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The millionaire mom who poisoned her autistic son and called it a mercy killing

In this August 11 photo, Gigi Jordan, the multimillionaire mother charged with killing her autistic 8-year-old son, appears in Manhattan Supreme court. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
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Gigi Jordan never denied that she wanted to kill her 8-year-old son when she fed him a toxic cocktail of pills five years ago.

The question was why.

Jordan, a 54-year-old Manhattan socialite and self-made multimillionaire, said it was a “mercy killing.” She claimed she was trying to save her autistic son Jude Mirra from a life of sexual torment at the hands of his father and planned to kill herself next.

“I didn’t see any way out of this situation,” she testified. “I made a decision that I was going to end my life and Jude’s life.”

But Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Charles Solomon, who sentenced Jordan to 18 years in prison for manslaughter Thursday, was unswayed by her tearful defense.

“All of her money, all of her resources, she decided to kill him,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “There were so many things she could have done.”

The sentencing brought to a close a tangled and troubling trial that seemed to raise as many questions as it answered: Was Jude really being sexually abused, or did Jordan just believe he was? And if Jordan’s allegations of abuse weren’t real, was her child’s killing an outcome of delusion or a calculated murder?

Jude, she says, was the biological son of her second husband, Bulgarian yoga instructor Emil Tzekov. But he was born while she was still married to her first husband, pharmaceutical executive Ray Mirra, whose name the boy carried.

The drama began in a locked room at the ritzy Peninsula Hotel on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in February 2010. Jordan took her son there because she had run out of other options, she told the New York Daily News in 2012. She believed that Ray Mirra was trying to kill her, which might leave Jude in the custody of Tzekov, who she alleged sexually abused Jude, putting him in a traumatized state that doctors misdiagnosed as autism. Both former husbands have strongly denied the allegations.

The murder suicide was Jude’s idea, Jordan testified at her trial last fall, according to the New York Times.

“I need to be dead. I need a lot of drugs to die peacefully. That’s all,” Jordan said at trial, reading what she said was a written dialogue between 8-year-old Jude and herself. Later, she said he wrote, “We are going to die anyway. Let’s do it ourselves.”

Convinced, she said she gave Jude a large dose of Ambien and Xanax, then crushed painkillers into mixture of vodka and juice and fed the concoction to him with a syringe. She then took pills herself. While writing her own suicide letter, Jordan said she had a change of heart — hearing Jude’s labored breathing, she attempted to administer CPR to her dying son, but it was too late.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors and Justice Solomon questioned Jordan’s allegations of abuse, the Times reported. They wondered about the typed messages her son allegedly used to tell her about how his father had mistreated him — could a nonverbal autistic child really have written them?

According to the AP, Jordan didn’t report the alleged abuse directly to police, though she told therapists and in 2008 attempted to meet with a child-exploitation investigator in Wyoming. There, she was involuntarily hospitalized and given a psychological evaluation. New York police officials told the Daily News that there is no evidence that Jude was abused and that Tzekov, his father, has not been charged with any crime.

Other testimony disputed whether fears that her son was being abused were really what motivated Jordan to kill him, according to the Times. Rita Cristman, a friend of Jordan’s, said that Jordan had been crisscrossing the country pursuing treatments for her son’s illness and had become depressed from the effort to care for him. In 2006, before Jordan began claiming that Jude had been abused, she told Cristman that she intended to kill herself and Jude if he couldn’t be cured, Cristman testified.

Jordan’s actions on the day of Jude’s death also raised questions, the Times reported. Prosecutors said that she coolly transferred millions of dollars into a savings account just before the killing, and asked a financial adviser to transfer $125,000 from Jude’s trust fund into her own account after poisoning the boy. And although Jordan said that Jude voluntarily took the pills, a medical examiner testified that bruises on his face and chest indicated that they were forced down his throat. When paramedics arrived at Jordan’s hotel room two days after she checked in, the first thing she said was, “I’m okay. I need an attorney,” according to their testimony.

The jury, tasked with determining whether Jordan had committed murder or a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter driven by “extreme emotional disturbance,” began to deliberate in the last days of October.

Meanwhile, Jordan turned her attention outside the courtroom and began making her case in the court of public opinion. She built a Web site, titled “The ‘Inadmissable’ Truth,” in which she claimed that she hadn’t gotten a fair trial because evidence in her favor had been suppressed. And within a few days of testimony ending she had given interviews to the Wall Street JournalCBS New York and Dr. Phil McGraw, the daytime television host.

“If you had to do this over, would you end his life again?” McGraw asked her.

“I would have done a better job of making sure I ended my own,” Jordan replied.

Ultimately, the jury found Jordan guilty of manslaughter, not murder. A juror told the Times that, even if her allegations of abuse were untrue, Jordan clearly believed them, indicating the kind of “extreme emotional disturbance” that was required for the lesser conviction.

But her media blitz proved problematic during her sentencing Thursday.

Justice Solomon, who said Thursday that he did not believe much of Jordan’s testimony, pointed to her interview with McGraw as evidence that she hadn’t expressed genuine remorse for her son’s death.

“One would think that I would hear something from the defendant about having remorse for what she did,” Solomon said, according to the AP. “She had five years to think about this. Never said, ‘I’m sorry.’”