He killed his mom. Now he wants her money.
A Manhattan man, whose successful insanity plea kept him out of jail for beating his mother to death, sued Wednesday to cash in on her pension.
Henry Wachtel killed his English teacher mom in their Hell’s Kitchen apartment while he was having an epileptic seizure on April 10, 2012. He filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against the city’s teacher retirement system to collect Karyn Kay’s pension.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday on Wachtel’s 24th birthday, says Wachtel is the listed beneficiary on his mother’s retirement account. His lawyer said he is the sole heir.
But in light of New York’s slayer rule, which prohibits killers from receiving any benefits from their victims’ estates, the retirement board held on to the money pending the outcome of Wachtel’s criminal case.
The board also did not tell Wachtel the size of the death benefit.
“After a lengthy investigation, the New York district attorney’s office recognized that Ms. Kay’s death was a tragedy, but not an intentional homicide,” the lawsuit says.
“The Supreme Court’s acceptance of Henry’s not responsible plea is an official adjudication that Henry did not intentionally harm his mother and is thus determinative of Henry’s right to inherit from her. Once Henry’s lack of criminal culpability was established, his right to inherit follows a matter of law.”
Wachtel tried to get the money after he was criminally absolved in the case in 2014, but the retirement board wouldn’t budge.
The board said it would “require a signed court order to pay any death benefits for the account of Karyn Kay.”
Kay, 63, was a teacher at LaGuardia High School and was listed as a visiting instructor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn,
Her last words were captured on the desperate 911 call she made to save herself.
“Help! Help! He’s attacking me!” Kay screamed during the phone call.
Kay was taken with severe trauma — including a fractured skull and eye socket and broken ribs — to Cornell Hospital, where she died.
Wachtel, a Fordham University freshman at the time, was initially charged with second-degree murder.
But a battery of medical tests determined “the defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect such that he did not appreciate the nature and consequences of his actions at the time he attacked his mother,” according to court papers.
Wachtel has been living in a psychiatric hospital since his insanity plea.
“He hasn’t had a seizure in four years,” said attorney Lloyd Epstein, who represented Wachtel in his criminal case. “He has largely been cured. He’s doing very well.”
Wachtel’s parents were not married. His father lives in Manhattan.