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Science & Tech: Phd Student Accused Of Murdering Close Friend's

SCIENCE & TECH: PhD student accused of murdering close friend’s newborn baby, abusing tot’s twin is daughter of prominent NYC cardiologist

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The researcher daughter of a prominent Manhattan cardiologist has been accused of murdering the infant twin son of one of her closest friends.

Nicole Virzi, a fifth year Ph.D. candidate at the San Diego State University/UC San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology, is also accused of physically abusing the dead baby’s twin, according to reports.

Six-week-old Leon Katz, the son of Ethan Katz and his wife Savannah Roberts, died on Father’s Day as Virzi was caring for him in the family’s Pittsburgh home, authorities said.

Virzi and Roberts were doctoral students at different universities — Roberts was studying at the University of Pittsburgh — but both were focused on eating disorders, trauma and body image.

The couple left Leon in Virzi’s care while rushing Ari to the hospital with a mysterious injury to his genitals, which Virzi had alerted them to, authorities said.

Ethan Katz and his wife Savannah Roberts, pictured here with their twin sons Ari and Leon, left Leon i Gofundme

While the first-time parents were caring for Ari, Virzi claimed Leon fell from his bouncer chair while she stepped away to get a bottle, according to police and court records.

But doctors found the injuries “consistent with having been sustained as a result of child abuse, as these are inflicted injuries that are not natural and not accidental,” according to WTAE.

Virzi was referred to as a “trusted family friend” in the GoFundMe established to help the grieving parents and their surviving son.

Virzi had been staying in a nearby Airbnb on South Graham Street in the hipster Shadyside neighborhood when she was asked to care for the baby, who was “alert, conscious and not injured,” according to a criminal complaint obtained by by Pittsburgh’s TRIBLive.

Nicole Virzi, a fifth-year doctoral student in clinical psychology at SDSU/UC San Diego, has been charged in connection with the death of 6-week old Leon Katz. Her lawyer told The Post she plans to plead not guilty.

It was not clear why Virzi was in Pittsburgh, but there were traces of the friendship between the two women online.

Virzi’s X account is now protected, making her messages inaccessible.

But Roberts made reference to her at least twice, once in Jan. 2022 where she referred to Virzi’s “incredible work” and once in May 2021 when she wrote a post to Virzi saying: “You are going to do an AMAZING job! I can’t wait to hear about your experience.”

Tweets exchanged years ago with the mother of the twin babies, Savannah Roberts, and her friend and fellow clinical psychology candidate Nicole Virzi. Savannah Roberts/X

Cops arrived Walnut Street home after Virzi called 911 at 11:17 p.m. June 15, authorities said in the complaint. Virzi said the baby had suffered a bump to his head.

Virzi told cops she started babysitting Leon at about 6:30 p.m. that night, and claimed he was doing fine, eaten, had soiled two diapers and had been burped, according to the complaint.

She fell asleep “for a period of time while Leon was in the bouncer seat,” Virzi claimed. When Virzi awoke, she said, she went to the kitchen to get a bottle for Leon, and heard the baby screaming.

Nicole Virzi’s mugshot. She was arrested and booked on Father’s Day and remains in jail without bail. She is accused of killing her friend’s 6-week-old baby boy and injuring his twin brother. Allegheny County Jail

Virzi contended she found Leon lying on the floor, picked him up, and saw “a large bump to the left side of Leon’s head,” prosecutors said in the court document.

Paramedics rushed Leon to the hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead at 5:47 a.m. on Father’s Day, police said.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death a homicide. Leon’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

A head CT scan showed Leon suffered a severe skull fracture to the left side of the head, along with multiple brain bleeds.

Leon Katz was pronounced dead early in the morning of Father’s Day. Gofundme

Virzi, a graduate of Pepperdine University who holds a graduate degree in clinical psychology from San Diego State, grew up in the tristate area, the daughter of Dr. Peter J. Virzi, a highly-respected cardiologist affiliated with Mt. Sinai Doctors in Manhattan.

“I have no words,” a friend and colleague of Virzi’s told The Post Saturday. “I am absolutely shocked. I had no idea.”

The friend said she did not know Virzi to be violent but said noted she “had some interpersonal issues. I would say she was a little rigid. She was nice. But very driven and motivated.”

The late Leon Katz, who police believe was murdered by family friend Nicole Virzi. Gofundme

A man who identified himself as the suspect’s father hung up when The Post called.

Virzi was charged June 16 with criminal homicide, three counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Virzi is currently being held without bail at the Allegheny County Jail.

Virzi’s attorney David Shrager told The Post Saturday his client was innocent, and planned to plead not guilty.

Virzi’s father is prominent Manhattan cardiologist Peter J. Virzi. mountsinai

“She is obviously devastated,” Shrager said. “She’s highly distraught and deeply sad. She said it was nothing intentional. 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.”

Virzi’s professional bio says 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.”

Leon Katz shortly after his birth in May 2024. Gofundme

“I am particularly interested in exploring these relationships within female and trauma-exposed populations,” she added. “By concentrating on these relationships, my research aims to shed light on the unique challenges and opportunities for intervention within these vulnerable groups.”

She was also reportedly an instructor at the Cyclebar Carmel Valley in San Diego.

Roberts declined comment.

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