PhD student accused of killing friend

PhD Student Accused of Killing Friend's Newborn Baby While Babysitting After Abusing Baby's Twin

A doctoral student whose father is a prominent Manhattan cardiologist has been accused of murdering the twin son of one of her closest friends.

Nicole Virzi, fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the San Diego State University/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, is also accused of physically abusing the dead baby's twin, resulting in hospitalization, according to reports.

Six-week-old Leon Katz, the son of Ethan Katz and his wife Savannah Roberts, died on Father's Day while Virzi was caring for him in the family's Pittsburgh home, authorities said.

Virzi and Roberts were doctoral students at different universities — Roberts was studying at the University of Pittsburgh — but they were both focused on eating disorders, trauma and body image.

The couple left Leon in Virzi's care while they rushed Ari to the hospital with a mysterious injury to his genitals that Virzi had warned them about, authorities said.

It is alleged that Virzi was also the one who inflicted the injury on Ari that led to the hospitalization of the parents and child.

While the parents were caring for Ari at the hospital, Virzi claimed Leon fell out of the safety chair as she walked away to get a bottle, according to police and court records.

But doctors considered the injuries “consistent with having been suffered as a result of child abuse, as they are inflicted injuries that are neither natural nor accidental,” according to WTAE.

Virzi was referred to as a “trusted family friend” on the GoFundMe set up to help the grieving parents and their surviving son.


Virzi was staying at a nearby Airbnb on South Graham Street in the neighborhood when she was asked to care for the baby, who was “alert, conscious and not injured,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by TRIBLive of Pittsburgh.

Officers arrived on Walnut Street after Virzi called 911 at 11:17 p.m. on June 15, authorities said in the complaint. Virzi said the baby suffered a blow to the head.

Virzi told police she began caring for Leon around 6:30 that night and claimed he was fine, ate, soiled two diapers and burped, according to the complaint.

She fell asleep “for a period of time while Leon was in the safety seat,” Virzi said. When Virzi woke up, she said, she went to the kitchen to get Leon a bottle and heard the baby screaming.

Virzi said he found Leon lying on the ground, picked him up and saw “a large bulge on the left side of Leon’s head,” prosecutors said in the court document.

Paramedics rushed Leon to the hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead at 5:47 a.m. on Father's Day, police said.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a homicide. Leon's cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

A CT scan of the head showed that Leon suffered a severe skull fracture on the left side of his head, along with multiple brain bleeds.

Virzi was charged on June 16 with criminal homicide, three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Virzi is currently being held without bond at the Allegheny County Jail.

Virzi's attorney, David Shrager, told the Post on Saturday that his client was innocent and planned to plead not guilty.

“She’s obviously devastated,” Shrager said. “She is very distraught and deeply sad. She said it was nothing intentional. We are doing an in-depth investigation. She has no criminal record. We will do our best to give you a fair hearing in court. This is the case of a dead child and a young woman arrested. It should not be speculated upon before the case goes to court.”


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