New York: A 31-year-old New York woman charged with the murder of an Indian immigrant has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after she laughed at her arraignment telling the judge she thought it would be "cool" to push the victim in front of a train.
Erika Menendez has been charged with murder as a hate crime for pushing 46-year old Sunando Sen in front of an oncoming train at a subway station in Queens on December 27.
Sen, who owned a printing and copying business, would be cremated on Monday by his friends after it emerged that he has no family in India.
A Kolkata native, Sen lived with roommates in a small apartment in Queens and was unmarried. Menendez was arraigned on Saturday night but showed no remorse for her actions during the court hearing.
According to the Queens District Attorney's office, Menendez laughed uncontrollably and smiled during the hearing, telling prosecutors that she pushed Sen onto the subway tracks for no reason.
"I pushed a Muslim," Assistant District Attorney Michelle Kaszuba quoted Menendez as telling detectives during the hearing.
"There is no reason. I just pushed him in front of the train because I thought it would be cool. I just pushed him because he was Muslim."
Asked if Menendez showed any regret for the crime, Kaszuba said she told authorities: "Nope, I don't like to regret anything. It is what it is."
Menendez's behaviour at the hearing even infuriated Judge Gia Morris who ordered the woman's defence lawyer Dietrich Epperson to "Tell your client this is not funny. You're going to have your client stop laughing. This is not appropriate."
Epperson told the judge that Menendez's behaviour in court was not different from how she had been behaving since her arrest and said her client did not think the proceedings were funny.
Morris ordered that Menendez be held without bail and undergo a psychiatric evaluation before her next court hearing on January 14. Menendez has not entered any plea.
Menendez told police that before pushing Sen, she spent time with her boyfriend in the Bronx, went to Times Square and smoked marijuana, Kaszuba said.
Law enforcement officials said Menendez has a history of mental health problems, including bipolar disorder and over the past 12 years, has had at least 14 run-ins with the police.
Menendez was arrested at least twice on misdemeanor charges related to violence.
Her family members have also called the police several times about her erratic behaviour and mood swings, including once when her mother reported to police that she was "threatening to harm herself and others."
Her arrests include on charges of possessing cocaine and marijuana, using a stolen credit card, harassment and assault.
In April 2003, Menendez was charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment for punching and scratching a 28-year-old man in the face and neck.
About two months later, she was arrested again after she allegedly punched a 55-year-old man in the face as he was taking out his garbage.
Menendez also used to go missing from her house but would return later and sometimes took "various amounts of medication pills, causing her to become disoriented and drowsy," prosecutors said.
Menendez faces a maximum of 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
After being arrested by the police, she admitted pushing Sen onto the tracks because she thought he was a Muslim and she has harboured hatred for "Hindus and Muslims" since the September 11 attacks.
Menendez told the police "in sum and substance" that "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up."