Tracey Zetzsche doesn’t remember what happened on the day of her son’s death.
The last thing the 53-year-old Westerlo woman can recall was sitting down to watch a Yankees game on television in late July 2012. Days later, the bludgeoned and stabbed body of 22-year-old Gabriel Philby-Zetzsche was found slumped on the floor of her upstairs apartment over the P&L Deli in Westerlo.
Roughly five days after the attack, a relative spotted Zetzsche standing disheveled outside the first-floor doorway to her home. She had wounds on her head consistent with ones sustained from the claw of a hammer as she furiously cocked it back to strike her son.
Zetzsche admitted to one count of first-degree manslaughter before Judge Stephen Herrick in Albany County Court Thursday as part of a plea deal that will land her up to 20 years in prison. Though admitting there was a preponderance of evidence pointing to her guilt, she did not acknowledge killing her son because of a documented condition that prevented her of having any memory of the brutal attack.
“This is something discussed previously, knowing that she did not recall the incident of the crime itself,” said Cecilia Logue, a spokeswoman for the Albany County District Attorney’s Office. “Mental health experts provided professional opinions that she suffered from a specific and legitimate type of amnesia where she cannot fully recollect the incident.”
The mother and son were in the process of moving out, after moving to Westerlo from the Long Island hamlet of Commack only about eight months earlier. Philby-Zetzsche, who had cerebral palsy and suffered seizures, died from a stab wound to the heart and massive brain injuries caused from blunt-force trauma, an autopsy later revealed.
Investigators found that Zetzsche had tried to conceal her crime before her son’s body was discovered. Blood stains were scrubbed away, while three knives and a hammer were found bundled in a bloody sheet, stashed in a plastic bag and pitched in the deli’s dumpster.
Zetzsche was allowed to enter an Alford plea, a rare move in which a defendant admits sufficient evidence exists to sustain a guilty verdict at trial but does not actually admit to committing the crime. Logue said the plea does not diminish the felony conviction, which will land her a substantial prison term.
Zetzsche is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 1. Bureau Chief of the Special Victims Unit Shannon Sarfoh and Bureau Chief of the Financial Crimes Unit Daniel Lynch are handling the prosecution of the case.