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Woman accused of killing quadriplegic daughter still in custody pending bail hearing

The 63-year-old Bustleton woman is charged with giving her daughter a deadly dose of drugs and alcohol.

Yelena Nezhikhovskaya, 63, was charged with third-degree murder in the death of her adult daughter.
Yelena Nezhikhovskaya, 63, was charged with third-degree murder in the death of her adult daughter.Read morePhiladelphia Police Department

City prosecutors and a defense attorney for a 63-year-old Bustleton woman charged with killing her quadriplegic daughter by allegedly giving her a deadly dose of drugs and alcohol are battling over whether she should be released to house arrest.

Yelena Nezhikhovskaya was arrested Saturday in the death last year of her 31-year-old daughter, Yulia. She was charged with third-degree murder, drug delivery resulting in death, and related offenses, and is being held pending a full bail hearing, not yet scheduled. A preliminary hearing was set for Dec. 4.

Medics who responded on Dec. 17, 2018, to a 911 call at the Nezhikhovskayas’ apartment on the 9600 block of Bustleton Avenue pronounced the daughter dead. Originally ruled a natural death, it was changed to a homicide case in April, and further investigation led to the mother’s arrest, announced Monday.

The woman’s attorney, Lonny Fish, said Wednesday that a judge on Saturday had agreed that Nezhikhovskaya could be placed on house arrest. “She’s not a danger to the community” and “she’s not going anywhere,” Fish said.

Bail was set Saturday by a magistrate at $200,000, according to court records. Fish, who argued for house arrest, and the District Attorney’s Office, which had asked for $500,000, then appealed to Municipal Court Judge Martin Coleman later that day.

Fish said Wednesday that although Coleman agreed to house arrest, the arraignment room court staff was not accustomed to handling that paperwork, so Coleman set a nominal bail of $300 to give everyone time to process the order.

The District Attorney’s Office, however, filed a motion Monday to keep Nezhikhovskaya in custody until a full bail hearing could take place. The motion contends that she poses a danger to the community and is a flight risk. Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Minehart granted the emergency petition to keep her in custody pending a full bail hearing.

Jane Roh, District Attorney Larry Krasner’s spokesperson, did not respond to requests Wednesday to comment on the case.

Fish said his client, who was born in Russia and immigrated to the United States about 27 years ago, is a U.S. citizen. She had been taking care of her daughter “full-time, around the clock,” he said.

“She is innocent,” Fish said. “She did not feed her child alcohol or intentionally overdose.”

Fish provided to The Inquirer an initial death certificate signed in December by the Medical Examiner’s Office listing the cause of death as complications of cerebral palsy and the manner of death as natural.

In April, the office revised its findings, giving the cause of death as drug intoxication and the manner as homicide.

“The toxicology report for the decedent showed that someone had administered a lethal dose” of diazepam and alcohol to the daughter, a prosecutor wrote in Monday’s motion.

Yelena Nezhikhovskaya, who was interviewed by police in May, said that on Dec. 17, she had given her daughter diazepam to relax her; cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxer; and metoprolol for her blood pressure. She said her daughter did not ingest alcohol, according to court documents.

The mother told police she called 911 that afternoon when her daughter “was breathing strange and her skin was marble-like, like when you are too cold,” the documents say.

A home health aide told detectives that the daughter was unable to communicate or move, and that the mother would administer her medications. She said that the mother had “mental issues” and “suffers from depression,” the documents say.

The aide, after leaving the apartment Dec. 17, said she received a call from the mother, who said, “My baby’s dead.” The aide said she returned to the apartment and found police there, and that the mother “was hysterical and did not appear to understand what was going on,” the documents say.