EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. – Many people are asking how a mother was able to kill her two children and herself in a murder suicide in East Greenbush.
East Greenbush police responded to 58 Rockrose Drive early Tuesday morning after family members reported hearing gas escaping from a room. Police found Angela Mtambu and her two children, 11-year-old Cara and six-year-old Kutenda, in the room with plastic bags and gas tanks. The two girls were later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Police said the gas was identified as compressed nitrogen, and an autopsy report revealed all three died of asphyxia due to inhalation of nitrogen gas. Mtambu’s death was ruled a suicide, and the girls’ death was ruled homicide.
Family members said Mtambu was driven down a road of grief and unspeakable actions as she grieved the loss of her son who committed suicide on April 1.
“This is a very, very unusual case,” clinical psychologist Dr. Rudy Nydeggar said.
Nydeggar said the case highlights some of the issues with mental health treatment.
“The real key here is we don’t do a good job of getting people into treatment at points and time it’s helpful,” he said. “We ask ourselves the questions you’re asking: ‘Couldn’t we have done something else?’”
Attorney Paul DerOhannesian said the law can only go so far.
“It’s hard to force someone to get treatment,” he said. “That’s one side of this.”
Mtambu was a traveling nurse. Family members said she showed disturbing signs before the murder-suicide even calling family and threatening to harm her daughters.
Relatives contacted authorities, and she underwent psychological evaluation for 22 days in Pennsylvania.
“Keeping people in the hospital for 22 days is not common,” Nydeggar said. “It’s hard to keep people for that long.”
There was not an order of protection in place once Mtambu’s evaluation was over, and she was reunited with her children.
“Once you say you don’t feel like hurting someone or myself, then because of your right to freedom, they can’t detain you,” DerOhannesian said.
Nydeggar said Mtambu’s nursing profession may have also played a factor.
“She would have a pretty good idea of what to say and how she would ned to act to get people convinced she was no longer at risk,” he said.
Police said once Mtambu was released from her psych evaluation, the case was turned over to Rensselaer County with little oversight.
As a result of Tuesday’s incident, suicide prevention groups are reaching out to people in need. Lisa Riley is with the Capital Region American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“To see this on the newscast, the immediate reaction was – to feel as a survivor – I lost a loved one to suicide that pain of loss,” she said.
Those that have faced the issue said it’s crucial for family members to get support while they grieve.
“I would say as a survivor, that is the darkest place to be,” Riley continued. “What could I have done or what didn’t I do right?”
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides support to families and survivors. They can be reached at 518-221-3901.
The Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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