Bahsid McLean, 23, was charged with murder, hindering prosecution and criminal possession of a weapon. According to a criminal complaint, he stabbed Tanya Byrd and then cut up her body with help from an accomplice, William Harris, 26.
Byrd, a 45-year-old home health aide, was last seen alive Monday. Her remains were found a day later stuffed in four plastic garbage bags and scattered along four blocks, police said.
Detectives said they recovered an image on McLean's phone of him holding his mother's severed head.
"I didn't do anything wrong," McLean said during court.
McLean's attorney for the arraignment, Jerry Iannece, said his client wore the bizarre covering because he had been urinating on himself. The shorts he had been wearing were soaked through, so court personnel gave him the trash bag to wear, Iannece said.
Iannece said his client was off his medication but didn't say what type. McLean was held without bail, was placed on suicide watch in protective custody and was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation.
"Everybody's innocent until proven guilty," Iannece said. "Obviously this is a troubling case, but we will investigate and defend it thoroughly."
Police said they have surveillance footage of the two men at a hardware store at about 7:30 p.m. Monday where they bought a saw and trash bags, then headed back to the Bronx apartment McLean shared with his mother. At about 9:30 p.m. they were caught on surveillance footage lugging bags believed to be the remains, police said.
Witnesses told police an SUV dropped the bags off Monday night or early Tuesday.
A man walking his dog came upon one of the bags early Tuesday in a trash pile on a street in the Melrose section of the Bronx after the dog sniffed it out.
Inside a duffel bag was a heavy-duty plastic garbage bag with the woman's bloodied leg. Police then found the three other bags and their macabre contents, including the victim's head, part of her torso and other limbs.
McLean later reported his mother missing, police said. Medical examiners determined that Byrd died from a stab wound to the neck and officially ruled the death a homicide.
A blade was discovered in the apartment McLean shared with his mother, and a saw was found in Harris' home, police said. Detectives recovered the images of Byrd's body parts from the phone, after Harris told them he was shown the images, police said. Byrd's phone was discovered with Harris, according to the criminal complaint.
Byrd's family said she had wanted her son out of the house, and there was speculation that he had been abusing her other child, authorities said.
The young man had several arrests, including one for assaulting two police officers in Brooklyn in 2010. His father, James, told the Daily News that he did destructive things. "He set fires. Nobody could control him," the father said.
McLean and Harris were first arrested on charges of unlawfully dissecting a human body and hindering prosecution. Each man initially implicated the other the killing, authorities said. The murder charge was later added for McLean.
Harris was arraigned on charges of criminal possession of stolen property and drug possession. He was held without bail. A message left for his attorney wasn't immediately returned.