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Police: Cleaver-wielding man kills psychologist

A man slashed a 56-year-old psychologist to death at her Upper East Side office clinic and seriously injured another therapist who tried to help her, police said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A man hacked a psychologist to death with a meat cleaver at her Upper East Side office and seriously injured another therapist who tried to help her, police said.

The search was on Wednesday for the man as police tried to determine whether he was a patient of Kathryn Faughey. She was stabbed to death Tuesday night in the office suite in a bustling neighborhood just blocks from a major hospital complex.

Police recovered three knives from the scene, including the cleaver and a 9-inch knife also used in the attack. A suitcase on wheels filled with women's clothing and adult diapers was also found, along with another bag filled with eight smaller knives that were not believed to have been used in the attack.

"The condition of the room was that of a fierce struggle," police spokesman Paul Browne said at a briefing Wednesday. "There was blood on the floor and on the walls."

A detailed sketch of the suspect and surveillance videotapes of him entering and leaving the building were released.

Colleague tries to stop attack
Police said the man, wearing a green overcoat and baseball hat, arrived at the office about 8 p.m. Tuesday, saying he had an appointment with Dr. Kent Shinbach, a geriatric psychiatrist who worked in the same office suite as Faughey.

According to police, the suspect walked past a doorman, into the waiting room and then into Faughey's office. As he assaulted her, police said, Shinbach ran to help.

The assailant then attacked Shinbach, pinning him to the wall with a chair and stealing $90 before escaping through a basement door. Shinbach was in serious condition at a hospital with slash wounds on his head, face and arms.

The attack shocked the city's large community of mental health professionals.

"This is, I think, an extraordinary occurrence," said Sharon Brennan, a psychologist in Manhattan and a spokeswoman for the New York State Psychological Association. "It has had a shocking impact on the whole New York community."

Peeking into crime scene
Alexandra Pike, who lives across the street in the same apartment building where the victim lived, allowed a news photographer to shoot the scene from her family's apartment and said she used his telephoto lens to look into the victim's office.

"You could see there were shades torn down, there was overturned furniture. Papers were strewn all over, and you could see blood all over the place," said Pike, a 20-year-old journalism student.

Faughey, a licensed psychologist, described herself as a specialist in cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing thoughts that cause feelings or behaviors.

On her Web site, Faughey said she treated patients for relationship issues, coping with breakups, anxiety, panic attacks, stress over job changes and online intimacy.

In an interview with The New York Times in 2004, Faughey offered some advice on breaking up in a digital age: "In the old days it was burn the letters," she said. "Today, clear the hard drive."

'She was very pleasant'
Faughey was remembered fondly by her neighbors. Pill Lee, who works for a nearby dry cleaner, described her as a quiet, smiling woman whose favorite outfit was a black pantsuit and white blouse.

"She was very pleasant, very friendly, but she was quite private and reserved," said Elaine Hartstein, whose husband was Faughey's dentist and practiced in the building where the victim lived.

The slaying unnerved residents in the affluent neighborhood.

Linda Elliott, a resident of the building where the attack occurred, said, "Everyone in the building is very nervous, because we know that this person is loose. It's very frightening."

Serious attacks by patients on their mental health providers are rare, but they do happen, although usually in institutions that see more seriously ill patients.

A psychiatrist in Omaha died from head injuries in August, several days after a patient with a grudge and a history of violence attacked him as he arrived at a medical center.

It is common for therapists who see patients in their homes or private offices to install alarm systems, or even help buzzers, in the event that a patient starts to lose control. In Manhattan, those safety systems are often complemented by the usual security systems for office buildings, which include doormen and video cameras.

"Safety is always a concern," Brennan said. She added that therapists are thoroughly trained in how to assess a patient's potential for violence, and would normally see patients in a private setting only if they had determined that the safety risk was low.