Nanny Yoselyn Ortega was known as a religious woman whose skills with children helped the Dominican Republic immigrant survive in her new country.
Ortega, who became a U.S. citizen, has lived with her son, 16, her sister and a niece in a Riverside Drive apartment building in Manhattan, where neighbors noted her devotion to the Catholic faith.
She once taught catechism at her church, Our Lady of Lourdes on 142nd Street, and during the 12 days of Christmas, when building residents took turns hosting prayer gatherings, Ortega attended regularly.
"My mom said she was a lovable person and that she loved kids," said neighbor Jasmin Tejada."We're still in disbelief."
Police suspect Ortega of fatally stabbing Leo Krim, 2, and his sister Lucia, 6, on Thursday.
The nanny was hired by Kevin and Marina Krim two years ago to take care of their three children, a job that one of Ortega's friends and neighbor said she liked.
As far as Maria Lajara could tell, Ortega had a good relationship with the Krims. Ortega had worked several jobs, including cleaning homes, and told Lajara that she made good money working for the Krims.
Last February, the Krim family went to the Dominican Republic to visit Ortega's family, Lajara said, recalling the photos that Ortega had shown her of the vacation.
She said Ortega must have had a mental breakdown.
The answer to why also evaded the great-grandmother of the slain children.
Shirley Linsley of Banning, Calif., Marina's grandmother, said she's visited the Krims in New York several times and had met Ortega.
"Fantastic, friendly, smiling, always gave me a big squeeze and hug," Linsley said of the nanny. "It wasn't somebody you picked up on the street corner. She was well-thought-out, tested. She went through a series of credential checking."
At the Krims' Upper West Side apartment building, resident Charlotte Friedman saw a different side to Ortega. Less than an hour before the mother's screams alerted neighbors to the tragedy, Friedman rode up the elevator with Lucia and Leo, both smiling, and Ortega, who was not.
"She was cold-ish," Friedman said. "She was always like that, sort of poker-faced . . . I never saw her as a warm nanny like some of the other nannies who will smile at you." As police wait for Ortega to recover from what they say were self-inflicted stab wounds to her throat and wrist, Jasmin Tejada is holding off on a judgement.
"I am praying she doesn't die," Tejada said, "so she would be able to talk and tell us what happened."