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WEST NEW YORK, N.J., Oct. 11 - About a year ago, a girl was born in this working-class town and was promptly flung out of a third-floor window. She tumbled down a thin air shaft, naked, her umbilical cord still attached. Her head smashed into the concrete 31 feet below. She died instantly. And there she lay, unnamed, buried in a grave of garbage and cigarette packs.

Their mother, Lucila Ventura, is accused of throwing them down the shaft.

The story gets worse.

On the morning of Sept. 13, another baby was born and he, too, was shoved through the same window, splattering blood through neighbors' window panes as he fell, landing with a thud near the decaying body of his sister. His screams cut through the walls, and neighbors called the police. His skull cracked, and his eye was blackened, but he lived.

The story gets worse.

The authorities soon learned that the mother of the two children was Lucila Ventura, an 18-year-old immigrant from El Salvador. Their father was a 44-year-old named Jose Julio Ventura. But he is not just the father of Lucila's children, the police say. He is also their grandfather.

This tale of incest, abuse and murder has shaken nearly everyone involved here. Edward J. De Fazio, the Hudson County prosecutor, has called the case a "vivid explosion of family dysfunction."

"I've never seen anything quite like this," Mr. De Fazio said in an interview. "And I've been involved in this kind of work for some time."

As many try to make sense of the horrific events here, so much remains a mystery. And like all mysteries, there are questions and bewilderment.

"Everyone was saying, 'How could the mother not know what was going on?' " said Maria Ortiz, 40, who lived above the family and yet knew next to nothing about them. "It's sad, very sad." She paused. "And disgusting."

Ms. Ventura has been charged with murder, attempted murder, endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse. If convicted, she could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. The authorities say she threw both of her babies out the window shortly after giving birth to them in the tiny apartment she shared with her mother, father, four brothers and uncle. Prosecutors have not decided whether to try her as an adult in the death of her first child. Her lawyer says that her father had possibly been abusing her for several years.

Mr. De Fazio suggested in an interview that he was trying to pry information from Ms. Ventura so that he could charge the father with a more serious offense. "In order to pursue the case against the father, Lucila would need to be a state's witness," Mr. De Fazio said.

She is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, according to the authorities. Mr. Ventura is charged with aggravated sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and child abuse, though the results of a paternity test for the babies are not back. He has not been implicated in the killings. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, with bail set at $500,000. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

Mr. Ventura's public defender, E. Carl Broege, said his client is far from the "beast" portrayed in media accounts. Instead, he said, his client was a "pathetic little man" who seemed "scared and subdued, and he seemed not to comprehend what was happening."

Both father and daughter are now being held at the Hudson County Correction Center in Kearny.

The young life of Lucila Ventura is one that has been lived out of sight, behind closed doors, away from others. Though her family has lived in New Jersey for some time, she joined them about six years ago, after living with a grandmother in El Salvador, according to a person involved in the investigation.

For at least six years, she has lived in a two-bedroom apartment on 64th Street with her family, relatives and neighbors said. But she was never seen outside hanging on the stoop, like other teenagers in her neighborhood, many say. She slept in a room with her parents and a younger brother, according to relatives. Her parents said little more than "hello" to neighbors in the building. Even cousins of Ms. Ventura's who live in the same building say they had no idea that she had ever been pregnant, or that her father had been abusing her.

"I couldn't believe it," said Aleyda Romero, 15, a cousin of Ms. Ventura's who lived a floor below and saw her two days before the birth in September.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/16/nyregion/16babies.html?oref=login
 
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