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updated: 12/30/2012 10:00 AM

Woman charged with murder in subway shoving to undergo psych examination

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  • Commuters wait on the platform Friday as a train passes through the 40th St-Lowry St Station, where a man was killed after being pushed onto the subway tracks, in the Queens section of New York.

      Commuters wait on the platform Friday as a train passes through the 40th St-Lowry St Station, where a man was killed after being pushed onto the subway tracks, in the Queens section of New York.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A woman charged in the death of an immigrant who was pushed off a New York City subway platform has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Erika Menendez was arraigned Saturday night on a charge of murder as a hate crime. Judge Gia Morris has ordered that the 31-year-old be held without bail and be given a mental health exam.

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Menendez is charged in the death of Sunando Sen, who was crushed by a train in Queens on Thursday night.

Police arrested Erica Menendez on Saturday after a passer-by on a street noticed she resembled the woman seen in a surveillance video.

A spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said Menendez told authorities she hates Hindus and Muslims.

Subway shoving victim Sunando Sen was from India, but it's unclear if he was Muslim or Hindu.

Sen, who lived in Queens and ran a printing shop, was killed Thursday night. Witnesses said a muttering woman pushed him on the tracks as a 7 train entered a Queens station and then ran off.

Menendez was in custody Saturday and couldn't be reached for comment. It was unclear if she had an attorney.

It was unclear whether the woman who pushed Sen had any connection to him. Witnesses told police the two hadn't interacted on the platform as they waited for the 7 train, which runs between Manhattan and Queens.

Police released security camera video showing the woman running from the station where Sen was killed.

On Saturday, a passer-by noticed a woman who resembled the woman in the video and called 911. Police responded and confirmed her identity and took her to a police station, where she made statements implicating herself in the crime, police spokesman Paul Browne said.

The attack was the second time this month that a man was pushed to his death in a city subway station. A homeless man was arrested in early December and accused of shoving a man in front of a train in Times Square. He claimed he acted in self-defense and is awaiting trial.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday urged residents to keep the second fatal subway shove in the city this month in perspective. The news of Sen's horrific death came as the mayor touted drops in the city's annual homicide and shooting totals.

"It's a very tragic case, but what we want to focus on today is the overall safety in New York," Bloomberg told reporters following a police academy graduation on Friday.

But commuters still expressed concern over subway safety.

"It's just a really sad commentary on the world and on human beings, period," said Howard Roth, who takes the subway daily.

He said the deadly push reminded him, "the best thing is what they tell you -- don't stand near the edge, and keep your eyes open."

Such subway deaths are rare, but other high-profile cases include the 1999 fatal shoving of Kendra Webdale, an aspiring screenwriter, by a former psychiatric patient. That case led to a state law allowing for more supervision of mentally ill people living outside institutions.

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