Woman who drowned children seeks part of their estate

Leatrice Brewer, who admitted to drowning her children

Leatrice Brewer, who admitted to drowning her children but pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in February 2009, is seeking a portion of the wrongful death settlements awarded to the children's estates. (Credit: Howard Schnapp, 2008)

A woman who admitted to drowning her three young children in her bathtub in New Cassel nearly five years ago is telling a judge that she deserves some of the money from her children's $250,000 estate.

Leatrice Brewer, 32, who admitted to the drownings but pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in 2009, was brought to Nassau Surrogates Court Wednesday morning so she could claim part of a $250,000 wrongful death settlement awarded to her children's father. Judge Edward McCarty reserved his decision in the case, and appointed a law guardian to represent Brewer, who has been held in a secure psychiatric facility upstate since her case ended.

Brewer did not speak at the proceeding, lawyers said.

"Not only does she kill her children, she now wants to benefit from her crime," said Thomas Foley, a Garden City lawyer for Innocent Demesyeux, the father of Brewer's two youngest children, Michael, who was 5 years old, and Innocent Jr., who was 18 months. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the estate of the third child, Jewell Ward, 6, is pending.

Demesyeux settled a lawsuit against the county last year for $250,000, claiming that social services caseworkers could have done more to save his children. Caseworkers had gone to Brewer's apartment two days earlier but left when no one was home. A follow-up visit was scheduled too late to possibly save the children.

Police say Brewer drowned her children one by one, then laid them in a row on her bed in their pajamas. Brewer said she then swallowed a combination of bleach, Windex, OxiClean and a bottle of aspirin and lay down in the bed, hoping she would die, prosecutors said.

When she woke up the next morning, she tried again to kill herself, this time by jumping out the second-story window of her apartment. When she survived, prosecutors said she went back upstairs to her neighbor's apartment, called 911 and confessed to killing her children.

According to the psychiatric evaluations, Brewer suffered from "major depressive disorder," including hallucinations and paranoia.

The reports say she understood she was killing her children, but believed she was saving them and herself from voodoo.

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