Three New York City children of various but very young ages were found dead in the sand near the Coney Island boardwalk on Monday. Now, their mother has been charged with their murder.
Erin Merdy, 30, stands accused of three counts each of intentional murder, murder with depraved indifference and murdering a victim under the age of 11, according to the NYPD.
As responding officers arrived at the family’s Neptune Avenue apartment to find it empty but unlocked, the severity of the horror grew. Police say the discovery was prompted by an early morning 911 call from a concerned relative who was allegedly worried the mother would or had hurt her children because she said would or had hurt them.
A man who claimed to be the father of one of the children reportedly expressed similar child safety concerns as the 911 caller, according to New York City-based flagship NBC station WNBC.
That man directed law enforcement to the boardwalk. A nearly three-hour-long search ensued. At 4:30 a.m., those efforts ended. The two boys and the girl were discovered about three blocks away from their apartment, near the boardwalk and West 35th Street.
Some 90 minutes before, Erin Merdy was found soaking wet, barefoot, and cloistered with relatives at Brighton 6th Street and Riegelmann Boardwalk, in nearby Brighton Beach, according to NYPD Chief of Department Kenneth Corey, the New York Times reported.
The children were identified as 3-month-old Oliver Bondarev, 4-year-old Liliana Merdy, and 7-year-old Zachary Merdy. Officers performed CPR to no avail. They were pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
According to Gothamist, the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner determined that the children all died by drowning as initially suspected; their deaths were classified as homicides.
“So far, she’s not said anything,” Corey told New York City-based flagship ABC station WABC on the day of the killings. Erin Merdy was detained in a psychiatric facility pending criminal charges. It is not immediately clear when her arraignment will be held.
“I’m in shock actually,” Damir Islam, the grandfather to the oldest of the siblings told the News. “I probably need a couple days myself, try to understand. How could a system fail us?”
In an interview with the Times, Derrick Merdy, Zachary Merdy’s father, said he had long tried to get custody of his son but that repeated concerns about the child’s welfare went unheeded by the state agency responsible for ensuring child welfare.
The grieving father said his son was often filthy during visits, lacking enough clothes, that he used the restroom in a bowl in shelters where his mother stayed, and that the boy would complain that his mother starved him.
“She makes me starve,” Zachary reportedly told his father in a recording Derrick Merdy made. “What do you mean by that?” the elder Merdy asked. “I don’t know, she makes me starve,” the boy replied. “I didn’t do nothing bad; she makes me starve.” Derrick Merdy explained the apparent systemic failure in clear terms.
“It didn’t matter how much I called child protective services,” he told the Times. “They would tell me, ‘Oh, you don’t have any real evidence.’ But they didn’t do a real investigation.”
According to “law enforcement sources” cited by the New York Post, Erin Merdy is believed to have been suffering from post-partum depression and also is said to have been bipolar and schizophrenic