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February 25, 1986
DA Probes Death of 'Mama'

by Dennis Hevesi
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has ordered an investigation into the death of "Mama," the homeless woman whose body was found on a bench in Grand Central Terminal on Christmas morning.

Two homeless men who observed the elderly woman's labored breathing on Christmas Eve have claimed that Metro-North Commuter Railroad police ignored their pleas to call an ambulance. Railroad officials say their officers received no such request.

Attempts to identify "Mama" were unsuccessful, and the Coalition for the Homeless arranged for her to be buried in a Queens cemetery on Jan. 14. The next day, George McDonald, chairman of America's Homeless Political Action Committee, wrote to State Attorney General Robert Abrams, requesting an investigation.

Abrams sent the letter to Morgenthau, and the Manhattan district attorney wrote on Monday to McDonald, saying he had "referred this matter to Assistant District Attorney Consuelo Fernandez. I have asked her to conduct an investigation of the cirsumstances surrounding the death of this person." Fernandez could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In his letter to Abrams, McDonald had written, in part, "On Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, 'Mama' was laying on a bench in the terminal waiting room, suffering from belabored breathing and other symptoms of her pain, which were obvious to the homeless people who inhabit the terminal on a regular basis. Two such individuals, Manny Rosario and Forrest Sheridan, requested Metro-North police officers on duty. . . to summon an ambulance. One was told to 'Get out of here,' and the other quotes the officer as saying, 'An ambulance costs $75,' and to leave the terminal; whereupon 'Mama' was also ejected to spend her last night on the subway ramp at 105 E. 42nd St. . ."

At the time of the incident, railroad officials said officers received no requests to get medical assistance for "Mama." On Tuesday, Capt. Peter Niland of the railroad's internal affairs office reiterated that contention. Yesterday, Tito Davila, a spokesman for Metro-North, said: "We will cooperate fully with any investigation."

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