The family of a woman accused of shoving a man to his death in front of a subway train called police several times in the past five years because she had not been taking prescribed medication and was difficult to deal with, authorities said Monday.
The woman, Erika Menendez, 31, is now being held without bail on a murder charge in the death of Sunando Sen. She told police she pushed the 46-year-old India native because she thought he was Muslim, and she hates them, according to prosecutors.
They had never met before she suddenly shoved him off the subway platform because she "thought it would be cool," prosecutors said. The victim was Hindu, not Muslim.
It wasn't clear whether Menendez had a diagnosed mental condition. But her previous arrests and legal troubles paint a portrait of a troubled woman.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly would not say what medication she was taking or whether she had a psychiatric history. Authorities were called to her Queens home five times since 2005 on reports of an emotionally disturbed person.
Once, police said, she threw a radio at the responding officers.
Menendez had been arrested several times. In 2003, she was accused of punching a 28-year-old man in the face at her home, but the case was dropped. She pleaded guilty later that year to assaulting a stranger on the street near her home. The victim, retired Fire Department official Daniel Conlisk, said the attack was violent and relentless.
He said he was sorting recyclables outside his home one night when Menendez approached him and punched him in the face, screaming that he was having sex with her mother.
"It was such a shot," Conlisk said. He said he tried to fend her off as she clawed at his skin. He broke free, went inside and called police. When they arrived, he said, she was still outside screaming about him having sex with her mother, and saying he had stolen jewelry from her in high school.
"That's when everyone realized there's really something wrong with her," he said. Conlisk, 65, said he took out two restraining orders against her but never saw her after the attack.
He said that he felt bad about pressing charges, but that she seemed dangerous.
"I really believe if she had a knife, she would have killed me," he said.