Kendra Webdale
By Dateline Correspondent
updated 1/20/2007 3:46:39 PM ET 2007-01-20T20:46:39

This report aired on Dateline Saturday, January 20

They say the eyes are the mirror of the soul, but those who knew Kendra Webdale say the true looking-glass was her smile—as big and beautiful as her dreams.

She loved the phrase “remember me in smiles and laughter.” No one imagined how soon they’d have to do that.

Andrew Goldstein's life, in many ways, was the mirror opposite of hers: one of crushing loneliness, of dreams cut short by the nightmares that tormented him, and of cries for help that went unanswered.

Mike Winerip: There’s a big piece of him that has a sense that he himself is in trouble, is a ticking time bomb, needs help.

Andrew Goldsteinand Kendra Webdale: On a gloomy January day, on a darkened subway platform, their paths collided—one terrible moment that left two lives destroyed, a family shattered, and a community struggling to understand how a system created to protect them both could fail so miserably. To find answers, Dateline spent 10 months piecing together their stories and scrutinizing thousands of confidential documents, documents which lie at the heart of this story.

Kendra Webdale grew up in Fredonia, N.Y., a tiny village nestled near Lake Erie’s eastern shore.

Her parents, Ralph and Patricia Webdale, were hospital administrators who managed to raise six lively kids under one small roof

Patty Webdale, Kendra’s mother: Kendra was a part of this big group dynamic thing we had going. We picked hundreds of pounds of strawberries every year. We raised a couple of pigs.  [laugh] Every one of our kids had a job. It was kinda neat.

Kendra grew to become the ultimate middle sister—carving out a special place in everyone’s heart.

Suzanne Webdale, sister: She was so genuine, and sincere. Like she definitely would be very open, and talk to you. And she liked to talk.

Looking back, her sisters Suzanne, Krista,  and Kelly say that as Kendra became an adult, her zest for adventure inspired them to live richer lives.

Kelly Webdale, sister: She wrote to me once and she said: experiment, experience, excite and explore.  And that just seems like what she did with everything that she did.

Before long, her own yearning to experiment and explore led her onward to New York City.  Kendra thrived on the city’s parks and museums, on its mix of people and possibilities.  Her big sister Kim lived there too.

Kim Webdale, sister: She was getting to the point in her life where she was truly happy and where she had definite goals—things that she had hoped to achieve.

Only later, says her brother Ralph, would they understand how Kendra’s warmth and approachability might be a danger to her.

Ralph Webdale Jr., brother: She was almost the perfect victim because she was so trusting.

She wouldn’t turn anyone away, he said. Not even the man in the subway. Andrew Goldstein lived just a short train ride away from Kendra. His tiny basement room was empty. His mind was filled with weird voices and violent impulses. There was nothing in his appearance that would reveal the demons within. There was just a certain strangeness about him. 

But, all of that was about to change.  The New Year, 1999, had barely begun when this utterly tortured soul would come face to face with the young woman so full of hope.

Patty Webdale:She didn’t have a chance and she didn’t have a choice.

A random encounter that would change everything.  It would devastate her family, stun a city, and a put a system of care on trial.

An anguished young man pleads for help—but finds himself on the streets.

On a rainy Sunday in January 1999, Kendra Webdale left her Manhattan home and descended the stairs to a New York City subway.  Newspapers would later report that as she waited for the train, a man approached and asked her for the time.  His name was Andrew Goldstein.

Passenger John Norwood was on the subway platform, too.

John Norwood, witness: He just looked very, very average. 

Goldstein may not have appeared threatening, but as dateline discovered, he had a long history of violence. Over a two year period, he’d attacked 13 people.  All were strangers, most were women. Kendra would never know this and only later would those who knew Andrew, like his housemate Zach Vega, put together all the clues.

Zach Vega, Andrew Goldstein’s housemate: Four or five days before this happened, he was a little strange.

He remembers Andrew pacing all night long, through the streets and even cemeteries of their Queens neighborhood, listening to Pink Floyd, blanking out in the middle of a sentence, and asking to eat his neighbors’ leftover food.

Vega:  Every time he walked out of the door, I worried he was the loneliest thing I ever saw. And I spent a lot of time with him because of that.

Goldstein was 29, unemployed, and, but for the disability check that paid his rent, virtually penniless.

Looking back, it’s hard to believe he ended up this way.

He was an exceptional student—so bright that he attended the Bronx High School of Science—one of the city’s most elite public schools.

But during his freshman year of college, the brain that had earned him so much praise began to falter—before long disorientation gave way to full blown delusion. He told doctors that his neck had disappeared and that strange storms were affecting his body making him shrink.

In the summer of 1989, Andrew pushed his mother into a wall and wound up in a psychiatric hospital.

The official diagnosis: schizophrenia—an incurable brain disease that can cause hallucinations, paranoia, and, in rare untreated cases, bizarre, and even violent behavior.

A diagnosis of schizophrenia is devastating.  But Andrew Goldstein lived in New York—a state with a proud history of caring for its mentally ill.  Still, as a Dateline investigation discovered, Andrew Goldstein did not get the help he needed.  Instead, he embarked on a journey through poorly coordinated services and revolving door care—one that would, in the end, lead to a subway platform, and Kendra Webdale.

To find out where the safety net failed, and why, Dateline got access to confidential files which document Goldstein’s ten year odyssey through the mental health care system.  For several days we combed through some 3500 pages of hospital notes—transcribing records which reveal what those in the system knew about Goldstein, when they knew it, and what they did—or didn’t—do for him..

Michael Winerip, New York Times reporter: I was shocked when I saw the records. I was shocked that it was there in such detail.

New York Times reporter Michael Winerip who covered the mental health care system for 15 years—and wrote extensively on this case—also got a look at Andrew’s confidential psychiatric file.

Winerip: At one point or another Andrew Goldstein got almost every kind of treatment that we have in our mental health system. But that care was never coordinated, it was sporadic. He was at crucial points denied all kinds of treatment that he needed.

Notes from Andrew’s first hospital stay say he pleaded for help—a plea he’d make over and over through the years:  “I want to live” he told doctors—“and lead a normal life.” 

They tried to subdue his delusions with the drug Haldol - a common treatment for schizophrenia.  They found he “improved” and “prognosis can be good if patient will take his medication.” 

But, like so many schizophrenics,  Goldstein resisted the drugs.

Larry Termo, ex-housemate of Goldstein’s: I did see him getting gradually worse.

Larry Termo shared an apartment with Goldstein in 1992.  He says Andrew   complained about Haldol’s sometimes debilitating side effects.

Termo: He had spasms where he had twisted almost totally into a pretzel. He didn’t think he was going to make it home.

So Goldstein went off his medicine—and his condition deteriorated. In December of 1992, he committed himself to Creedmoor—a big state psychiatric hospital in Queens.

Hospital notes portray a man so paranoid and delusional that he barricaded himself in a nurses station because he believed the staff was “poisoning him with cyanide” and that someone was after him with a gun.

Goldstein lashed out—attacking two social workers and a nurse.

Faced with an “extremely dangerous and potentially violent” patient, Creedmoor held on to Goldstein.  But only for a while.  In the last 30 years, there has been a nationwide effort to get the mentally ill out of big psychiatric hospitals, and into community facilities.

So although the records show Andrew did well at Creedmoor, after eight  months, he had to go.  Creedmoor moved him to its own group home, right here on the hospital grounds—a place where he’d have somewhat more freedom, but still get constant supervision and care.  Once again he did well. But once again—it wouldn’t last.

Winerip: They just had to free up the bed.

Edie Magnus, Dateline correspondent: Why couldn’t he stay there if he did well there?

Winerip: Because there are so few of those supervised beds in the community.

Magnus: But they knew Andrew Goldstein wasn’t any better, right?

Winerip: That’s right…

In fact, the records show Creedmoor knew that Andrew  “did not take medication” when he went home on weekends and that he had “failed several interviews” to live in apartments with less supervision. Nevertheless, after one year in the group home, Goldstein had to go.

Winerip: They pushed him toward something that in New York State is called an “adult home,” which has no supervision at all.

Magnus: So he’s too sick for moderate supervision, so they put him in a home with almost no supervision?

Winerip: Exactly.

By 1996, the year Kendra Webdale began her New York City adventure, Andrew Goldstein was living completely on his own—in a basement apartment in queens.  No counselors or social workers checked up on him.

And in December of 1996, the terrible cycle began. Andrew stopped taking his medicine and he became violent— assaulting a customer in a supermarket—ending up in a hospital psychiatric ward. 

In the next year and a half, Andrew Goldstein wound up in emergency rooms ten more times,  delusional,  and asking for help. He told doctors that the earth was running out of oxygen or that he saw people shrinking and then growing, or that he was the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi.

Sometimes he walked in on his own to the hospital—other times he was brought there by police. He’d attacked a doctor at a clinic, punched a patient in hospital, assaulted customers at a fast food restaurant and a bookstore.  All of the victims were women—in fact notes from one hospital said Andrew was, “concerned about his impulses to hurt women.”

Winerip: He’s constantly attacking strangers. The records actually say that—that he’s lashing out for no reason to people he doesn’t know. 

Repeatedly, doctors noted that Goldstein had stopped taking his medicine.  Repeatedly they noted that he was a danger to himself and others. Repeatedly our investigation found that he asked to live in a group home or psychiatric hospital—someplace he would be watched.

But each time, the hospitals discharged Goldstein after a few days or weeks at most.

Why did the hospitals keep sending such a sick and dangerous man out the door? Our investigation found that sometimes, hospital social workers sometimes tried to find long term care for Goldstein in community—but there were waiting lists—there was no place to put him.

So they sent Goldstein back on the streets with a short supply of medicine and a referral for outpatient therapy.  By law, that’s all they were required to do.

Magnus: Someone who is clearly a danger to others can still be pushed out into the community?

Winerip: Yes.

Magnus: With everybody knowing just how dangerous he is?

Winerip: And well the excuse is, at the time he was discharged he was medically stable.

Magnus: What does that mean? 

Winerip: He was shot full of medication.

And just months before he would meet Kendra Webdale on that subway platform, another attack — this one landed him in Brookdale Hospital.  And, even inside, he was nearly impossible to control.

On the second day of his stay records say he “attacked a nurse and a doctor.” 

Three days later, another note: “patient suddenly lunged from his seat... attacked me, hitting me in the face with both hands.”...

Two weeks after that, it happened again: Goldstein “punched [a woman] in the face, hitting her square between the eyes.”

Winerip: It wasn’t like he was pushing people and the state and the mental health system didn’t know. He was pushing and hurting and attacking psychiatrists and nurses. They knew he was a ticking time bomb.

Again, Goldstein asked to be sent back to Creedmoor.  And it looked promising. But there was a catch—

Winerip: This time Creedmoor says, okay, in principle we will take him. He’s dangerous he’s seriously mentally ill. But we don’t have any room right now. We have a waiting list. We’ll call you when we have room.

That call wouldn’t come soon enough.  After six weeks, Andrew requested to be discharged.  Brookdale could have fought in court to keep him, but it didn’t.  So when the transfer to Creedmoor  came through, he was gone—out living on his own.

Brookdale had gotten him to make what would seem a preposterous promise—that he would, “hit furniture, not a human being, if he feels he can’t return to the ER in time to speak to his therapist.”

Winerip: They send him out into the streets and it starts all over again.

There’s something else you should know about Andrew Goldstein’s stay at Brookdale: He was brought there because he’d attacked a woman on a subway. In just five months, he would be standing on another subway platform, next to Kendra Webdale.

As 1998 drew to a close, Kendra Webdale returned to Fredonia to celebrate Christmas with her family.   Every detail of the family reunion is etched in their minds now.

Ralph Webdale, Kendra’s dad: Everybody had a great time. There was no friction.

Patty Webdale, Kendra’s mom: And we said, wow, this was like the most amazing time together. Like it was just perfect.

In New York City, it was a far different story for Andrew Goldstein.  He was living alone, in that basement apartment in Queens.  And there was no going home for the holidays.

Zach Vega, Andrew Goldstein’s housemate: From what he had told me about his parents and especially his moms, you know, he wasn’t really welcomed.

Goldstein’s housemate Zach Vega says the estrangement hit Andrew particularly hard over the holidays.

Vega:  He didn’t know why his mom didn’t want to spend time with him. He didn’t know why—especially at this time of the year, he couldn’t be with her.

Andrew spent the holiday season once again trying to get help. Hospital records transcribed by Dateline show that on November 24th he’d admitted himself to North General hospital in Harlem. It would be the last chance the system would have to keep him off the streets...and away from Kendra Webdale.

Asked why he wanted to be hospitalized, Andrew wrote: “Severe schizophrenia. Hopefully will cure.”  His delusions were so “intense and unbearable” that he asked for eye glasses to find the faces of the voices he heard talking to him.

Even two weeks later, his condition remained acute.

December 9th: He’s described as “disorganized, thought disordered, and delusional.”

December 10th: He “remains psychotic.”

December 11th: He “remains paranoid.”

But then on December 14th, this note:  “Good for discharge tomorrow with follow up.”

Michael Winerip, New York Times reporter on the story: It appears what happened from the hospital records is they ran out of time. That’s what managed care does the hospital system. They had to get him out basically within three weeks.

And indeed on December 15th, three weeks before the incident that would be described as “horror on the tracks” North General released Andrew Goldstein, saying he was “stable and improved.”  Now, this man who’d been hospitalized 13 times in the past two years, who’d attacked 13 people, was once again out on his own—and told to get help at a nearby clinic.

Winerip: One of the most shocking things in those hospital records was this outpatient clinic that was responsible for his care in the end.

It was Bleuler Psychotherapy Center—a place that apparently knew so little about Andrew Goldstein its records say he had no history of violence.

Winerip: This was the only treatment that this very seriously potentially violent mentally ill man was getting. Here’s a piece of paper, come for this appointment.

But two times over the holidays, on December 22nd and 23rd, Andrew didn’t show. Bleuler would later claim it tried to reach him several times. Finally, his case manager seemed to give up. 

Winerip: She sent out a letter to him saying that if you don’t come for your next appointment, we’re gonna discontinue servicing you.

The letter was sent the day after Christmas. It gives him until January 6th to contact the clinic. But by then it would be too late.

Sunday January 3rd, 1999 brought a gloomy, rainy end to the holidays.  Andrew Goldstein rose early and headed into Manhattan.  He’d spend the day like so many others.  Listening to music.  Eating fast food. Breakfast at McDonald’s.  Then to a record store.

He listened to Madonna and—he would later write --  “drew pictures in his mind of a blimp on a green lawn in Germany during the 1930’s...”  

Finally, around 5 p.m., he entered the subway on Broadway and  23rd street.  He was headed home.

A few blocks away, Kendra Webdale was back in New York, and spending a lazy afternoon at home.  She didn’t like rain. 

Patricia Webdale remembers that day vividly.  She was home sick—and thinking about her daughter.

Patricia Wedbale, Kendra’s mother: I was sitting on my bed, and I felt such a sense of Kendra having come into herself. And how almost perfect she was, as a self.

And then, at the last minute, a friend invited Kendra to visit. So she headed out and into the same subway station -- 23rd street—at about the same time -- 5 o’clock—as Andrew Goldstein.

Kendra was standing at the end of the platform, according to eyewitnesses—about 5 feet from the tracks. She was leaning against a pole, reading a magazine, and waiting for the train. Andrew, witnesses said, was pacing up and down the platform, mumbling  to himself and irritating the crowd. He peered up at one blond woman—and she shooed him away. Then, he approached Kendra, asked her for the time, and then he backed up.

Andrew would later tell police that as the subway approached he felt a sensation, like a ghost or a spirit entering him and he got the urge to push, kick or punch the woman with blonde hair.

What happened next haunts those who saw it to this day.  They later testified that as the 400 ton train roared in, Goldstein suddenly shot out—and—with what some would call impeccable timing—brutally shoved Kendra forward toward the tracks.

Steven Ramirez, witness and fellow passenger: When the train was heading in, I see these two hands pushing somebody onto the track.

Passenger Steven Ramirez watched as Kendra flew head first onto the tracks

Ramirez: And it’s like a movie.  The train is coming and you see somebody flying and going in front of the train. She just got hit and went under the train.

Onlookers fled—sickened and stunned. Goldstein was just feet from a subway exit—but never ran.  Instead, says Ramirez, when confronted about why he had done it, he quietly uttered the words he’d spoken so many times before.

Ramirez: He says, “I’m crazy. I’m psychotic. Take me to the hospital.”

Moments later, the subway driver crawled under the car.  He saw the woman with blond hair, he later testified, and tried to comfort her, telling her that help was on the way.  There was no response.

Patty Webdale: My thought was i always wanted six kids, and I got to have six kids.  and now i have five kids.

The news of Kendra’s death would hit the Webdale family in the most horrible of ways.  A newspaper reporter left a message on her sister Kim’s answering machine.

Kim Webdale, sister: As soon as I heard the name Kendra Webdale, I just hopped up and then, I heard the word killed.  (crying) And I just remember screaming, like “no no.”  I just couldn’t believe it was true.

And slowly the details emerged—a mentally ill man; a history of violence, a senseless tragedy - one that might have been avoided.

Ralph Webdale, father: I’m into accounting and finance.  And in accounting and finance you balance everything, and it reconciles.  You can put it together, it always works out.  But this doesn’t reconcile and it doesn’t balance.  And it isn’t working out.

The pain would propel the Webdales on a search for accountability, from the mental health system which had failed to protect their daughter, and the judicial system which now had to decide the fate of Andrew Goldstein.

On January 7th 1999, the Webdale family said good-bye to Kendra and began their journey through what’s been called “the long tunnel of grief.”

Patty Webdale, Kendra’s mother: Everything that I feel joy about is now diminished because of Kendra’s death.

Ralph Webdale, Kendra's father: We’re certainly still a close family but there’s something missing. We’ll all miss her always.

Mingled with their sorrow was anger. How could Andrew Goldstein, a schizophrenic man—who had been hospitalized for mental illness so often, who had attacked so many people, who had asked for help so many times—wind up on that subway platform where he pushed Kendra to her death??

Kim Webdale, Kendra’s sister: People say there are cracks in the system.  But there are huge gaping holes in the system. Andrew Goldstein should never ever have been out on the streets in the first place.

In the midst of their grief, the Webdales would get a crash course in the treatment of the mentally ill. They’d hear about hospital closings and the lack of beds, about problems keeping schizophrenics on their medicine. And how even someone with a long, well-documented history of violence like Andrew Goldstein could wander the streets where we live.

James Stone, former commissioner of New York Office of Mental Health: Many people spent a lot of time and a lot of resources in working with Andrew Goldstein.  The tragedy of it is failed. It just didn’t work.

James Stone was the commissioner of New York’s Office of Mental Health at the time of Kendra’s death. Stone told Dateline that in Goldstein’s case, there was too little coordination among the state licensed hospitals and clinics that cared for him—that in effect, the system lost track of him.

Stone: That’s the chief lesson that we have to do a much better job in coordinating services.

At the time, the state had 500 intensive case managers specifically assigned to monitor the kind of problem patients Goldstein had proven himself to be, and keep them off the streets.  But a case manager was never assigned to him.

Edie Magnus, Dateline correspondent: Do you know any reason why Andrew Goldstein, who was in the system for 10 years, never got an intensive case manager? 

Stone: He was never referred for a case management program.

Magnus: And why is that?

Stone: I don’t know.

Magnus: Can you understand how people would look at this and say, “The system isn’t working.”

Stone: The only response to that is to be horrified. it was a terrible tragedy for the Webdale family.

Still, it wasn’t the mental health care system, but Andrew Goldstein who was charged with second degree murder.  If he was convicted, he would be sent to prison for 25 years to life. During the month-long trial in October, 1999, the defense told the jury about the failure of the mental health care system to treat Goldstein.  His lawyer admitted that Goldstein had pushed Kendra in front of the train, but said that he was insane at the time—that he didn’t know right from wrong—when he attacked Kendra. 

Key to the case: How the jury would view Goldstein’s videotaped statement to police—recorded just hours after Kendra’s death?

Andrew Goldstein (in videotaped statement to police): I shoved her, not knowing which direction I was going, coming or going.  And then, she falls onto the track. And then, I went into shock and horror. I saw the body go under. And then I walked away. And I said, “I don’t know.”  I threw my hands out.  “I don’t know.”

Goldstein told investigators he hadn’t meant to do it. Then he felt he had lost his mind down on that subway platform.

Goldstein: You feel like something’s entering you, like you’re being inhabited.  I don’t know.  And then, and then it’s like an overwhelming urge to strike out or to push or punch. And then, I feel like it’s not there, that sensation.  Now I’m sane again.  Then I’m normal. And then, it’s there again and then, it’s not. 

Michael Winerip, NY Times reporter: I see that tape and I see schizophrenia.

Journalist Michael Winerip, who has written extensively about Goldstein and other schizophrenics—says he finds Goldstein’s account believable—precisely because, as he puts it, the craziness is subtle.

Winerip: Andrew Goldstein killed a woman he didn’t even know and he shows no signs of any emotional trauma from that horrific thing he did.

But prosecutors argued that Goldstein acted—not because he was mentally ill, but out of rage and anger towards women.  A psychiatrist for the prosecution testified Goldstein “knew what he was doing was wrong, and he knew the consequences of what he was doing” when he pushed Kendra in front of the subway. After six days of deliberations, the jurors told the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked.  A mistrial was declared.  The case would have to be tried again.

And in the meantime would come a painful anniversary.  Days into the new millennium, January 3, 2000 was the one year anniversary of Kendra’s death.  The Webdales were without their beloved daughter and without closure to the case of her killer. 

Patty Webdale: An anniversary itself is an awful reminder. It’s like the calendar, and the calendar is saying to you, “Okay, your loved one has been gone for a whole year.” And you don’t want the year to come, because it moves you further away. It moves you on, while they stay where they are.

As prosecutors redoubled their efforts to convict Goldstein, his new defense team was putting together a no-holds-barred strategy to get him acquitted.  They were plotting a move both dramatic—and potentially dangerous.

14 months after Kendra Webdale’s was killed, her family returned to court in March of 2000, listening for the second time to the excruciating details of their daughter’s death.  It seemed as if the torment Andrew Goldstein caused them would never end. 

Patty Webdale, Kendra's mother: I used to look up behind the judge...and I’d see “In God We Trust.” And I guess I felt like whatever the decision was that the jury made was going to be the right decision.

Once again, the issue would be Andrew Goldstein’s mental state. Once again, prosecutors argued that Goldstein pushed Kendra Webdale in front of the subway, because he hated women. But Goldstein’s attorney sought to demonstrate that Andrew was truly sick. The court gave the defense permission to take Goldstein off his behavior medication, to in effect, risk letting him succumb to the hallucinations and voices and violent behavior that had marked him for the past ten years. 

Then the defense team videotaped an interview with Goldstein.

Interviewer: Why did you do it?

Goldstein: I don't know.

Interviewer: Why did you kill that girl, Andrew?

Goldstein: Oh, I don't know. I feel like people talk, uh, talk through me, you know.

Goldstein: Poeple. Like they say things, you know, like it's a plot or something.

Goldstein: Against, against, against me. 

Interviewer: Against who?

But the jury would never see the tape. The judge ruled it was inadmissible. Also kept from the jury a report commissioned by New York State which found Andrew’s care over the years had been “fragmented and oftentimes inappropriate”—and insufficient to protect Goldstein and those around him.”

As jurors deliberated, they rejected a defense request that they go through Goldstein’s 3,5000-hundred page medical record to determine for themselves the depth of his illness.

Gina, juror: It didn’t appear to me that there was any long-standing, in-depth analysis of what his mental condition was.  And I think that the thing that characterized Andrew Goldstein over 10 years is that he was violent more than he was anything else.

Once again, the key question was whether Andrew Goldstein knew what he was doing at the very moment he pushed Kendra Webdale in front of the train.   Dateline spoke to 5 of the jurors, who said that they had no doubt about the answer.

Holly, juror: Witnesses all say that he actually picked her up and threw her in front of the train.  He didn’t just you know, push her over or, you know, a little nudge. 

Jain, juror: He was obviously aware of what he did.

After an hour and a half of deliberations, this jury delivered its unanimous verdict: guilty of 2nd degree murder.  Andrew Goldstein was sentenced to 25 years to life.

Ralph, juror: I think we felt that justice was done.

Patty Webdale, mother: I cried, and it was probably tears of joy, that, you know he was being held accountable and that, you know, he was going to live a different lifestyle because he had taken someone else’s life away.

But the Webdale’s relief would be short-lived.  To their horror, they would soon find out that their odyssey through the criminal justice system was not yet over.

In the years since Kendra Webdale’s death, family members have tried to channel their anger and sorrow into action. Ironically, they have become advocates for mentally ill people, like Andrew Goldstein, the man convicted of murdering Kendra.

Suzanne Webdale, Kendra's sister: We need to find a way that we can give people treatment before they continue to deteriorate to the point of dangerousness.

The family lobbied for a new law in Kendra’s name, one that would, under certain circumstances, force someone like Goldstein to take medication, compel the state to monitor him, and briefly hospitalize him if he refuses to comply.

As a direct result of Kendra’s law, New York state says it has taken steps to streamline, coordinate, and better monitor services for people with serious mental illness.  It has also made more community services available, giving the highest priority to treating the people who are most in need.  And thanks in part to the Webdales’ efforts, similar laws have been adopted in 41 other states, leaving the family with a feeling of pride and pain.

Patty Webdale, Kendra's mother: It’s not an ego trip to have a law named after your child, believe me.

But it was Goldstein’s murder conviction which was pivotal for the Webdales.  No longer would they have to sit in court, and listen to the gruesome details of Kendra’s death.  Her father, Ralph, felt liberated.

Ralph Webdale, Kendra’s father: I was at work one day after that second trial and all of a sudden I was thinking about Kendra doing something else, you know, something joyful that we had done in the past and I go, “wow.”

Edie Magnus, Dateline correspondent: So you could think about her life, and not her death.

Ralph Webdale: Exactly.

Then, in 2005, the Webdales received news that left them shaking their heads in disbelief.  New York’s highest court threw out Andrew Goldstein’s murder conviction, ruling that it had been based in part on hearsay testimony.  A new trial was ordered.

Family members could hardly contemplate going through it all again.

Ralph Webdale: I don’t think any of us wanted a third trial. I don’t think any of them were ready for it and there were a couple that were outraged.

In the end, they were spared:  at a routine pre-trial hearing, Goldstein suddenly decided to plead guilty to first degree manslaughter. At his sentencing hearing, the Webdales testified forcefully about all the suffering Goldstein had caused their family.  Goldstein himself declined to speak, leaving the family mystified and bitter.

Ralph Webdale: He has never shown any real remorse. He hasn’t said he was sorry in any way, shape or form. 

Goldstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison, and 5 years of probation after that—far short of the lifetime he could have spent behind bars.

Patty Webdale: I very honestly felt like that was okay. Like I wanted him in jail, I wanted him to pay a consequence and he actually was doing that.

And still the family moves on:  Kendra’s sisters Christa and Kim have gotten married. Nieces and nephews have been born, including Kendra, a little girl named for the aunt she will never know.

Patty Webdale: It’s wonderful to say “Kendra.” For a long time, there was no joy in anything. Now there is joy, there is definitely joy. She’s Kendra Grace, which is nice.  It kind of balances it off.

Friends still pay tribute to Kendra, from time to time putting up artwork in the subway near the tracks where she was killed.  And her mom and dad take comfort in spending quiet moments remembering their daughter’s wonderful life, and not its terrible end.

The Webdale’s filed a $70-million lawsuit against the hospitals and clinics who had treated Andrew Goldstein. The Webdales say those facilities knew, or should have known that Goldstein was violent when they discharged him into the community. All of the institutions except for North General Hospital have settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount, without admitting any in errors in their treatment of Andrew Goldstein.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments