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SUSPECT IN KILLING FEARED LOSING CHILD

A West Side woman who police say feared state mental health officials might take action to remove her young daughter has been charged with killing a Buffalo Psychiatric Center nurse during a home visit Tuesday.

"She was concerned that the child was going to be removed," Capt. Joseph Riga, Homicide Bureau chief, said today.

Diane Wylie, who has a history of mental problems, was charged with second-degree murder in the beating death of Judith Scanlon, 44, of Blasdell.

Mrs. Scanlon was hit several times in the face and head with a blunt object, according to Riga.

The nurse-caseworker had gone to 449 W. Ferry St. to check on Mrs. Wylie on behalf of the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, a human-services provider for which she worked as an intensive case manager.

Mrs. Wylie, 45, who lives in the lower apartment with her 4-year-old daughter, Diana, was in the Erie County Holding Center pending arraignment later today.

She had told her neighbors that she was working with mental health officials to be a good parent and that her story would have a "happy ending."

In Blasdell this morning, neighbors of Mrs. Scanlon, who also has a young daughter, wondered how they would go about the difficult task of telling their children a neighbor had been slain.

"My daughter plays with Judi's 8-year-old daughter. They're friends," said Denise Grove. "Judi was a dedicated mother."

A young girl in the neighborhood described Mrs. Scanlon as kind-hearted. "She was very nice. She'd let us play on their computer."

"I'm shocked. This is terrible," said neighbor Sylvia Lenahan.

It is believed that Mrs. Scanlon arrived at the West Side apartment sometime Tuesday morning, Riga said. Authorities were summoned at about 1:15 p.m.

Police said Mrs. Wylie called 911 to report that there was a body in her residence. Mrs. Scanlon's body was found on the living room floor in the lower apartment, Riga said.

"I saw her (Mrs. Wylie) standing outside her house, telling the firefighters to go inside," said neighbor Shirley Wilcox, president of the West Side Block Club Coalition. "She was saying she was afraid. She told me: 'There's a lady in my house on the floor bleeding.'

"She said her caseworker had come over and that she had gone to get her husband," Mrs. Wilcox said. "She and her husband don't live together. She said she came back and that's when she found the lady."

Riga confirmed that Mrs. Wylie went to her husband's residence, which is nearby, after the attack.

The husband was questioned by detectives but is not a suspect in the case, Riga said.

A blunt object, which Riga declined to identify, was recovered from the apartment, he said. Other sources described it as a hammer-like object.

Susan Reichert, who lives next door, said, "She told me that her little girl had been taken away from her. She said she had suffered from postpartum problems but that the child was given back and that a caseworker was working with her and that this was a story that was going to have a happy ending."

The child was placed in the custody of Child Protective Services, Riga said.

Intensive case managers, such as Mrs. Scanlon, generally make "home visits" to their clients every four or five days, according to Lynne M. Shuster, coordinator for the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, an advocacy organization that works with families.

The case manager "eyeballs" clients -- checking on their appearance, living conditions and whether they're taking prescribed medications, Ms. Shuster said.

State funding cuts have forced psychiatric hospital patients out into the community and doubled the loads of social workers, she said.

In the last five years, she said, Western New York lost 800 long-term psychiatric beds. Some long-term patients formerly housed at Psychiatric Center now are in Buffalo General Hospital and Erie County Medical Center.

"We live with the consequences of political system decisions," said Ms. Shuster, who said she came out to the house Tuesday after hearing about the attack through professional contacts.

"I don't even blame the patient who's ill enough to do this kind of thing," Ms. Shuster said. "I blame the system -- a political system that puts dollars over lives."

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