father at least fought hard for him before he was exiled. There are rumors the friend was going lawyer shopping to try to then get custody of baby herself- even though she was a complete stranger.
Note you indicate what is "possible" but were not there. If someone is living with mental illness it will eventually leave the person exhausted and needing a break in order to continue the battle. Psychiatrists will sometimes refuse to continue to see patients who will not work with them in a therapeutic alliance or will be overwhelmed by the stress of managing a self destructive patient who they only see once a week or so- so imagine having that stress 24/7.
But the larger issue is even if you assume that Sporn should not have used her hospitalization as a chance to go away and recover, is that enough to ignore the intent of the parties to have a child together? It sounds like punishment more than what is right and best for the boy.
Clearly the couple went to an IVF clinic and would have had to sign paperwork that would clearly indicate that despite using a sperm donor that the intended father accepts the child as his own and his heir. If the earlier IVF cycles described in the article had succeeded then Sporn would have been the biological father and he would have not had a problem keeping his son despite the moralizing of judges or the public about a situation they were not present for. In this case an IVF clinic would "bridge" this issue by having the parents sign contractual language that they are the parents regardless of the biological "work around" of a sperm donor (who in this case Sporn chose per article). How different would it be if the mother had used an egg donor? Would you then still think it is the courts role to then decide who should get the baby because obligatory need for assistance in reproduction. In other states with less archaic laws then NY Sporn would have been the parent without question. The courts if they are involved should be guided by the intent of the parents at the time the baby was conceived.
Otherwise it is left to the the whim of a judge and the judge in question has a reputation for having disturbing anger control problems. In this case the intent of the parents was clear: to have a child biologically related to both of them and they worked together to this end-- if this is well documented then the "State" should not be intruding on their lives. A judge making a decision that is not based on intent of the parties is then a decision based on nothing but what they feel like doing using only the vague principle of best interest of the child. This may be in violation of the due process clause of the constitution which protects against vague laws. If this had been about Sporn using embryos after the mother's death then the contract they signed would be binding but in this case because there is a baby the intent of the parents is not thought by this judge to be binding or even guiding for the judge- this is odd from a common sense level putting aside the law.
In this case the child has lost now both his mother and the only father he ever knew and at 1 years old that is relevant already in terms of his attachment. He then is sent to strangers only for the reason that the baby shares 25% heredity with him? The boy would have grown up with a father who is well educated, has resources to bring him up, and where the mother of the child clearly intended him to live. It also takes the child away from the father who is clearly very attached to him and has been fighting for him-- what is the advantage of doing so. We do not know from the article whether the sister who does not appear in the story till after Leutner dies has the intellectual, emotional, and financial resources to do the best by the child.
I hope Sporn appeals this unusual case. The problem of mental illness and the intent to have the child biologically related to both parties should be of interest to the appeals court I would hope. More importantly, NY law should be fixed so this does not happen but given how messed up beyond all repair the NY legislature is this may not happen but lets hope
@richardwad2u1 Actually, if you read the article you will see that Leutner was supposed to be hospitalised at the time, which is exactly where someone who makes multiple attempts on their life should be.
What's unfortunate is that Leutner and her enabler friend, Myra DiDonato, managed to convince the hospital that Leutner was well enough to be discharged when she clearly was not. Unless you mange to have someone declared mentally incompetent, it's very hard to force anyone to do anything they don't want to, so Sporn wasn't exactly in a position to force Leutner to do anything with regards to treatment for her declining mental state.
And, speaking as a long time sufferer of mental illness, we can be remarkably stubborn when we decide we want to self destruct.
Saying Leutner's behaviour shortly before her suicide "speaks volumes" is flawed, because her actions were those of someone in the grips of severe mental illness. You do see the problem with giving her actions a particular significance, right? For all we know she wanted to leave because Sporn was trying to push her into treatment... there's plenty of scenarios that can be hypothesised here and I think that's really important to keep in mind.
what is most relevant and made clear is the consequences of mental illness on decision making. Someone with mental illness can decide to move or be homeless or to isolate from their friends and family- this only speaks volumes regarding the illness rather than being a moral judgment on others involved. In any event people with mental illness have to accept intervention and sadly often do not. Sad that you are so judgmental. Losing a child on top of managing mental illness and losing ones partner seems a bit much
@skram08 This is a sad example of what happens when mental illness meets up with parenthood. Even if a child is not biologically related to either parent he will grow up with at least one who is mentally ill. Whatever good qualities and intentions Leutner may have had, she wasn't clear enough in her mind to make the right decision.
The only place my genes are going is into my grave.
@23RSD, um, genius, the fact that he wanted to co-parent with someone he knew was mentally ill for quite some time - and put her through all that this entailed - brings his judgement into question quite a bit...perhaps not for you but for most functional, thinking individuals.
@10Merc @richardwad2u1 @23RSD And when satanic possession slowly starts, it is not recognized until after death. Pray the Rosary. Or remain defenseless. Your choice.