Deaths of 3 Children on Coney Island Ruled Homicides by Drowning

The deaths of three children who were discovered unconscious along the Brooklyn shoreline this week have been ruled homicides, the medical examiner’s office in New York City said on Tuesday.

All three, Zachary, 7, Liliana, 4, and Oliver, who was 3 months old, died from drowning, said Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Their mother was located by New York City Police Department officers early Monday without her children, barefoot and soaking wet, Kenneth Corey, the chief of department, said at a news conference that morning. Chief Corey said the mother was being questioned, but was not in custody.

A police department spokesman said on Tuesday evening that they have not arrested or charged anyone in the case, and that the matter was still under investigation.

In New York City, the annual number of homicides against children under age 10 that are classified as “domestic” in recent years has typically been about a dozen, according to police statistics. Killings of multiple children are exceedingly rare, though last year a woman in Queens was charged with murdering her infant twins.

The children’s mother, Erin Merdy, 30, was identified on Monday by Derrick Merdy, who is Zachary’s father and Ms. Merdy’s ex-husband.

Police officers answered a call just before 2 a.m. on Monday urging them to check on Ms. Merdy. A relative believed that her children were in danger, authorities said.

They received another 911 call before they found Ms. Merdy about 4:30 a.m. with relatives at Brighton 6th Street and Riegelmann Boardwalk, but without her children, Chief Corey said.

Another hour passed before police officers discovered Zachary, Liliana and Oliver unconscious on the shoreline at West 35th Street in Coney Island. The children were taken to Coney Island Hospital, where they were pronounced dead, Chief Corey said.

It was unclear on Tuesday whether Ms. Merdy had a lawyer, and efforts to reach her family were unsuccessful. Ms. Merdy’s mother did not respond to multiple attempts to reach her at her home in Brooklyn.

Ms. Merdy had both legal and financial troubles before the deaths of her children, according to court documents filed in civil court in Brooklyn. She owed more than $5,300 in back rent last year, and faced possible eviction.

Derrick Merdy with his son, Zachary Merdy

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Merdy said Ms. Merdy had moved multiple times, and had stayed in shelters with Zachary.

Mr. Merdy said he fought for years to get custody of his son, and had repeatedly called authorities about concerns over Zachary’s welfare. Earlier this year, Ms. Merdy agreed that Zachary should live with his father, according to a text exchange shared by Mr. Merdy.

“I love him enough to let him stay with you or your mom because I want the best for him,” Ms. Merdy wrote. “I want him to excel.”

That never happened.

On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the city’s Administration for Children’s Services said the agency had begun an investigation after the children were found. Because the investigation is still continuing, the agency would not comment on whether there had been abuse or neglect allegations involving the family.

Sean Piccoli contributed reporting.

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