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Judge: Mom who drowned kids to go to court, seeks part of wrongful death award

Leatrice Brewer, 32, who admitted the 2008 drowning

Leatrice Brewer, 32, who admitted the 2008 drowning and pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in 2009, has been in a secure facility upstate since. Credit: Howard Schnapp, 2008

The New Cassel woman who admitted drowning her three children in a bathtub will appear in a Nassau courtroom next month in her quest to gain a portion of her dead children's $350,000 estate, the judge on the case said Thursday.

Leatrice Brewer, 33, who admitted to the 2008 drownings and pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in 2009, has been in a secure facility upstate since. But she is seeking a portion of the wrongful-death settlements paid by Nassau County to the children's estates.

"Leatrice Brewer will be in court because of the arguments and the potential that a decision will be made," Nassau Surrogate Edward W. McCarty III said in a pretrial hearing.

Brewer drowned her three children one by one, then laid them in a row on her bed and attempted suicide by ingesting a combination of bleach, Windex, OxiClean and a bottle of aspirin, prosecutors have said. She woke up the next morning and tried to kill herself again by jumping out of the second-story window of her apartment, prosecutors said. She then called 911 and confessed to killing the children.

Innocent Demesyeux, the father of two of the children -- Michael Demesyeux, 5, and Innocent Demesyeux Jr., 18 months -- settled a lawsuit against the county in 2011 for $250,000, claiming that social service caseworkers could have done more to save them. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of the third child, Jewell Ward, 6, was settled in 2012 for $100,000.

Even if Brewer is successful in her quest, she cannot keep the money because the state holds a $1.2 million lien on her assets to cover the cost of her treatment and board at the psychiatric facility.

McCarty scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 6. The judge also required the attorneys representing Brewer, the children and other family members, to turn in legal briefs. He also admitted as evidence a psychiatric report on Brewer, the grand jury minutes and statements Brewer made to the first officer on the scene of the drownings.

Kenneth J. Weinstein, a court-appointed attorney for the deceased children's half-siblings, said Brewer's police statements show her "vivid culpability" in the children's deaths.

The judge also ruled against a request from lawyers representing Brewer to block the public, including the news media, from the proceedings. Jennifer F. Hillman and Peter K. Kelley, the court-appointed attorneys for Brewer, argued that the courtroom be closed in order to "maintain confidentiality" of Brewer's health records.The judge said there is "extraordinary" interest in the case. "The public has a right to know," McCarty said.

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