PhD student, 29, accused of murdering friends’ newborn baby and injuring infant’s twin is daughter of top NYC cardiologist

The PhD student accused of murdering her friends’ newborn baby and injuring his twin brother is the daughter of a prominent NYC cardiologist.

Nicole Virzi, 29, is charged with the murder of six-and-a-half-week old Leon Katz at his home in Pittsburgh, on what was his dad’s first Father’s Day — and his parents’ first wedding anniversary.

Her father, Peter J Virzi, is a top cardiologist affiliated with Mt. Sinai Doctors in Manhattan and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. 

Virzi, who holds a graduate degree in clinical psychology from San Diego State, was a ‘trusted friend’ of the babies’ parents Ethan Katz and Savannah Roberts.

Police say she allegedly killed the infant while they were at the hospital with his twin brother Ari, who they allege Virzi also assaulted.

Six-month-old Leon Katz (left) was killed at his home in Pittsburgh on Father’s Day. His twin brother, Ari (right), was injured. Nicole Virzi, 29, was charged for the baby’s murder
Virzi (pictured) has also been accused of physically abusing Ari, who was at the hospital with his parents when she allegedly murdered his brother

‘I have no words. I am absolutely shocked. I had no idea,’ a colleague and friend of Virzi told the New York Post. 

The friend said Virzi ‘had some interpersonal issues,’ but they did not know her to be violent. 

‘I would say she was a little rigid. She was nice. But very driven and motivated.’

DailyMail.com contacted the suspect’s father for comment but did not get a response.

Virzi was charged with homicide, child endangerment, and aggravated assault but denies any wrongdoing.

Her attorney, David Shrager, has maintained Virzi’s innocence and said she plans to plead not guilty. 

‘She is obviously devastated. She’s highly distraught and deeply sad. She said it was nothing intentional,’ Shrager told The Post. 

The suspects father has been identified as Peter J Virzi, a top cardiologist affiliated with Mt. Sinai Doctors in Manhattan

‘We’re doing a deep investigation. She has no criminal history. We will do our best to give her a fair hearing in court. This is a case with a dead child and a young lady in jail. It should not be speculated on before the case goes to court,’ he added. 

GoFundMe set up for the devastated couple says Leon was ‘tragically killed under horrific circumstances’ and that a ‘trusted family friend’ has been arrested.

‘Leon will always be remembered as a happy, smiley, goofy baby boy. His untimely and tragic death has deeply impacted the Pittsburgh community,’ the donation page said. 

Pictures taken just days before the tragedy showed the bright-eyed twins side by side in onesies with their names embroidered on them. 

As of Sunday morning, the page has raised more than $55,000 for the heartbroken parents and their surviving son. 

A GoFundMe set up for the devastated couple says Leon was ‘tragically killed under horrific circumstances’ and that a ‘trusted family friend’ has been arrested. (pictured: the twin boys with their parents)

The accused killer was continuing to babysit tiny Leon while his parents were at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with his twin, Ari, after Virzi said she spotted an injury on his groin area, police said.

She told cops that she had gone into the kitchen to get Katz a bottle when she suddenly heard screaming.

When she returned she said the baby had fallen out of his bouncer chair. She then called 911 around 11.17pm. 

‘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 investigators, according to court filings.

Virzi is being held without bail at the Allegheny County Jail and faces a preliminary hearing on June 28.

Her LinkedIn profile indicates she is a fifth-year clinical psychology candidate on the SDSU/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program.

Virzi told cops that she was getting Katz a bottle when she heard screaming and saw he had fallen out of a bouncer

Her professional bio said that her ‘research 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 added: ‘I am particularly interested in exploring these relationships within female and trauma-exposed populations.’ 

‘By concentrating on these relationships, my research aims to shed light on the unique challenges and opportunities for intervention within these vulnerable groups.’ 

The babies’ mother previously interacted with Virzi on X, as Roberts referred to her ‘incredible work’ in January 2022. 

In May 2021, Roberts said: ‘You are going to do an AMAZING job! I can’t wait to hear about your experience!’ 

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