Two parents entrusted their twin babies to a “trusted family friend,” who now stands accused of killing one of the boys and abusing the other, according to prosecutors.

Nicole Virzi, a fifth-year Ph.D. student specializing in research on depression’s effects on human behavior, babysat 6-week-old twin boys, Leon and Ari Katz, on June 16. Tragically, that was the day Leon died. Virzi claimed he fell from his bouncer chair after she woke up from a nap and walked away to get a bottle. However, doctors who examined the baby’s injuries found a skull fracture and several brain bleeds, which they stated were “consistent with having been sustained as a result of child abuse,” WTAE reported.

Virzi, 29, was arrested near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she was babysitting the twins, and charged with homicide, three counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of child endangerment. Prosecutors also allege signs of abuse on the other baby. Virzi pleaded not guilty and maintains her innocence, her lawyer, David Shrager, said.

“There are extremely disturbing allegations,” Shrager told Fox News Digital, “and she denies any intentional behavior.” Virzi is the daughter of a respected Manhattan cardiologist and was close to completing her Ph.D., according to Shrager. She has no criminal history, is supported by “a loving and supportive family,” and was a “close family friend of the deceased child’s parents and has a long relationship with them,” he added.

Just three days before the alleged homicide, Virzi discussed her new research paper in a video on Heart and Mind Journal Office’s X page, which has since been removed. The journal could not be reached for comment.

The medical examination of baby Leon detailed disturbing wounds. “The injuries sustained by both twins are consistent with having been sustained as a result of child abuse, as these are inflicted injuries that are not natural and not accidental,” a doctor told detectives, according to a WTAE report based on the criminal complaint. The baby’s death was ruled a homicide. Virzi is currently being held in the Allegheny County Jail in Pennsylvania.

“Leon Katz, a beautiful and healthy six-week-old baby boy, was tragically killed under horrific circumstances,” states a GoFundMe set up on behalf of his parents, Savannah and Ethan Katz. “Leon will always be remembered as a happy, smiley, goofy baby boy. His untimely and tragic death has deeply impacted the Pittsburgh community, occurring on Ethan’s first Father’s Day.”

Virzi’s biography on the San Diego State University/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology’s website describes her research, which “aims to explore the complex interplay between psychological factors – such as depression, stress, negative affect, and trauma – and critical health outcomes and behaviors – such as metabolic syndrome, heart disease, obesity, eating behavior, and exercise.” She also wrote that she is “particularly interested in exploring these relationships within female and trauma-exposed populations” and aims to “shed light on the unique challenges and opportunities for intervention within these vulnerable groups.”

The tragic death of Leon Katz has sent shockwaves through the community, as friends and family grapple with the loss and the disturbing allegations against someone they trusted.



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