TODAY'S PAPER
Good Evening
Good Evening
Long IslandNassau

Estate money for children slain by mother in New Cassel to go to fathers

This undated photo shows Leatrice Brewer with her

This undated photo shows Leatrice Brewer with her daughter, Jewel, and son, Michael. Credit: Handout

Estate money from three children who were drowned by their mother in a bathtub of their New Cassel apartment in 2008 will be going to the victims' fathers, according to lawyers involved in the case.

Authorities said the money -- about $350,000 before legal fees -- comes from wrongful-death settlements Nassau County reached with the victims' estates after claims that social service caseworkers could have done more to save the children.

In 2009, Leatrice Brewer pleaded not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect for the slayings of her 6-year-old daughter, Jewell Ward, and her sons, 5-year-old Michael Demesyeux and 1-year-old Innocent Demesyeux Jr. A state probe found child protection workers did incomplete investigations and missed signs of abuse.

Brewer, 35, who is confined in an upstate psychiatric facility, told Newsday in 2013 she was sick at the time she killed the children and coped with it afterward by praying and asking God for forgiveness.

An agreement was reached Nov. 9 in Nassau Surrogate's Court for Innocent Demesyeux Sr., the father of the boys, to receive about $100,000 in estate money, attorney Kenneth Weinstein said.

The Garden City lawyer said he was appointed by the court to investigate who should get the money, including by looking at whether the victims' fathers had abandoned the children to Brewer's care. If so, a judge would have disqualified the fathers from getting money.

Weinstein said the agreement with Demesyeux, which Surrogate's Court Judge Edward McCarty III approved in court, also provided for $10,000 to go into trust funds for Demesyeux's two living children.

Weinstein said he questioned Brewer last year and she felt Demesyeux shouldn't get money and claimed abandonment, but evidence also showed "he did make efforts" to be a parent, including seeking custody of his sons.

"We just thought at the end of the day, this was the best thing to do for all concerned," Weinstein said of the agreement.

Attorney Thomas Foley, who represented Demesyeux, said recently his client was pleased the matter was settled.

"It's clear now that he had not abandoned the kids," said Foley, of Garden City. "It's been a terrible experience, starting off with burying children killed at the hands of their mother, to standing up and defending his role as father to these boys."

McCarty ruled in 2013 that Brewer wasn't entitled to estate money because it would be "repugnant to decency." State law says convicted criminals can't profit from their wrongdoing, but Brewer, while admitting to killing the children, wasn't convicted of the crimes.

Brewer's legal advocates said then she was only seeking the money to block Demesyeux from getting it and knew if she got any, it would go to the state to help defray costs of her treatment and confinement.

As part of his investigation, Weinstein said he also determined another child of Brewer's -- a boy she told Newsday she conceived and gave birth to in state custody after a relationship with another patient -- wouldn't legally qualify for the estate money.

Both Weinstein and Floral Park attorney William Corbett, who represented Ricky Ward, Jewell's father, said recently that Brewer didn't object to Ward -- now in prison after a felony conviction -- getting his share of money because he'd been a good father.

Corbett said the judge is expected to approve that part of the settlement "as proper, fair and just." The matter is still going through the court's administrative process, a Surrogate's Court official said Friday.

Nassau top stories