Queens man arrested in psychologist murder

Dr. Kathryn Faughey applauded at funeral
February 17, 2008 9:58:39 AM PST
A man with a history of mental problems was arrested Saturday in the vicious slaying of a psychologist butchered in her office with a meat cleaver and 9-inch knife, police said. David Tarloff, 39, was taken into custody around 7:20 a.m., after investigators matched his prints with palm prints found at the bloody crime scene, said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Tarloff made statement incriminating himself during a 25 minute interrogation, Kelly said. The questioning stopped when he asked for a lawyer. It wasn't clear if he had an attorney. Kelly said murder and attempted murder charges were pending.

Therapist Kathryn Faughey was slashed 15 times with a meat cleaver and a 9-inch knife in her Manhattan office Tuesday evening. A psychiatrist who worked in the building, Dr. Kent Shinbach, came to Faughey's aid and was badly injured.

During questioning, Tarloff said he had gone to the office because Shinbach had him institutionalized in 1991. He said he planned to rob the psychiatrist and leave the country with his mother, who now lives in a nursing home, but until recently had lived with him in an apartment in Queens.

Kelly couldn't confirm if Tarloff was ever Shinbach's patient, or whether he'd met Faughey. It remained unclear why Tarloff would have attacked Faughey, police said.

The breakthrough in the case came just hours before friends, family, and former patients attended a funeral for the slain therapist in Manhattan.

"I hope this arrest provides some measure of solace at this terrible time for her husband and the rest of her family," Kelly said.

Hundreds of mourners filled St. Monica's Roman Catholic Church on Manhattan's East Side, just down the street from the scene of the crime.

Neighbors described Tarloff as a troubled man with an erratic and sometimes combative personality who would occasionally wander the halls half-clothed. He had been arrested two weeks ago for assaulting a security guard at a hospital, according to criminal court records. Kelly said police matched prints from that arrest with a palm print found on a roller suitcase left at the crime scene.

There was a swirl of police activity at the Queens apartment Saturday. Police kept outsiders from entering the building and officers came and went from the building throughout the afternoon.

One neighbor who has known the family for decades, Phyllis Zicherman, said Tarloff had seemed down lately, but she was stunned to hear he was a suspect. "He had problems, but he was never violent," she said.

Sisters Betty and Margaret Feeney, who live below Tarloff, said they have known him his entire life. They described him as unstable, but were shocked that he was accused in the slaying.

"I know he's crazy and everything," said Betty, 72. "I don't think that he's capable of doing something like that - of killing somebody. I really don't."

She said Tarloff would come around asking for money, but she would not give it to him.

"I would keep out of the elevator if I saw him. I was scared of him. I wouldn't go near where he would be," she said. "He used to make terrible noise above us. We had an awful time with him. He was tramping back and forth all hours of the night."

Investigators said the pudgy, balding, middle-aged killer arrived around 8 p.m. Tuesday, telling the doorman he had an appointment with Shinbach, then sat in the waiting room with another of Shinbach's patients until she went into his office around 8:30 p.m.

Sometime after that, the killer entered Faughey's office and attacked her. Shinbach came to her aid, but was assaulted and robbed of $90.

Blood was splattered on the walls and pooled on the floor of Faughey's office. Blood also was found on the basement door, police said.

But Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the case had strong forensic evidence, and investigators were working around the clock on blood and DNA samples from the scene.

But police examined every possible lead, combing through surveillance footage and removing evidence from the slain therapist's office. Kelly said Saturday the suspect was seen on surveillance tapes walking the same escape route about an hour and a half before the slaying.

Earlier in the week, detectives traveled to Pennsylvania to interview a friend of Faughey who spoke to the psychologist that day. He was not considered a suspect, police said.

The killer left behind two bags near the basement door through which he escaped. A larger roller suitcase was filled with adult diapers, women's clothing and a smaller bag was full of rope, duct tape and eight knives apparently not used in the attack, police said.

Commissioner Ray Kelly fielded questions for 30 minutes about the case providing the most detailed timeline to date of the hour of horror inside the psychologists' office on Tuesday.

  • At 8 p.m. the suspect walks into the building.
  • Between 8 and 8:30, he sits in the waiting room with a female patient.
  • At 8:30 that patient goes into Dr. Kent Shinbach's office.
  • Then shortly before 8:50 the killer attacks Dr. Faughey.
  • Dr. Shinbach hears a struggle, tries to help and is attacked and injured.
  • Eyewitness News also learned that the killer confronted the patient.
  • At 9 p.m. the killer walks out a basement door leaving his murder weapons behind in the black bags-- a meat cleaver, eight knives, and women's clothing.

    Also in the bags- adult diapers that were sold in five stores in three states including the hometown of William Kunsman. He was a friend of the victim. The Pennsylvania man was questioned for more than eight hours by police and then released.

    Police say the killer told the office doorman that he was there to see Dr. Shinbach but the doctor didn't recognize him.

    As investigators are searching for evidence, nine boxes have been removed from Faughey's office and police are studying security camera footage and following up on hotline tips.

    Shinbach was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center with slash wounds on his head, face and hands. The hospital declined to release any information about Shinbach on Saturday.