Son of Author Paul Auster Charged in Fatal Overdose of Baby Daughter
A 10-month-old girl in Brooklyn died from an overdose of fentanyl and heroin, and her 44-year-old father, Daniel Auster — son of the famous novelist Paul Auster — was charged in her death.
The girl, Ruby Auster, was found unconscious on Nov. 1 at a home on Bergen Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and was pronounced dead at Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, the police said. The medical examiner’s office later determined that she died from “acute intoxication” of the drugs, the police said.
Mr. Auster, 44, was arraigned on Sunday on charges of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and endangering the welfare of a child, according to a criminal complaint filed in court. The judge set his bail at $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond and ordered him to return to court for a hearing on Thursday to determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to proceed.
John Godfrey, a lawyer for Legal Aid Society, who provided Mr. Auster’s defense at arraignment, said his client had recently been sober and attended a drug-counseling program. Mr. Auster, who works in landscaping, turned himself into the police, Mr. Godfrey said.
“This case is painfully tragic, and Mr. Auster remains devastated over the loss of his beloved daughter Ruby,” Mr. Godfrey said. “Substance use disorder is an issue that countless families reel from each year, and we caution the public to refrain from making any rush to judgment and to respect the family’s privacy at this difficult time.”
Ruby’s mother, Zuzan Smith, Mr. Auster’s wife, told the police that the baby was awake and seemed fine before she left for work that morning, according to the complaint.
Mr. Auster told the police that he injected himself with heroin after his wife left for work, then lay down for a nap with Ruby next to him in bed, the document said. When he woke up, the girl was “blue, lifeless and unresponsive.”
Mr. Auster said he administered Narcan, an overdose-reversal drug, and tried to revive the baby before calling 911, the complaint said.
He was arrested last Friday after toxicology test results prompted the medical examiner to declare the girl’s death a homicide. The complaint did not say how the baby ingested the drugs.
Outside the Bergen Street rowhouse on Saturday, two neighbors said that Mr. Auster and his partner were friendly as they strolled with their baby. But one day in the fall, a jumble of baby items — clothes, books and toys — appeared on the sidewalk outside, and neighbors learned that the baby had died.
The medical examiner’s office declined to comment, citing the continuing investigation.
In 1996, Daniel Auster played a minor role in a notorious nightlife murder case, in which the club promoter Michael Alig and an accomplice killed and dismembered a drug dealer, Andrew Melendez, also known as Angel, and threw his body into the Hudson River.
Mr Auster pleaded guilty in 1998 to possessing $3,000 that had been stolen from Mr. Melendez and was sentenced to probation. He was not implicated in the killing.
A police spokesman confirmed that the Daniel Auster charged in the death of Ruby Auster had been arrested in 1998 on charges of possessing stolen property and that the charges were connected to a murder charge against Mr. Alig.
Mr.Alig died in 2020 of a heroin overdose.
Mr. Auster’s father, Paul Auster, is one of New York City’s most noted novelists, the author of “City of Glass” and “4 3 2 1,” among many best sellers. He declined to comment when he was reached by phone on Saturday.
In 2003, Daniel Auster’s stepmother, Siri Hustvedt, published a novel, “What I Loved,” in which one character is a drug addict and is eventually arrested in connection with the murder of a drug dealer. In Paul Auster’s 2003 novel “Oracle Night,” the narrator is a writer whose son is a drug addict.