Police: Woman beheads 7-year-old son days after release from psychiatric ward

A New York woman recently released from a hospital’s mental health unit is accused of decapitating her young son Thursday night in what one law enforcement official described as an “extreme, horrific crime scene.”

Hanane Mouhib, 36, of Sweden, was arraigned Friday morning on a charge of second-degree murder. Sweden is a small town about 15 miles west of Rochester.

Abraham Cardenas, 7, was killed while his father, paternal grandmother and 10-year-old brother were in another room in the family’s home.

Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said during a Friday morning news conference that there appeared to be no warning signs prior to the slaying.

"There's absolutely no explanation for it," Baxter said during the news conference, recorded live on Facebook by the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester. "The word 'evil' comes to my mind. There's mental hygiene issues, there's just so many things.

“This is a mother that took her son’s life. I have no explanation. We’ll never be able to reconcile it in our heads.”

Baxter said that the preliminary investigation found no apparent motive for the homicide.

“Zero. We don’t see anything,” the sheriff said.

He said that Mouhib’s husband and mother-in-law were as shocked by the crime as investigators.

The Democrat & Chronicle reported that Mouhib is a licensed nurse practitioner who specializes in psychiatry. Though she worked for Rochester Regional Health for about a year, leaving in January 2017, her more recent work history was not immediately known.

According to state records, Mouhib's most recent license was issued in 2015.

Baxter said that deputies responded around 8:20 p.m. Thursday to multiple 911 calls from the home where Mouhib and the children lived with her husband, John Cardenas. The calls, which came from Cardenas and his mother, reported a suicidal woman armed with a knife.

When confronted, Mouhib refused deputies’ commands to put down the knife. The sheriff said after several attempts to get her to drop the weapon failed, deputies used pepper spray and a Taser to subdue her.

“Deputies went on to check the house further and made the grim discovery of Abraham,” Baxter said, his voice trembling slightly on the boy’s name. “Abraham suffered a stab wound to his back and a severe stab wound to his neck, causing his head to become disengaged from his body.”

The knife used in the crime was described as a large-bladed kitchen knife.

The sheriff said that his department has a record of two calls to the family’s home within the past month. Both times, it was Mouhib who called 911 for help, apparently realizing that she was having mental health issues.

The first call was on March 5 and the second call came three days later. In the first instance, Mouhib told responding deputies she “just didn’t feel mentally right at the time,” and they assisted in getting her to the hospital, Baxter said.

She was not suicidal that day, the sheriff said.

In the second instance, she was experiencing similar symptoms. Because of the previous call, deputies conducted a mental hygiene transport, taking Mouhib to Rochester General Hospital for treatment.

She remained there from March 8 to March 26 -- just 10 days before the homicide.

Details of her mental health treatment were not specified.

Abraham was a first-grader at Barclay Elementary School, one of just five schools in the Brockport Central School District. Dr. Lesli Myers, superintendent of the small school system, appeared to tear up as Baxter described how the boy died.

“(Abraham) was incredibly vibrant,” Myers said at the news conference. “He was an engaged learner, (and) was beloved by his teachers and our school community.

“He lit up a room any time he entered it.”

Myers said the school community is extremely saddened by Abraham’s death and she offered her condolences to his family, calling the boy’s death a significant loss.

“Any loss of life is a loss to our entire community,” Myers said.

A crisis team was meeting Friday morning and will provide support to the community over the weekend, the superintendent said. Counselors will also be at the school Monday, when students, faculty and staff return from Spring Break.

When asked if there had been any warning signs that Abraham might have been abused or mistreated at home, Myers said there had not.

“This situation completely took us off guard,” Myers told reporters. “It’s very surprising and shocking to us.”

Baxter said detectives have reached out to Child Protective Services to determine if there had ever been any reports of abuse in the family’s home.

Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley, who also spoke at Friday’s news conference, said that Mouhib is being held without bond due to the nature of the crime. A charge of second-degree murder carries a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Mouhib’s preliminary hearing is set for Wednesday, but Doorley said the case will be presented to a grand jury before then. The head of her office’s child abuse unit is prosecuting the case.

“This is really a tragedy, and my heart goes out to the men and women of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office who had to respond to the scene and see this horrific crime,” Doorley said.

Baxter offered condolences to Abraham’s family and friends, as well as to everyone in the Brockport central school system who knew him.

The sheriff also extended his kudos to his deputies, who he said responded to the chaotic scene with “skill and precision,” as well as with a willingness to put their own lives in danger to ensure that everyone else in the home escaped uninjured.

Counseling is also being offered to the deputies and investigators who responded to the home Thursday night, the sheriff said.

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