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A Mother's Nightmare: The Murders of Desiree McCartney & Nathaniel Ritz


In the spring of 2017, Christina McCartney was living in Osgood, Indiana, with her three children, boyfriend, and his young son. Christina’s oldest child, Nickalas Kedrowitz, was thirteen years old. His little sisters, Desiree and Abigail McCartney, were just toddlers. Christina’s boyfriend had a small child as well, an infant son named Nathaniel Ritz. On May 1st, 2017, thirteen-year-old Nickalas was given his chores, which included bathing all three young children and putting them to bed. Christina returned home that night and Nickalas told his mother that Desiree wasn’t acting right and quit breathing. The two-year-old was rushed to the hospital as medics were able to successfully resuscitate the toddler. Unfortunately, Desiree passed away inside the ICU at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital five days later.

Desiree Sue McCartney was born May 17th, 2014, to Christina McCartney and Gary McCartney. Desiree’s older brother, Nickalas, was born in 2003. Desiree became a big sister a year later when Abigail was born. Her parents broke up, however, and Christina met Stephen Ritz. They quickly moved in together. On August 4th, 2016, Stephen’s ex-girlfriend gave birth to their son, Nathaniel. Nathaniel was placed in Stephen’s custody as a newborn, with Christina helping to raise the infant. As the older brother to three young children, Nickalas was often asked to help care for his siblings and complete chores around the house.

Christina, who has a master’s degree in psychology, says that her son Nickalas was a “dream child” (Thayer, 2018). Nickalas was struggling in school, however, failing most of his classes. According to his mother, this was due to the school failing to provide her son with an Individualized Education Plan, or an IEP. She trusted her teenage son to babysit his three younger siblings, and she indicated she saw no signs that he was dangerous.

On the evening of May 1st, 2017, Christina and Stephen told investigators that they returned home and found Abigail and Nathaniel crying in the living room. Nickalas told them that Desiree was sick and threw up in the bathtub. According to Nickalas, Desiree threw up twice in the bathtub. He said he went to get some baby wipes to clean her up, but when he returned, he found the toddler floating in the bathtub. Stephen Ritz initially told the authorities that he performed CPR on Desiree, but later admitted that he had not. Christina stated she tried to wake her daughter and initiated CPR while waiting for EMS.

While the EMS was able to regain a heartbeat in two-year-old Desiree, Desiree was never able to start breathing on her own again. After spending five days in the ICU, the little girl passed away. According to her obituary (2017), Desiree loved dancing, singing, and loved the Disney movie Frozen. Desiree’s autopsy showed that the little girl had no signs of infection, structural abnormalities, or injuries that explained her death. Furthermore, there was no water found in the girl’s lungs, proving drowning was not the cause of Desiree’s death. The manner of death was ruled undetermined.

Just a few months later, on July 20th, 2017, EMS was once again called to the family’s home. This time, eleven-month-old Nathaniel Ritz was unresponsive and not breathing. Just after midnight, the baby was pronounced dead at a local hospital. According to the emergency room physician, he had stopped breathing approximately a half hour before 911 was called. Given this was the second death of a child in this family in just a few months, Abigail and Nickalas were removed from the home while child services investigated the cases.

According to Christina, she was watching television with the children and her boyfriend on the evening of July 20th. Around 11 pm, she asked Nickalas to take Nathaniel to bed and lay him down for the night. Nathaniel and Nickalas shared a room, so Nathaniel remained in the room cleaning. He said he noticed his brother stop fussing and looked over to find him unresponsive and turning blue. He called for his mother who dialed 911.

The autopsy of Nathaniel Ritz indicated there were no signs of trauma, congenital abnormalities, infection, or obvious causes of death. Like that of Desiree, Nathaniel’s manner of death was ruled undetermined. Christina told a source that her daughter may have had a seizure that led to her death. She also stated she believed that Nathaniel’s death may have been related to methamphetamine exposure in utero. However, no evidence supported these theories.



Pictured: (Left: Desiree McCartney, age 2 at time of her death/Right: Nathaniel Ritz, 11 months at the time of his death)


In September of 2017, family members noticed that Nickalas was behaving abnormally. Nickalas was living with his uncle at the time. While visiting his great-aunt, Nickalas mutilated two kittens. One kitten was squeezed so hard that the kitten’s internal organs were protruding from its body. Both of the kittens had puncture wounds to their heads. Nickalas said the kitten scratched him, which made him angry. His great-aunt also stated that Nickalas told her her that he had to tell her something right before he confessed to her that he had been responsible for the deaths of his younger siblings.


Investigators and psychologists began to speak with Nickalas, seeking the truth about what happened to Desiree and Nathaniel. Nickalas confessed to family members, psychologists, and law enforcement to murdering Desiree and Nathaniel. He said that the night he hurt Desiree, he placed a towel over her head and pressed down until she stopped moving. He explained that he knew she was dead because her face turned blue, and she stopped moving. He explained that he had placed Nathaniel on his bed less than ninety days later. He placed a blanket over the baby’s head and pushed down until the baby stopped moving and turned blue.

When asked why he did these acts, Nickalas said, “he had to free them from hell and the chains of fire” (Kedrowitz V. Indiana). He later explained he wanted to protect the children from his mother’s boyfriend, Stephen Ritz, whom he claimed was abusive. He said he didn’t want his siblings to go through what he had gone through. When asked to specify what he had been through, the teen asked investigators if they had seen his list of daily chores.

After confessing to multiple family members, child advocates, counselors, and law enforcement officers, Nickalas was admitted to LaRue Carter Hospital for psychiatric care in January of 2018. In September of 2018, the State of Indiana filed a delinquency petition against Nickalas Kedrowitz that stated that the youth committed two acts of murder. That prosecution asked that the case be handled in adult court rather than the juvenile justice system. This meant the now fourteen-year-old was facing the equivalency of life in prison.

The medical examiner’s office amended the autopsies of Desiree McCartney and Nathaniel Ritz, indicating the cause of death to be asphyxiation. “The diagnosis of asphyxiation in infancy is difficult as there are usually no positive findings on autopsy and so differentiating asphyxiation from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) based purely on pathological features will usually not be possible” (Byard, R. & Jensen, L., 2007). This explains why there were no obvious signs to explain the deaths of the children immediately. The investigative efforts combined with the lack of other obvious causes of death contributed to the amended death certificates.

Two psychologists were assigned by the court to evaluate Nickalas to determine if he should be tried as an adult or child. Both of these found Nickalas was competent to stand trial. He was found to have an IQ of 84. He scored above average on further testing that indicated he understood the justice system, had a strong understanding of legal concepts, and could differentiate between fantasy and reality. Another psychologist was hired by the defense and stated that Nickalas was not competent to stand trial. This psychologist said Nickalas exhibited auditory and visual hallucinations, psychosis, and opined that he was not competent to stand trial in the adult court system. The court system granted the prosecution’s petition and sent this case to the adult justice system.

The jury at Nickalas’s trial didn’t take long to convict him on both counts of first-degree murder. While his mother stood by his side, the sentencing portion of the trial began. The prosecution presented aggravating circumstances which included the young age of the victims, the vulnerability of the victims as Nickalas as their older brother, callousness and premeditation on Nickalas’s part, and the lack of emotion or remorse shown by the defendant. The defense presented mitigating circumstances which included Nickalas’s age, thirteen at the time of the crimes, his immaturity, low cognitive ability, mental-health problems, and his lack of a criminal record.

In February of 2022, Nickalas was now seventeen years old and awaiting sentencing for the murders of his two younger siblings in 2017. The judge sentenced the teen to fifty years in prison for each murder, to be served consecutively. Nickalas was sentenced to a total of 100 years in prison. So far, his appeals have been denied.



Nickalas’s mother continues to stand by her son. She told People Magazine, “He witnessed him being mean to the babies. That he pushed them down on purpose. He would lock them up in a bedroom to shut them up. He painted a pretty bad picture. As a mom, it’s a hard pill to swallow that was going on, and I didn’t know” (Helling, 2022). She said this referring to the abuse allegations against Stephen Ritz. She further alleged that Ritz may have directed Nickalas to kill the children. However, there is no evidence to support this claim or the claims of abuse, and Ritz has not been charged with any crime.

Nickalas’s mother believes her son was psychologically damaged by her former boyfriend’s abuse. She was interviewed on the Dr. Phil show, during which Dr. Phil opined that Christina McCartney was in severe denial about her son (Thayer, 2018). Nickalas presents with commons signs of sociopathy found in serial killers including torturing animals, lacking empathy, anti-social behavior, possible abuse in childhood, lack of remorse, abnormal/unstable family life, and predatory behavior. He took advantage of defenseless babies and kittens, ending their lives in horrific fashion.

Nickalas Kedrowitz may have been a serial killer in the making, or maybe he is mentally ill. It’s easy to judge his mother for standing by him despite him admitting to murdering two of her three other children. However, Christina McCartney is living every mother’s worst nightmare. Not only did she lose two children, but her baby is accused of committing those murders. I can’t imagine anything more painful for a mother to endure.

According to the Indiana Department of Corrections website, Nickalas Kedrowitz will not be eligible for parole until 2093, at which time he will be ninety years old.

References

Clark, Andrew. (2019). Police: boy accused of murder wanted to “free” young siblings. The Indianapolis Star. 26 Sep 2019

Associated Press. (2018). Teen charged in suffocation deaths of his younger siblings. Evansville Courier and Press. 13 Sep 2018

The Republic. (2021). Jury: former local youth guilty in deaths of siblings. The Republic. 24 Aug 2021.

McClure, J. (2018). Murder charges. The Republic. 05 Nov 2018.

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