NEW YORK — The troubled Brooklyn mom suspected of drowning her three small children in the ocean off Coney Island remained inside a psychiatric facility Tuesday, with a police source describing her as “incoherent” when taken into custody.
Authorities were investigating whether the deaths could be tied to possible postpartum depression, a police source told the Daily News. Likely criminal charges remained pending against young mother Erin Merdy, 30, who gave birth to her youngest child just three months ago.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News hours after the children’s deaths, Merdy’s own mom said she thought her daughter might be suffering from the condition.
Merdy gave no statements to police and was hospitalized immediately upon being taken into custody, with police asking her for no details about what transpired in the darkness, the source added.
She had called a cousin with word she drowned the children before police arrived and the bodies were discovered, the source said. Authorities on Tuesday were still speaking with potential witnesses and waiting for the results of autopsies on the three kids, said another source.
“It’s just a tragedy,” Merdy’s uncle Eddy Stephen said Tuesday, adding he had last seen his niece years ago at her father’s funeral. “She wasn’t in her right mind. We’re mourning, our family.”
Merdy, described by other relatives as struggling with mental health issues, was served with an eviction notice on Jan. 12 stating she was more than $5,000 behind in payments on her $1,531 monthly rent.
A football coach for her 7-year-old son — who was found dying on Coney Island Beach with his two younger siblings — said the boy regularly arrived for team practices hungry until he left the squad last year.
The boy’s mom rarely attended games to watch her son play and often left early when she did appear, said Coney Island Training Youth Program head coach Allen McFarland.
“Something that was noticeable was when we fed him the pasta it was always, ‘Can I have some more, can I have another?’” he recalled. “We used to bring him over and feed him at practice.”
McFarland said he and other coaches would stop by the home of Zachary Merdy, 7, and walk the grade-schooler over to practice. Their attempts to bring him back for this year’s team failed, he added.
Zachary and his siblings, 3-month-old Oliver and 4-year-old Liliana, were found unresponsive on the beach near their apartment early Monday morning, with their mother spotted soaking wet and walking aimlessly in the sand nearby, barefoot and wearing a bathrobe, authorities said.
On Tuesday morning, a police officer was posted at the door to the apartment where the mom lived alone with her three children. Neighbors were left reeling by the deaths.
“It takes a village to raise one kid, so imagine three,” said Latima Edward, 34, whose son played football with Zachary. “She needed help. And I wish she really did get the help that she (needed). But it was too late.”
The mother’s sister called police at 1:40 a.m. Monday to report her fears that Merdy had harmed the kids, with police arriving to find the mom’s apartment door unlocked and nobody inside. About 90 minutes later, police received a 911 call directing them to neighboring Brighton Beach and found an intoxicated Merdy with other family members, according to sources.
Authorities located the three children, who were all pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital later that morning.
The father of one of the lost kids was inside the apartment building where the family lived when police arrived. He, too, expressed fears about the fate of the children before the bodies were eventually discovered.